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Do you know how to live by the rules of the trail?

Do you know how to live by the rules of the trail? Do you know how to live by the rules of the trail?

Snowmobiling can be a fun way to pass the winter, but local clubs want to make sure the recreational activity is safe for everyone and that people follow the rules. And just because there has been a lot of snow over the last week, doesn’t mean people should hop on snowmobiles just yet.

Rick Mechelke, secretary/treasurer with the Cleveland Trailmates, wants the public to know there are regulations that need to be followed and that not everyone is abiding by the regulations. Mechelke says he became aware of the issue after the recent blizzard over the Thanksgiving weekend.

According to the Cornellite, he stopped someone snowmobiling on city streets and after talking with them, realized they knew almost nothing about the rules of the activity.

“I didn’t think enough about it to realize there are people that are that green to it,” said Mechelke.

The first thing people need to understand, is that a trail pass is needed to travel on trails. While a pass can cost $30, if a member belongs to a club, the pass is only $10. Club dues cost between $15 and $20, of which $12.50 is paid to the Association of Wisconsin Snowmobile Clubs (AWSC), which gives the reduced rate for the pass.

Local clubs also clear and sign all trails, and get landowner permission to be on the land.

“All trails have to be groomed once, before they get opened in the beginning,” said Mechelke.

Once the trails are open for the season, it is announced on the Chippewa Valley Snowmobile Association website (, who posts trail closings.

Mechelke says all snowmobiles must be registered and have this year’s trail pass. Any person who is at least 12 years old, and who is born on, or after, Jan. 1, 1985, is required to possess a valid snowmobile safety certificate in order to operate a snowmobile.

The biggest issue local clubs run into, is people not respecting the marked trails.

“If they are off the marked trail, they are trespassing and that’s the most common thing,” said Mechelke. “The trails are marked and very frequently, people cut the corners.”

While it might not make sense to operators to have to turn, when they could go the shortest way, Mechelke says there is a reason landowners ask for the trails placed where they are. In some cases, it could be a farmer doesn’t want a parcel of land disturbed, but it could also be that there is a hazard in that area.

“The trails are placed with a purpose,” said Mechelke. “Not only are they trespassing, it’s dangerous.”

Snowmobilers can find maps at most bars and gas stations, and need to follow marked trails in towns. There is also a noise limit: for every snowmobile manufactured on, or after, July 2, 1975, the noise level standard for exhaust and engine noise is 88 decibels.

“Loud pipes close trails,” said Mechelke.

If anyone would like more information or knowledge of how to join a club, the next meeting of the Cleveland Trailmates is Tuesday, Dec. 10, at Big T’s in Cornell, at 7 p.m. For those who want to enroll in a safety class, a course will be held Dec. 16, 17 and 19, from 5:30-8:30 p.m., at the Goetz Town Hall in Cadott. The minimum age to sign up is 12 years old.

To sign up, email

Courier Sentinel mitten tree was overflowing with donated items for the Spirit of Christmas, as the cold weather accessory drive wrapped up at the end of November. This year, 115 items were collected, in the form of 53 hats, 49 pairs of gloves/mittens and 13 scarves, in addition to three blankets. The items were then distributed to those in need in Chippewa County.

Photo by Ginna Young