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Trail prep

Members of the Honey Creek Snowmobile Club prepare the trails for snowmobiling this winter.

Doug Yanke knows, even if there is not enough snow this year to ride his snowmobile, the trails need to be groomed … just in case.

Yanke, a member of the Honey Creek Snowmobile Club in the Sauk Prairie area, said planning for the trails starts in the fall as volunteers remove brush, fix bridges and place hundreds of signs to mark the trails.

“Last year, we did all of that work for nothing,” he said. “The year before, we were only open 30 or so days. With or without snow, we do the same routine yearly.”

The routine includes talking to more than 100 property owners to get permission to ride on their land.

“Every year, you have to ask,” Yanke said. “Different club members are assigned different sets of people.”

The Honey Creek Snowmobile Club, formed in 1968, is responsible for maintaining more than 50 miles of the 220-mile Sauk County Snowmobile Trail System.

“Like most clubs, most of our members are local people that like to give back to the community for all the support the community gives us,” Yanke said.

The Honey Creek Snowmobile Club recently donated $250 to the Sauk Prairie Food Pantry. Each July the group hosts an appreciation barbecue picnic for the landowners who allow them to snowmobile on their properties.

The Baraboo River Runners hold an appreciation event in the middle of their season. Landowners and other snowmobile supporters are invited to their sixth annual ride-in and Landowners Appreciation event Jan. 16 at the Pumphouse Sports Bar and Grill.

“It’s always a great time,” said Baraboo River Runners member Holly Fenske.

Both clubs, and others throughout the state, rely on membership dues, funds from the gas tax snowmobilers bring in and fundraisers to help with expenses, such as safety instruction.

The Honey Creek Snowmobile Club offers free family memberships to youth who participate in their local snowmobile safety courses. It has not scheduled its courses yet this year. The Baraboo River Runners snowmobile safety courses have already begun.

The Honey Creek club also teamed up with another snowmobile club, the Hill Crest Riders of Plain, to offer calendars at $10.

Yanke said every club member has them for sale and people can check out the Facebook pages of their local snowmobile organizations for more information on specific activities.

With unseasonably warm temperatures throughout Wisconsin, there are a lot of snowmobile riders with one eye on the sky, hoping for snow.

At least one rider is thinking of trying another activity.

“I’m thinking of getting a motorcycle,” Yanke said. “Then, I could definitely ride at least some time.”

Baraboo News Republic reporter