Growing the grooming

by • December 11, 2013 • UncategorizedComments (0)963

Statewide snowmobile registration funds much-needed program

Kevin Hite, ASSA President

Winter finally came to our part of Alaska. As I am writing this, the first snowfall of the season has dropped anywhere from 2 inches to a foot of snow here in Southcentral. We have struggled through one of the warmest falls on record with rainfall taking the place of the snow that we normally have on the ground by now.

Now we know that we have all tuned up the snowmobiles, gotten the trailers ready for immediate use, dug all of our winter gear out of the back of the closet and are just waiting on the first available place to take that first ride.

Depending on where you live in this state, generally the first rideable spot to make tracks will be a backcountry spot where no trails have been groomed or staked yet. Those of us who make those first tracks are officially designated “morons who keep us in business.” This moniker is given to us by our friends who man the parts counters at our dealerships. That label is earned by the rocks and stumps that we discover before anyone else finds them. Unfortunately, we generally find them with our A-arms, trailing arms and other semi-rigid parts of our sleds.

For those of you who are smarter and/or more patient than we are, the groomers are your best friend. They are the ones who groom, mark and maintain the trail systems in our area of the state. As soon as it is safe enough and there is enough snow to begin, they are out on the trail systems making sure that those systems are safe and ready for use by the majority of snowmobilers who either primarily use the system for riding or those of us who use the trail system to get far back into the backcountry to find untracked areas.

Those groomers who are out there are some of the best resources that snowmobilers have in regards to development, maintenance and local knowledge of areas that we recreate in or utilize for activities ranging from sightseeing to freighting equipment and materials.

Alaska’s Point of Sale Registration Program is the funding mechanism for these groomers to recover some of the costs associated with trail maintenance and signing. The $5 per year you pay to register your snowmobile is the primary funding source for the grooming program in Alaska. As you can imagine, this funding source is barely enough to keep this program functioning. There are several proposals in the mix to increase this funding to a point that will ensure a continued and expanding program. We will be expanding on those proposals during the season and will use SnowRider to keep everyone up to date with the proposals from the organizations you have chosen to participate in and to support.

This is the only program in the state that, at this point, is totally funded by the users of the program. Going forward, we will be exploring and advocating increasing this funding source. Part of the challenge that we face is the organization and administration of this program. ASSA’s strong partner clubs have provided tremendous input and ideas to build on. We will continue to advocate for a strong program and intend that, under proper administration, this program will expand to include a statewide safety program as well as an expanded trail grooming and creation mechanism to facilitate a statewide Trail Program as well.

Stay tuned here, as we move forward, your input, support and participation is critical.

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