Northern snowmobile trails not all open yet

December 02, 2008 at 10:16 AM

ROCKFORD — After several inches of snow left the area with a white coating Sunday night and this morning, snowmobile owners were ready to hit northern Illinois’ trail system.

Not so quick, say local snowmobile clubs.

The trails in Winnebago, Ogle, Lee and eastern Stephenson counties won’t open until Dec. 15, and only then if they are covered with 4 inches of snow. The closing date is March 15.

The clubs decided on the opening date for a couple of reasons.

The second season of the firearm deer hunt doesn’t end until Sunday. The clubs don’t want any snowmobilers being accidentally shot or disturbing the hunters.

“We don’t have that many trails that go through areas where people hunt, but you never know where people are going to hunt,” said Mark Hazzard, a member of the Winnebago Sno-Gliders snowmobile club.

Another reason for the Dec. 15 opener concerns crop harvests. Most of the trails are on farmland, where crops might still be in the field until the middle of the month.

And finally, the clubs haven’t finished marking the trails yet. 

“Dec. 15 usually is a good opening date for us,” Hazzard said. “But this is the third year in a row now that we’ve had snow the first week of December.”

The early snow has bolstered hopes for another prime snowmobiling season, much like last season.

“We are always hopeful of a good year,” Hazzard said. “Last year was a wonderful year. Lots of snow and great riding opportunities. Many people have to get out and see and enjoy what our trail system has to offer.”