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Vicki Gerdes, Forum Communications Co., Published January 04 2011

Snowmobilers thrilled by recent snow

When most local residents looked at the area weather forecast for New Year’s weekend and saw nothing but snow, blowing snow and chances for more snow, it wasn’t a happy sight.

But for area snowmobiling enthusiasts, it was more than enough to put an extra spring in their step.

Though most of Becker County’s snowmobile trails already have a good snow base, they could still use more.

“Last week was the first week where we’ve had enough snow (on the trails) that we’ve been out there grooming,” said Becker County Highway Engineer Brad Wentz, who is also currently the acting head of the county’s Parks & Recreation department.

“This week they’ve been able to hit most of the trails a couple of times,” he added. “They’re in good shape overall, but there’s some areas where we still don’t have a lot of snow.

“We’re estimating there’s about a 4-inch base on the trails where it’s packed down, which is pretty minimal to keep it covered,” he continued, noting that the snow depth is as high as 13 inches in some spots.

“Overall, the trails are in good, but not excellent condition. Hopefully they’ll be in a little better shape next week with this additional snow.”

According to the most recent trail report for Becker County, Wentz said, the best snowmobiling conditions can be found to the north, while the trails to the south are still listed in fair condition, due to less snowfall.

“We still urge caution out there, especially on the lakes,” he added. “There appears to be adequate ice now, but there are still areas where it’s a little thin, especially on rivers and streams.”

Still, most snowmobile enthusiasts agree that the conditions are more than good enough for them to be out on the trails.

“A lot of times we don’t have this much snow yet,” said Richard Schmidt, a member of ULTRA (United Lake Trail Riders Association). “We’d like to have more snow, but overall the trails are pretty good.”

Though he hasn’t had a chance to check out the trails for himself yet, “as snow depth goes, we probably have the least amount of any area in the state,” said Charlie Okeson, owner of Okeson Offtrail Sales.

“If you go south of here, they seem to have up to 3 feet (in spots) – but we have adequate snow to go on,” he added.

Okeson said sales have been good for both used and new model snowmobiles.

“When there’s good snow on the ground by the holiday season, that gets people excited,” he said.

Though it’s too soon to make any real comparisons with past seasons, Okeson added, “it’s a good start.”

“Things have been going very well, for both new and used (snowmobiles),” said Rich Liebelt, sales manager for Seaberg Power Sports. “Actually, the used market has been better than it’s ever been.”

Liebelt attributes the popularity of used sleds to the economy. “Used sleds are quite a bit less than new,” he explained.

“Typically, anything with good gas mileage sells well,” Liebelt added. “We have one Skidoo that gets close to 30 miles per gallon – that’s been a real popular one.”

Okeson, meanwhile, said the Polaris RMK and SwitchBack models have been the most popular with his customers.

Despite strong early sales, however, “what’s important is that we keep the snow through March,” he added. “It’s too soon to know how the year will turn out – but it has an excellent start.”


Vicki Gerdes is a writer for the Detroit Lakes News Tribune