Snowmobiling

Jason Harder, of Duluth, gets some air last Friday on an approach across from Johnson’s Portside in Isle, followed by his buddy Jarrod Fitzgearlds of Minnetonka.

Snowmobilers in the Mille Lacs area have had a better go of it than anglers have this winter with the early snow in the season. One setback has been the warmer weather preventing the ponds and water in the ditches to solidify like they should. But snowmobile clubs have been working hard and are thankful for the recent cold weather which will make their jobs grooming the trails easier. They say they’re hoping for more snow to offset some of the icier trails.

Joe Witzmann, trail coordinator for Mille Lacs Drift Skippers Snowmobile/ATV Club, said the trails were “really good” early in the season, are in good condition now. He added that the trails are better than the last two seasons due to the early snow. Last year, the club didn’t start grooming until January. The tough part of the season, he said, has been that they haven’t been able to go across any swamps as they’re not safe enough for the groomers. “I have been hearing from other clubs that they have been dropping groomers into swamps,” he said.

Witzmann said the trails are being groomed as often as they can right now, and they are working to get the bumps off. “We went across the swamps with a smaller machine to remove the bumps, but those trails should be good next week,” he said.

According to the most recent report from the Drift Skippers, they hope the effort they made in shaving off the high spots in some of the wet ditches and swamps, with a mini groomer made by Tom Roland and Eddy Lyback, will be worth the effort and riders will be able to ride the swamps more comfortably until they can get the larger groomers in.

Witzmann added that they have been working on Kathio State Park trails to widen them in an effort to make them safer.

The Drift Skippers groom approximately 110 miles of trails from Morrison County to the west end, to the east as far as McGrath on the Soo Line Trail, to Hwy. 47 up to Hunters Point, and then approximately 15 miles south on Hwy 47.

Witzmann said the Drift Skippers will be holding a cookout in January at one of the shelters as soon as the trails are all completed. More details will follow in the Mille Lacs Messenger, on the Drift Skippers website and their Facebook page. The website address is http://millelacsdriftskippers.org/contact-us/.

Garrison Community Club Trail Manager Brian Schmaltz said that all trails have been groomed except a portion of Turtle Lake and the trail south of Wigwam Bay due to the wet conditions. He added that the ditches along Hwys. 18 and 6 have some snowballs on the trail due to the plowing of the road shoulder by MnDOT.

Mille Lacs Trails grooms approximately 140 miles of trails and last reported that they groomed to Hwy. 65, but not without issues. They reported having some equipment issues while trying to fill in a wet area but were able to groom trails to the highway. They reported grooming to the north to Tamarack and to the south of Hwy. 2 a couple miles. They are hoping after the cold snap to be able to groom to the Soo Line. Conditions of the Mille Lacs Trails can be found at http://millelacstrails.com/.

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