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Winter Wonderland in Minnesota’s North Country

Get Your Snowmobile Ready for Action

Minnesota Prepares for Snowmobiling Season Opener



Winter Wonderland in Minnesota’s North Country

Voyageurs National Park and surrounding area offer winter visitors a variety of activities as well a scenic beauty.

By Jerry Carlson

Although the snowbirds may fly south to avoid the cold, there are many of us that appreciate what winter has to offer and are more than content to stay put. Some enjoy ice fishing while others may prefer to cross country ski, snowshoe or snowmobile.
Personally, I have been someone that loves to snowshoe and have participated in this winter activity for over 30 years. There is something magical about winding your way through the woods on a crisp day. Part of this magic may be the silence associated with the sport.
Cross country skiing is similar in nature to snowshoeing. It is a quiet and serene way to get off the beaten path and disappear as you allow yourself to be swallowed by the winter landscape.
When it comes to winter landscape and beautiful snowy scenery, there are few places as impressive as the northern part of Minnesota. Voyageurs National Park, with Kabetogama Lake on the west and Rainy on the east, certainly is a destination to consider.
The park is 218,000 acres of wilderness that has been set aside and protected for the public to use and enjoy. Many know of the camping, house boating and fishing opportunities that are available in the summer months, but all too often, this area is forgotten in the winter.
Not surprisingly, it is pretty easy to find something to do in and around the park in the winter. This is especially true for those that like to snowmobile as the park has 110 miles of snowmobile trails within its boundaries and even more trail miles available in the vicinity.
According to Deb Wieber, resort owner on the Ash River, snowmobiling in the Kabetogama Lake and Voyageurs National Park region is extremely impressive. However, Wieber also added that it was unfortunate so many avid snowmobilers did not even know their network of trails existed. Many resorts in the area stay open in the winter to accommodate the snowmobile traffic.
In addition to snowmobile trails, a person can also find snowshoe trails as well as groomed and ungroomed cross country ski trails. The cross country trails range in length from 3.5 miles to 22 miles. The Rainy Lake Visitor center on the east side of the park has both skis and snowshoes available for those that do not have equipment.
If a person can’t find something to keep them occupied during the winter months, it may be because they haven’t looked. When a little research is done, Voyageurs National Park often comes up on the list.
Voyageur National Park, Kabetogama Lake, Ash River and Rainy Lake are a beautiful part of Minnesota that is waiting to be explored. There is a reason so many believe Minnesota’s North Country has it all.
Listen to Jerry Carlson’s “In the Outdoors” on the radio at WJON 1240 AM, Thursday mornings at 8:35 a.m., and on WWJO (98 Country) 98.1 FM, Sundays at 8:45 a.m.

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Get Your Snowmobile Ready for Action

It’s that time again to get ready for snowmobiling. Give your snowmobile a pre-season check so when the snow flies, you don’t get left behind! Before the snowmobile season begins, a thorough inspection of your snowmobile will help you get off to the right start and running well throughout the season. Following the operator’s manual written specifically for your snowmobile is always the best source, but we’ve provided a general outline to follow. If you did your post season prep, some of these items are already done.

Ignition: Replacing the spark plugs will ensure your engine will start, and run, properly.

Carburetor/Fuel: Fuel filter should be replaced and fittings should be checked. If the gas in your sled is old and you didn’t use gas stabilizer, remove it and fill up with new fuel.

Skis: Measure skis at front and back to ensure proper alignment and examine condition of weld joints and wear rods.

Chain: Case should be full of lubrication and checked as suggested in your operator manual.

Brakes: Should be set properly and worn brakes should be replaced.

Clutch: Should be checked and cleaned.

Shocks: Make sure suspension is adequate and in good condition. Lubricate any grease fittings with the appropriate grease.

Drive Belt: Checks should be made for wear and cracks during pre-season and before each ride. Always do so with the engine off.

Track: Alignment and tension of track should be checked. Examine for torn drive holes, broken track guides and ply separation.

Idler Wheels and/or Slides: There are many things to look for on axle wheels and slide rails, such as loose nuts and bolts, broken welds and springs. Check for slide wear and replace if necessary.

Lights: Check for burned out bulbs - remember to apply brakes and check the stoplights.

