I feel bad for folks who have never had the opportunity to throw a leg over a snowmobile and go for a ride across the frozen white stuff. Growing up in Northern Michigan, it was just what we did in the winter, along with ice fishing, sledding, and more. Snowmobiles are part of the winter landscape and are a great way to enjoy the frozen splendor of the Great Lake State. Here are five reasons why you need to give it a try.
1. There’s lots of trails
One of the many great things about the state if you’re a sled head is the abundant trail system. There are over 6,200 miles of groomed trails in the state, with over 150 grooming machines operated by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and local snowmobile clubs. In fact, most of the groomers are bought through the clubs and operated at no cost to the state. Here’s another awesome fact that will blow your mind: over 50 percent of the public trails are on private property. Yes, private property owners in Michigan allow access to trails.
During winter months, it is not only possible, but pretty common for snowmobilers to cross the entire Upper Peninsula on a sled. There are plentiful gas stations and accommodations near the trails.
2. You’ll boost the local economy
Thousands of snowmobilers, residents and nonresidents alike, enjoy Michigan’s ample trails each winter. Each Friday, the northbound roads are full of trucks towing trailers full of sleds. Snowmobilers have a significant economic impact on the state. I know of several Upper Peninsula businesses that rely entirely on the snowmobile traffic for the year’s income.
Last year’s massive snowfall across the Midwest was seen by some as a tale of horror. But to snowmobilers, it was fantastic. To businesses that rely on the snowmobilers, it was both a blessing and a curse. Don Pishney, owner of Classic Motorsports in Traverse City, said they were amazed at the number of snowmobile sales last winter. Usually they plan for a certain amount of leftover sleds to have on hand the following season, to kickstart the season sales. After last year’s long winter, they sold so many snowmobiles that they only had a few to carry over into the summer and fall.
“We had a lot of impulse buying last year,” Pishney said. It wasn’t uncommon for us to have a customer come in and buy a new machine just because the conditions were so good. It was a pretty good year for us.”
Hotels, restaurants and other local shops rejoiced in the winter and there are high hopes for this year to at least somewhat repeat. Parking lots are often crowded with sleds at local restaurants and watering holes. It’s easy to see that lots of white can turn into lots of green.
3. There’s a wide variety of terrain
Michigan boasts some of the most scenic trails you’ll find anywhere. With heavily-wooded areas of evergreens or hardwoods to rolling hills and 11,000 frozen lakes, it is a wide-open riding dream. There is terrain for every type of sled Whether you have a pure mountain, deep-powder rig, straight-up groomed trail performance ride, or a casual touring two-up, there are plenty of trails across Michigan for everyone.
Don’t have a sled? No problem. There are plenty of rental places available.
4. It’s safe
Michigan works really hard to cut down on the amount of snowmobile related accidents each season and so far it seems to be working. News outlets are reporting fewer accidents each season because people are being smarter. There are online safety courses available to help learn the proper way to handle a sled. And first responders across much of the state have been trained in specific snowmobile-related accidents and procedures. It all adds up to Michigan being a great place for the entire family to get out and enjoy the trails.
5. Because Braaap!
The best reason to get out and enjoy the Great Lake State via snowmobile is because it’s just a heck of a lot of fun. As a kid, I remember coming home from school, quickly changing into my coveralls and going out and getting onto one of our snowmobiles. It didn’t matter if we were going riding down one of the trails, plowing through powdery drifts across our fields, heading out onto the lake to ice fish, or just goofing around on one of the back roads—it was all a lot of fun.
I realize it much more now, especially when I travel across the country and meet people from all over. When they learn I’m from Northern Michigan, the subject of winter sports always seems to come up. More often than not, the topic turns to snowmobiling and how much fun it is. For certain, it is one thing everyone who enjoys the great outdoors should try.
Image courtesy Arctic Cat