by John T. Prusak
Used with permission of Snowmobile Magazine
This list is meant to be serious, and from the heart. At various times in this space, we intermix references to snowmobile clubs. We do this because we strongly believe in the value of snowmobile clubs and the need to support this grassroots level of the sport. Without our clubs, there would probably no snowmobiling infrastructure, and the trails that might exist would be ungroomed, unfunded and basically unrideable.
Therefore, if you are not a member of a snowmobile club, it is time to accept the fact that you are a freeloader. That may sound harsh, but it is the cold, hard truth. To those people, we offer this list. In no particular order, here are the Top 10 Reasons You Should Join A Snowmobile Club. Drum roll please:
10. Snowmobile clubs gain land access to create snowmobile trails. Without the clubs securing land leases and paying insurance costs, no trails would cross private property, and that means the sport as we know it would not exist. All this takes time, effort and money.
9. Snowmobile clubs clear and create trails. After the land access is received, somebody has to go out and clear away the brush, cut down interfering limbs, haul out trash and smooth the base of the trail. They also must build bridges over creeks, rivers and low spots, and that takes a lot of work and a lot of money. This is all done by volunteers who truly love the sport. Without these hidden heroes, either the trails would not get cleared, bridges would not get built and most trails would close, or some entity (say, the state) would have to pay a team of workers to do the grunt work. And if that happened, you could expect to pay several hundred dollars, maybe even a thousand, to register your snowmobile each year.
8. In most areas, members of the snowmobile clubs groom the trails. Sometimes these groomer operators get a token fee for their hard work, but the dollar-per-hour rate is menial at best, and that's when a groomer operator actually gets paid. Again, these are more of the hidden heroes who spend their time in a slow-moving groomer, tending to the trails and making them as smooth as they are. Remember, if you are not a club member you have no right to complain about trail conditions.
7. While we're talking trails, who do you think puts up all the stop signs, the directional arrows and the signs that tell you the distance to the next gas station or restaurant? If you said "the snowmobile clubs," give yourself 10 points and keep reading, because we've only just begun.
6. When funding is needed to pay for groomers, insurance or trails development, do you know where that money comes from? Sure, the $15 or $20 people spend to join a snowmobile club helps, but in most states the money comes from snowmobile registrations and gas tax rebates. Why does our sport get this money from the state? Because our sport is organized. If the state snowmobiling association can talk about its 25,000 members, for example, and those members call their local lawmakers and ask for support, the bill has a much better chance of getting funded. Furthermore, it is the snowmobile clubs and state associations that fight the battles to open public lands to snowmobilers, and there is strength in numbers. Become one of those numbers.
5. With some clubs and associations, membership brings financial benefits. I know I get a couple grand worth of accidental insurance, I get discounts at sponsoring businesses and I get the state publication. All this and more for a mere $20 a year.
4. Belonging to a club makes for better, safer snowmobiling. That's right, surveys and accident statistics have shown that snowmobile club members have a much lower accident rate than non-club members. Why? Because club members ten to be conscientious, they tend to stress safety and they are aware of safe-riding issues.
3. Belonging to a snowmobile club gives you a great social outlet for your favorite hobby. You can attend club rides, go to club meetings, take part in club fundraisers or take a club trip to a faraway snowmobiling destination. Belonging to a club gives you a good opportunity to ride with different people, experience different areas and hang out with people who have similar interests.
2. Belonging to a snowmobile club makes you a part of the solution instead of a part of the problem. If you think the snowmobile trails should be groomed more often, that a certain trail should move to the opposite side of the road or if you consider some corners on the trail dangerous or poorly marked, get involved. Most snowmobile clubs seek fresh opinions and want more feedback from users.
1. And the No. 1 reason to join a snowmobile club: It's just the right thing to do. For all the reasons listed above and many more you should belong to a snowmobile club. The costs are minimal, the benefits are nice and it is your responsibility to support the sport. It's cheap, it's simple and it's right.