Snowmobiling

snowmobileThere's something intoxicating about the feeling of flying over snow on a powerful Minnesota-made machine: it's the winter version of motorcycling. A great way to spend time outdoors, snowmobiling is an activity that can be shared by young and old, by families or a group of friends.

I asked Nancy Hanson, business coordinator for Minnesota United Snowmobilers Association , about how the sport has been faring over the last ten years. "Well, our numbers fluctuate, but our numbers are higher than they were last year, and those numbers are higher than the year before. But then again, these last two years have been good snow seasons."

As to how manufacturers are doing, she said, "Polaris and Arctic Cat posted greater profits than expected. This year it's hard to even find a snowmobile because we've had such good snow."

There's a long tradition of snowmobilers staying at resorts in Minnesota, and for good reason. "Snowmobilers like resorts because they can get a large group in," Nancy said. "A resort is a good place to relax after a day of riding, with a hot tub and pool at night, and maybe a restaurant and bar ... It's also nice that resorts have rentals for those riders that don't own a sled."

Voyagaire Lodge has been a favorite of snowmobilers for over twenty years, and it's easy to see why. "The snowmobiling is fantastic up here," says owner, Jim Janssen. "It's like the Yellowstone of the Midwest: we're in a national park, so there's no development. Guests can ride hundreds of miles of groomed trails without crossing the same trails. The nice combination of lake and land makes it appealing."

The vast expanses of the Kabetogama State Forest make for some incredible riding. And, if you don't have a sled, you can rent a variety of Polaris machines from Voyagaire.

Hungry Jack Lodge is another favorite. Though Hungry Jack claims Grand Marais as its mailing address, in truth it's in the depths on the Superior National Forest just south of the Canadian border. If you're looking for wilderness, it would be hard to do much better than Hungry Jack.

I asked Forrest Parson, owner of Hungry Jack, how he would describe the snowmobiling there. With no hesitation he said, "It's a self-guided wilderness adventure. Our trails are maintained by the local clubs and go through a wide variety of terrain. You can see a lot of different scenery: tall trees, some logging areas, and you can ride through the forest fire of '07."

The local club maintains 140 miles of trails, but if you're of a mind to go farther the trail connects to the north shore state trail, which goes all the way to Duluth.

"We get a little bit of everyone up here," Forrest says. "Families, guys, working class and upper class. It's pretty open."

Some come up for a week and some just a night or two, but Forrest says the three day weekend—from Thursday to Sunday—is probably the most common. As the snow melts in the southern part of the state, they get a lot of late-season snowmobilers coming up to get in on the last few weeks of good snow. For those just looking to try their hand, Hungry Jack Lodge rents Polaris snowmobiles: Trail Touring 550s and Super Sport 550s.

However you go, and wherever you go, it's hard to beat the rush of zipping through the winter woods on a high test snowmobile.

 

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