Snowmobile trails remain closed despite snowfall

A snowmobile is brushed off to be repaired before the start of the season (WSAW Photo).
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MARATHON COUNTY, Wis. (WSAW) -- With more than half a foot of snow on the ground in Marathon County, it might seem like it's great snowmobile weather. But, it's not quite time yet.

On Monday night, most snowmobiles in Marathon County are sitting under the snow rather than riding on top of it.

"The snow we have here is kind of a good head start, but we need to get out and get certain things taken care of," said Allan Zahrt, a member of the Board of Directors at Trailmates Snowmobile Club, which is celebrating its 50th season this year.

He says some members of the club look forward to taking trips on their snowmobiles, and trails in Wisconsin go border to border. Some even lead to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

And while it really might seem like the perfect time to be taking the groomer out and clearing trails, the ground frost has not solidified yet, meaning even the huge machines could get stuck in the mud.

"The swamps were quite wet, we had a wet season this year, so we have some mud to deal with and so we have to be careful and cautious with our equipment," said Zahrt.

On years with little ground frost, they can try to build it up.

"There are some clubs that have rollers, it’s a big round drum that will pack the snow down to help freeze down into the ground," he said.

Even if there were frost, the later hunting season is a factor.

"Now we'll get into the black powder and then the extended antlerless hunt will go through the 15th of December, so we will not open any trails before that time," he said.

The earliest trails have opened in recent history is December 4 in 1995, during a record-setting winter where they also had an early hunting season. The 27-year record for most days of open trails is 45 days. As soon as it's time, Marathon County’s 880 miles of trails will be groomed.

"Make sure they're safe, make sure the road crossings are proper through the ditches and hollows and the small streams and everything are going to be packed with snow," he said.

He anticipates the trails being open roughly around Christmas this year.