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Not Ready to Ride: Snowmobile Trails in Much of the Northwoods Need More Snow

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Katie Thoresen/WXPR
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In the Rhinelander area, snow is starting to pile up on the sides of roads where it’s been plowed, but in the woods with more tree cover, tall, dry grass and brush still pops up through the thin layer of snow.

To the north, Iron and Gogebic Counties have upwards of four inches, even a foot in some places.  Those counties has snowmobilers hitting the trails over the weekend.

But places Vilas County and to the south barely have two inches of snowpack on the ground.

“We’re going to need at least an 8-inch snowfall to get it packed so we can go out there with enough snow to pack it down and groom it and have it ready,” said Cross-Country Cruisers Snowmobile Club President David Assman.

Assman said the cold temperatures have given the trails a great base, now we just need the snow. And until we get it, snowmobilers need to stay off the trails.

If they opened them up now, Assman said it wouldn’t be long for the trails to deteriorate.

“You end up with dirt and everything and then we end up with what’s called snirt and that’s no good. It’s dirt and pebbles everything mixed in with the snow,” said Assman. “We want clean snow. It will just hurt the trails, especially where there’s bumps and roots going across and that type of thing. It makes it even worse.”

The cold temperatures have also been good for thickening the ice on the Minocqua Chain. Assman said the club needs 8-inches of ice before they started marking the trail.

“We tell people if it’s not marked, do not go on it. It’s not safe. We check every so many yards or so, we check to make sure it’s even ice so that we don’t have one inch in one area and 8 inches in another. We try to make sure that it’s pretty even,” said Assman.

When trails eventually open, Assman wants people to be smart and safe. He says slow down on turns you aren’t familiar with and don’t drink and drive.  

The National Weather Service is tracking another snowstorm for Tuesday night into Wednesday.  NWS said confidence is increasing that Oneida, Vilas, and Price Counties could pick up two to four inches.

Further southeast, Lincoln, Langlade, and the southern parts of Forest County could see three to six inches of snow.

It might not be enough to open trails, but every inch of snow makes a difference.