SnowTech Magazine, September, 2017

Kevin Beilke, Editor



Public or Private? Where You Can & Can’t Ride


          In the Spring issue of SnowTech Magazine we discussed the growing problem of snowmobilers trespassing on private land. Many, more like the majority, miles of groomed snowmobile trail cross private land. Even in areas with generous amounts of public land, the trails often must cross private lands to interconnect.


With the growing popularity of off trail riding, we find an increasing number of snowmobilers who are not familiar enough with the land or area they are riding in and do not study maps long enough to know where it is legal to ride, and where they need to stay on the trail. When we talk about “off trail riding” we are talking about riding in areas with no groomed trails, we are not referring to tearing across an open field right next to a groomed trail, but that is exactly the behavior that is causing all of the problems.


One almost needs to be a major in psychology to better understand the behavioral issues at hand. Do the riders not understand that the land adjacent to the trail is private, thus their off trail excursions are illegal trespassing? Or, do the riders know the land is private but do not think it will matter if they put down a few tracks? Or, do the riders know the land is private and simply do not care about land owner rights, and figure they won’t get caught?


Anyone involved with trail clubs and associations know first hand how much of a problem this is becoming. They go out to talk with the land owner to secure an easement or permission for the trail to again cross the private land, but are told to move the trail, snowmobilers are no longer welcome. Why? Sometimes it is due to the loud machines, sometimes it is due to a land use conflict, but most often it is due to the inability of the snowmobilers to stay on the trail. Plain and simple. Snowmobilers running over small trees, trampling whatever might be under the snow, spinning their tracks and causing erosion, any and all of it. Even if they cause no damage, it is a matter of permission and respect – respecting private property, not going somewhere if you do not have permission, and understanding what the word “no” means. Pretty simple, yet often misunderstood.


Trail clubs do their best to convince the land owner to “give them one more chance” and put up more signage to keep the riders on the trail. Maybe with extra signs indicating this is a sensitive area that requires riders to stay on the trail maybe they will be better next year? While this seems to be a logical strategy, it often times has the opposite effect. It is like riders see these signs and completely ignore them, going right past them to tear up the fresh snow out in the open field.


So with each year, as we all venture out onto the groomed trail network, we find the trail has been moved, relocated, or worse yet, closed. You often wonder why. What happened to cause the trail that has been here for 10-20 years to get moved? Instead of taking the scenic route along a fence line and through the woods, you now are forced to ride alongside the roadway in the ditch. Oh boy, that sure is fun. Slowly, year after year, more and more sections of “good” trail are replaced with ditch trail, using the last remaining path we have access to – road right of ways.


One theory is that younger riders, who seem to be the bulk of the problem, do not remember what snowmobiling was like before we had groomed trails. They do not remember hitting rocks, hitting culverts, riding only ditches and lakes and rivers, not having a safe, marked, smooth path designated for snowmobiles. They do not know how much time and effort and money went into creating a trail system in the first place. Because if they did, they might try a bit harder to keep what we have. The entitlement attitude they carry in their daily lives will slowly destroy the privilege that many of us have worked so hard for, for so long – having a safe place to ride our snowmobiles close to home in areas with little public lands.


To that end, each and every rider must ask themselves before they go off the trail – is this land public or private? If you don’t know, don’t go. Carry a map and learn how to read it. Know where you are. Pay attention to the signs along the trail. Use GPS information that indicates land ownership. Know where the restricted areas are. Know the customs and laws of each area you go to ride. Ignorance is no excuse!



Shared by the American Council of Snowmobile Associations, with permission from SnowTech

2017 State Convention

Thanks to all who made the convention a success, as well to each and every one that not only donates their hard earned money, but also their time to the association to try and keep our riding areas open. Without your support, we would have less and less land to ride on. This years convention was a success, a special thanks goes out to Bob and Judy King for coming and speaking with us about the importance ACSA plays in our sport we all love, and Jason Heitritter with Western Power Sports for his gracious donations and support.

As a reminder, the 2018 State ride will be the weekend of March 3, 2018 at Burgess Juction Wyoming. Also, looking farther ahead, the 2018 Convention will be in Lincoln, NE and has been moved to November 30-December 1, 2018 and has some big things planned. Mark your calendars and come out to have some fun!

Back row left to right: Daryl Holmberg Region 2 Director, Jeffrey A. Kracl Region 4 Director, Matt Kracl Vice President, Brian Stahlecker Region 6 Director, Bryce Ulrich Legislative Rep, Earl Martens Dealer Rep, Stan Stutheit President Front Row left to right: Sue Dellinger Secretary, Patricia Reznicek Treasurer, Kate Stutheit Region 1 Director, Molly Hillman Publicity Chair Person


Scholarship Committee members Kate Stutheit and Deb Kracl present Kaylee Meyer, daughter of Michelle Henke Meyer and Brian Meyer, the 2017 NSSA Scholarship Award
President Stan Stutheit with the 2017 NSSA Snowmobiler of the year Bryce Ulrich
Shout out to our dealers for their continued and greatly appreciated support throughout the years.
Dan and Marty Smith of Leisure Life Sports in Omaha, NE, Matt Kracl and Jeffrey A. Kracl of B&B Cycle Inc. in Norfolk, NE, Earl Martens of E.T.’s Lawn and Leisure of Syracuse, NE
Patricia Reznicek, center, has recently stepped down from the RTP Committee and was presented with an appreciation plaque of 25 years of being on the advisory board. Her replacement Earl Martens, right, will be taking over as Matt Kracl, left, will be taking Earl’s spot as the alternate.
Most New Members for 2017 Awarded to Schuyler Snow Stars Snowmobile Club Members Left to Right: Nikki Glodowski, Rick Glodowski, Jeffrey A. Kracl, Deb Kracl, Matt Kracl, Daryl Holmberg, Patty Holmberg, Bryce Ulrich, Patricia Reznicek, Lorrie Ulrich, Kate Stutheit, Stan Stutheit
Most Members Present Awarded to Syracuse Snowflakers Back Row Left to Right: Clint Hillman, Earl Martens, Ed Dillinger, Amber Lutjemeyer, Brian Meyer, Dean Henke. Front Row Left to Right: Kate Stutheit, Elaine Martens, Sue Dillinger, Molly Hillman, Kaylee Meyer, Michelle Henke Meyer, Stan Stutheit

Public or Private, from SnowTech Magazine

Public or Private?

