Area clubs hoping to have Chautauqua County snowmobiling trails open this weekend have succeeded.
A message on the Chautauqua County snowmobile trails hotline Friday morning said "Trails are now open. There are mud holes and nothing is really frozen yet. With limited snow ... there are many hazardous areas, so be aware of speed and respect landowners' property."
To correspond with the opening of trails, the Mayville office of the Department of Motor Vehicles will be open for registrations today from 9 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. with a snowmobile club member available to process club memberships.
Chautauqua County snowmobile clubs declared trails open Friday morning, but warned of many hazardous areas.
P-J file photo
Groomers from each of the area clubs have been working since Wednesday's snowfall to have trails ready. Joe Sorrento of Cherry Creek Sno-goers said safety tops all decision-making about opening trails. "The big problem is ruts," he said.
Farmers were still clearing fields during wet weather which created ruts which groomers are out identifying and filling.
"We don't want to rush to get the trails open unless it's safe for everyone," he said.
Branches and other obstructions are also being cleared. "We had some really heavy, wet snow and some trees and branches have come down," he said, and explained groomers are equipped with chain saws to clear branches and trees blocking trails.
It was initially believed that not enough snow accumulated before the recent snowfall to have the trails ready for heavy use, either.
"If we'd have gotten a nice big 2-foot dump it would have been another story," Sorrento said, and added, "We were hoping to get more snow than we did."
Most areas around trails got about 10 inches to a foot of snow.
"We communicate with all of the other clubs while clearing and grooming, and report conditions to one another," Sorrento explained. "We try to do it as a county. It just seems to work so much better."
He noted that when trails don't open at the same time, riders through one trail may go onto closed trails and on land that isn't prepared yet, creating safety issues for riders and landowners.
"We want to make it as safe as possible," he said.
The New York State Snowmobile Association reminds riders to take safety into their own hands, as well.
"When each season begins we always want to keep snowmobilers informed of the necessary safety precautions that need to be taken before hitting the trails for the first time," said Jim Rolf, NYSSA trail coordinator. "We encourage snowmobilers to contact their local snowmobile club before their first ride for trail safety updates in order to ensure a safe experience, as trails do change," he added.
In a statement NYSSA urged rider to be cautious of unfrozen water and mud holes beneath the new snow because the ground has been soft until recent cold temperatures. "All riders are urged to be extra cautious, especially in low lying areas and on bodies of water," the statement said.
NYSSA encourages all snowmobilers to practice zero alcohol consumption before and while riding.
"Operating a snowmobile requires the sharpest of senses. Don't invite something bad to happen by consuming any amount of alcohol before your riding is done for the day," stressed Gary Broderick, NYSSA president.
Sorrento said snowmobilers should keep checking the trail conditions telephone line at 800-242-4569 (press 2 for Chautauqua County, then 5 for trail conditions) until trails are open. For more information on Saturday DMV hours, visit the Chautauqua County clerk's website at www.co.chautauqua.ny.us/DEPARTMENTS/CLERK.