Lack of snow grounds local snowmobile club

Photo by William Mohan Even with plenty of snow in the forecast, there may not be enough accumulation to help members of the Chautauqua Lake Snowmobile Club hit the trails this season. A lack of snow has forced the closure of trails, though members have been able to take on maintenance projects.

MAYVILLE — Members of the Chautauqua Lake Snowmobile Club are hoping a blast of snow in the next couple of days will salvage an otherwise non-existent snowmobiling season.

Until now, there has been little to no snow for snowmobilers to hit the local trails. The situation has provided a unique set of challenges for the club, based in Mayville, such as having to close trails that would normally have seen heavy use by now.

However, that may all soon change.

The National Weather Service in Buffalo, in a winter storm warning for the majority of Western New York, said as much as 2 feet of snow could fall between today and Thursday afternoon. The impacted areas include Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, Wyoming and Southern Erie counties.

With the lack of snowfall until now, most snowmobiles have had to go out of town this season. Among some of the locations cited by the Chautauqua Lake Snowmobile Club include the Upper Peninsula region of Michigan, New England or Tugg Hill, N.Y.

Fresh accumulation could be good news for anyone who wants to run their sleds in the county. But even with 2 feet of snow possible in some locations, CLSC President Chris Jaynes is certain the snowfall won’t solve the problems plaguing this season.

Jaynes predicted the accumulation won’t provide enough of a sturdy base for efficient use; traction is important for snowmobiles to run at their best.

“I kind of doubt we’re going to get enough,” Jaynes said. “We’ll need almost 2 feet of snow to get a base to start riding.”

Any snowmobiling that could have been had was also occupied by New York’s hunting season. For that reason, members have not had a chance to ride this season.

“By the time the trails could be open, the snow had melted down too much,” Jaynes said. “The three weeks that we could have been riding it was during hunting season and the state doesn’t allow it.”

Despite all of the frustration, Jaynes said this year is not the worst for snowmobiling season. That honor belongs to the 2012-13 season.

“That year we had a day and a half of snow in Mayville during the year and nothing after that,” Jaynes said. “Its frustrating when things like that happen because it doesn’t justify any grant moneys we receive.”

In spite of the current situation, the lack of snow has not been all bad news for the snowmobiling club. The club has been performing maintenance that otherwise could have not been completed with the snow on the ground.

“It gives us more opportunity to do things that we wouldn’t be able to do otherwise,” CLSC membership coordinator Barb Farrell said.

To that end, the club has been filling in lost ground and improving its drainage systems. At the same time, they have also had to replace trail marker signs in addition to clearing trails for safe use.

“We’ve been out working on trails, still putting in drainage pipes (trying to make some place for the water to run) and filling in where the water did run and wash out,” Jaynes said.

In specifically cutting down trees, only some members are qualified to perform the task. New York state requires chainsaw operators to be trained to use them.

The club has also used this time to replace, recover and restake signs.

“Signing is always a big project,” Jaynes said. “They (protective signing) get vandalized, they cost us $10 apiece.”

Signs can also be lost by damage from snowmobile use. It is often expected by CLSC to lose some every year.

“We lose signs every winter, somebody’s not paying attention or its snowing hard and they’ll drive right over one,” Jaynes explained.

Wind is the biggest enemy to trail upkeep. Not surprisingly, the club often has to clear the trails and replace or restore missing, damaged and/or destroyed signs. It also brings more natural objects onto the trails.

“(Wind) blows down branches and trees everywhere.” Jaynes said.

Wind and over-saturated grounds also pose problems for trails.

“The ground is soft because of all the rain, the roots don’t hold and sometimes you get a big tree and on its way down it will knock two more,” Jaynes said.

Despite the lack of snow, the club promises to celebrate its 50th anniversary at its clubhouse on Jan. 19. For more information on this and other events, as well as trail information and status, visit chautauquasnow.com or like them on Facebook. To learn more call 785-8723. The CLSC clubhouse is located at 7239 Hannum Road in Mayville.

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