SnowTech Magazine, Spring, 2017
Kevin Beilke, Editor

So you’re riding on a groomed trail and you see some inviting land off the trail that begs to be tracked up. We’ve all been there, over and over again. Everyone of us likes to tear up the fresh, untracked snow.

Before you peel off the trail and tear it up, you MUST ask yourself – is this land public or private?

If you don’t KNOW the answer, don’t go off the trail!

Pretty simple, eh? So, why is this basic common sense logic so often ignored?

This is an increasing problem, particularly in areas where there is NO public land and FEW off trail riding opportunities, but it is a problem everywhere groomed trails are located. Riders seem to have the idea that if land isn’t posted closed it must be open for them to ride on. NOT! Snowmobilers MUST know if the land they are about to ride onto is public or private, each and every time they decide to go off a groomed or marked trail.

This is the premise upon which we propose to have new trail signs created, so clubs can remind riders who come across such inviting areas. Public or Private? If you don’t know, don’t go!

As a general rule, you are legal to ride on groomed snowmobile trails, on un-plowed forest roads, along most roads in the public right-of-way (ditch) along the road, and on certain public lands. Other than that, you have to assume the land is PRIVATE and to track it up is ILLEGAL trespassing.

So, you go make a few tracks off the trail, big deal, right? This is the exact attitude that gets trails closed. Landowners everywhere are being disrespected by snowmobilers taking liberties and trespassing on their private land, so they tell the trail club to close the trail and go elsewhere. You know how it is, a favorite trail no longer goes where it used to, ever wonder why? In almost every single case, it is because the landowner gets upset with continual trespassing onto their private property. Use of private land is a PRIVLEDGE, not a RIGHT.

What is really troubling is the trail clubs will have such areas clearly marked with “Stay on Trail” signs, but there are sled tracks going off trail all over the place. Since we know the riders can read English, we then know for a fact the riders are simply IGNORING the signs and doing whatever they want to. Why would the club take the time to post such signs? Um, because the trail is on private land and have been told the trail will be closed if the snowmobilers keep going off trail? Hello?
Hate to say it, but this is more of a problem with younger riders than it is older ones, and it is usually more of a problem with out-of-town riders than it is local ones. Generally, but not always. Mature riders do not want their local trails closed, nor do they want to upset their neighbors they live near to. Simple logic here. Younger riders seem to have the “entitlement” attitude where everyone owes them something and they can do as they please, that the rules don’t apply to them. When a snowmobiler knowingly goes off trail onto private land, they are showing disrespect for the landowner, the local club that worked so hard to place the trail, and the sport as a whole.

We see this more and more where we ride in the U.P. of Michigan. For some reason, people think that “off-trail” riding means tearing up the fields next to the groomed trails. If you see an open field next to a groomed trail, it is almost always private property. That is why it is open and not wooded, somebody cleared the land. It should be just as logical that if you can see houses and farms, you are on private land. Pretty basic common sense, but too many snowmobilers seem to be lacking this intelligence.

Even within tracts of public land, there are often smaller pieces of private land grandfathered in that were there long before the national (or state) forest was created. Just because you are in the middle of a great big piece of public land doesn’t mean it is 100% public, rarely is. Snowmobilers need to pay attention. They need to study maps, carry a GPS, and be keen to what sections of trail are located on private land and what sections are on public land.

Moral of the story, know the laws and know the lay of the land where you are going to be riding. Know where the private land ends and where the public land starts. Each and every state or national forest now has land use regulations, it is your responsibility to know what the rules are where you will be riding. Know what is legal and what is not legal to ride. Do not assume an open unless posted closed policy, verify it. What might be acceptable behavior back home for you might not be acceptable behavior where you are going to be riding. It is each rider’s responsibility to know the laws and legalities of snowmobiling in each area they visit.

The future of our sport and groomed trail system depends on this vital compliance. Each year trails are closed, rerouted and made less desirable due to the ignorance of a few. Ride only where legal. Leave your loud exhaust systems at home, as they also cause land owners to close trails. You might think riding a loud machine is your right, but it is not, especially when we are riding on private land. Stay on the trail and forest roads unless you know for a fact the land is open for you to legally ride on. Behavior like this is closing trails for the rest of us. Pretty soon, areas that used to welcome snowmobilers will be pulling up the welcome mat, telling the tourists to stay home. For those of you who don’t remember what it was like to ride back in the 70’s with no groomed trails, you just might get the chance to find out if you continue this behavior.

I would like to think that since you are reading this, you are not part of the problem but part of the solution in doing what we can to educate those less informed. Peer pressure is perhaps the best deterrent, but then again, it is very difficult to control ignorance and stupidity. We must at least try to salvage what we have before it is too late.


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At no cost to you, you can use Amazon Prime and support snowmobiling though Amazon Smile.  To sign up, click here, and enter American Council of Snowmobile Associations.

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