Snowmobile riders take advantage of favorable trail conditions

Snowmobilers Tim Monahan (front) of Crystal Lake and Ryan Artner of Huntley ride the trails recently in Glacial Park.
Snowmobilers Tim Monahan (front) of Crystal Lake and Ryan Artner of Huntley ride the trails recently in Glacial Park.

So far this winter, Tim Monahan has put about 500 miles on his Arctic Cat snowmobile.

The 30-year-old Crystal Lake resident lives close enough to the trails that he doesn’t have to put his snowmobile onto a trailer to find a place to ride for about three hours at a time.

“This winter has been phenomenal,” Monahan said.

While many people can’t wait for the end of this winter, which has dropped more than 60 inches of snow in the Chicago area according to the National Weather Service, snowmobilers say they’ve been able to take advantage of the conditions this season. Snowmobile riders have hit the trails a lot more compared to the previous two years.

Monahan loves snowmobiling so much that if he could do his grocery shopping with it, he would.

“I think it’s a hobby or sport that not a lot of people do,” Monahan said. “When people see me on the sled, they think ‘He’s crazy.’ I’m doing something not a lot of people get to do. What other hobbies are there to do in the Midwest in the winter outside?”

Monahan said there are several trails in the county, and they’re all maintained by snowmobile club volunteers.

“All the trails cannot happen without clubs ... and club members and the work they do,” Monahan said.

Craig Adams is the treasurer of the McHenry Sno-Birds, a small club that maintains a three-mile trail close to the McHenry Moose Lodge.

Local clubs receive money from the state to help pay for signs to mark trails, and make sure the trails are smooth for riders.

“We advance that money and get reimbursed from the McHenry County Conservation District, who gets that money from the state,” Adams said.

In McHenry County, there are 200 to 250 miles worth of trails that are connected to one another.

The clubs also offer safety classes and carry liability insurance for the trails.

When temperatures are above zero degrees, Adams has been able to hit the trails. He’s gone out about five times this year for excursions that start in the mid-morning and go into the evening.

“The extreme cold, I don’t think most snowmobilers like that, but we’re really happy with the snow,” Adams said.

“I’m loving it. We can’t have enough winter for snowmobiling. We’re hoping Woodstock Willie always sees his shadow.”

Adams said the last two winters have not been good for snowmobile clubs.

During the 2011-12 winter, the Chicago area had 19.8 inches of snow. Last winter there were only 30.1 inches of snow, according to the weather service.

“The last few winters were very poor compared to this,” Adams said. “This year ... snowmobilers have enjoyed it. You can pick your day and go out.”

Adams said a hotline that people can call to check the condition of snowmobile trails has had about 500 calls this season.

Henry Regard, president of the Huntley Penguins, has been snowmobiling for about 30 years. The Huntley Penguins maintain a trail of about 20 miles.

He’s been able to hit the trails a handful of times this year.

“The snow has been there, we’re having a good year,” Regard said.

He said the snow in other years would melt away after a few days. This year, the snow is sticking around.

“The last couple of winters have not been good to us,” Regard said.

Regard said people snowmobiling helps bring revenue to local businesses such as restaurants and gas stations around town. As people are out for a ride, they may stop for a bite to eat or some fuel.

He said when he swishes through the snow, it feels like he’s skiing.

Regard himself doesn’t like shoveling snow off his driveway, and wishes the white stuff from the sky would fall only on the trails.

“I know everyone hates snow,” Regard said.

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