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Love a groomed trail? Thank a volunteer groomer.

For snowmobile enthusiasts, there is nothing better than a freshly-groomed trail sparkling on a sunny winter day. If you have ever wondered how a trail gets groomed, consider talking to an area snowmobile association.

Snowmobile association members across the country routinely spend their own time and resources to keep trails clean and safe for all riders.

“If we had to pay our drivers, we wouldn’t be able to do it,” said Martin Cottle, Sault Ste. Marie Snowmobile Association president. The Sault Ste. Marie Snowmobile Association maintains 1,500 miles of trails in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and during the course of a snowmobile season, volunteers will groom more than 7,000 miles. For the snowmobile club members who do volunteer their time, it’s a work of pride and passion.

Each groomer has their own philosophy in how to maintain a trail, said Karl Davenport, vice president and trail master for Michigan’s Jordan Valley Trails Council (JVTC). Some like to groom at night, when there is less traffic on the trails. According to Davenport, there can be thousands of riders per hour on a JVTC trail because “riders flock to where the trails are good,” he said.

Most snowmobile associations offer training for volunteer groomers, said Davenport. The JVTC takes potential drivers out and shows them how to do it three or four times before letting them on their own.

Typically it is the older generation able to volunteer to be trail groomers because they have the time to smooth out moguls and make the trails packed like concrete to give riders a safe and fun experience.

“Even though they are only going 8-10 miles per hour, they are still out enjoying the trails,” said Cottle. “The best trails come from volunteers.”

Grooming isn’t only done in the winter, either. During the summer and fall months, volunteers are clearing trails, checking on signs and prepping for the three months when they can take to the trails in earnest.

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer snowmobile groomer, visit www.snowmobileinfo.org for links to state associations and information on trail managements and grooming.

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