Other Essentials: This includes: Tools (pliers, adjustable wrench, screwdrivers: standard and Phillips), spare belt, starter pull rope, light bulbs, owner’s manual and an emergency survival kit.

If you don’t feel confident in doing the pre-season prep yourself, take your sled to your local snowmobile dealer to assure a good riding experience when the snow flies.

Don’t forget that you and your snowmobile gear should also be in shape for the season! Do some extra walking and exercising for your upper body. Recent studies have shown that the health benefits of snowmobiling contributes to individual wellbeing and physical fitness. Even though you’re often sitting when riding a snowmobile, this winter activity is great exercise. Snowmobiling builds a strong core, requiring strength and flexibility to maneuver on the trails. In fact, the average person burns about 238 calories per hour while snowmobiling.

Clean your clothing and be sure your helmet fits appropriately and is in good condition. In addition to keeping you warm, it may save your life!

Minnesota United Snowmobilers Association (MnUSA) and its clubs are planning many activities for the upcoming season. The association and its volunteers have worked extensively to help develop Minnesota’s snowmobile trail system – one of the most comprehensive systems in the country. Visit www.mnsnowmobiler.org for additional information. See you on the trails!

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Minnesota Prepares for Snowmobiling Season Opener

Although astronomical winter doesn’t begin until Dec. 21, snowmobile trails open Dec. 1 if there is sufficient snow cover. Your local snowmobile clubs are busy making preparations on the 21,000 miles of Minnesota trails the clubs groom and maintain. When you add in the 740 miles of state-owned and maintained trails, you have one of the finest interconnected snowmobile trail systems in the country.
Volunteer members of approximately 180 snowmobile clubs throughout the state maintain the trails by clearing the brush and downed trees, putting in signs and bridges, purchasing grooming equipment and grooming the trails. High winds and heavy rain this summer have created extra preparation work to get the trail system ready for the upcoming season. The clubs also hold swap meets, rides, and other events throughout the season. Some events are fundraisers to help defray the costs of maintaining the trail system.

Many of the state’s snowmobile trails run across privately owned property. “Private land owners help make the sport of snowmobiling possible by granting access to their land for snowmobile trails,” said Keith Twombly, President of Minnesota United Snowmobilers Association (MnUSA). “All snowmobilers need to respect private land and obey snowmobile trail signs, practice safe and responsible snowmobiling and stay on the trail.”

Snowmobiling represents a large part of Minnesota’s winter tourism industry and the family sport is enjoyed by more than 450,000 men, women, and children in Minnesota. Emphasizing responsible riding practices, such as avoiding alcohol and operating at safe speeds, helps make Minnesota’s snowmobiling experience safe and enjoyable.

The Minnesota United Snowmobilers Association, the state’s largest snowmobiling organization, together with their more than 1,500 volunteer safety instructors, educate thousands of students about safe and responsible snowmobiling during the riding season, devoting numerous volunteer hours to promoting safe snowmobiling. Snowmobile safety classes are currently being held around the state for the 2010-2011season. “We’re very pleased to see that Minnesota snowmobilers continue to make safety a priority on the trails by taking safety courses and practicing safe and responsible snowmobiling,” said Twombly.

As of October 2002, Minnesota law requires any resident born after Dec. 31, 1976, to be safety certified in order to legally drive a snowmobile. MnUSA volunteer members receive instructor training from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources , and then offer classes throughout the state. Youth ages 12-15 are required to take either the traditional Youth Snowmobile Safety Certification classroom course and driving test, or the new CD-based safety course which also requires four classroom hours and a driving test. Those 16 years and older can take instruction offered from the DNR on CD.

MnUSA was formed in 1978 to create a strong, unified voice for the state’s leading winter outdoor recreational activity. With a membership of nearly 30,000 individuals and more than 250 snowmobile clubs, MnUSA promotes safe and responsible recreational snowmobiling, while encouraging snowmobilers to keep the general welfare of both participants and non-participants top of mind. The association and its volunteers have worked extensively to develop Minnesota’s snowmobile trail system – one of the most comprehensive systems in the country – and continue to plan and provide an array of snowmobile-related events and fundraisers.

For more information about MnUSA, its clubs, activities and snowmobile safety classes, contact MnUSA at (763) 577-0185 or online at www.mnsnowmobiler.org. For information on the safety classes contact the DNR at 1-888-MINNDNR or online at www.dnr.state.mn.us.

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