By Daniel Rose
1) Venture off the Beaten Path
“Don’t be afraid to get off the main trail systems in search of a challenge,” explains Alex Nitchoff, a snowmobiler of more than 25 years. “Especially in northern Wisconsin, this means hitting the off-trail systems and logging roads.”
These trails can offer an increased level of difficulty and challenge for the experienced snowmobiler. Unlike the more popular trails, logging roads and off-system trails are not groomed as often and have less meticulous signage. “You might have to slow down significantly to get through a rough spot or there may be obstacles like fallen trees that you have to navigate past.”
How do you find these unique and less traversed trails? Most of them are listed right on your trail map. If you don’t see any listed, ask around at local snowmobile shops or tourism offices. It is, however, important to note that these are designated off-system trails, and riders must otherwise remain on marked trails.
2) Pick your Destination for the Terrain
Doug Johnson, the president of the Association of Wisconsin Snowmobile Clubs (AWSC), has been snowmobiling in Wisconsin for years. He recommends that the serious snowmobiler choose their destination based on what type of terrain they want to sled on.
“Vilas County and specifically Eagle River has some of the best woods riding in the state,” explains Johnson. “There are over 600 miles of trails in Eagle River and I can personally attest that some of them are extremely challenging.”
If you’ve done a lot of woods riding and want to experience something new, consider checking out Iron County. According to Johnson, Iron County has the closest to what you would call “rugged terrain” in Wisconsin. While you’re there, be sure to check out Trail 77 near Hurley. This challenging trail will take you past the Plummer Mine Headframe, the last mining headframe still standing in northern Wisconsin.
Looking for some variety? Visit the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest in Price County. Here you can find everything from more open-field terrain to deep woods trails that offer a high-level of difficulty.
3) Don’t Forget the Basics
It may seem simple, but the weather is often the biggest factor for a successful snowmobiling trip. Even after 20 years of snowmobiling, AWSC president Doug Johnson is still meticulous about the weather. “The first thing I do before a trip is check the Snow Conditions Report on TravelWisconsin.com” said Johnson.
So even if you’re an experienced snowmobiler, don’t forget to go through this basic checklist:
- What type of weather is expected?
- Will there be enough snow to last the entire trip?
- Do I have the right gear to stay warm?
4) Check out an Event
Spice up your next trip to Wisconsin by attending one of the many snowmobiling events that are held around the state. These events range from festival events like “Marley’s Winter Fest” in the Wisconsin Dells, to more activity based events like the outings offered by snowmobiling clubs across Wisconsin.
5) Connect with a Local Snowmobiling Club
In Wisconsin, almost all of the state’s 25,000 miles of trails are maintained and groomed by snowmobiling clubs. So before your next trip, look up the local clubs in the area and try contacting one of them. You’ll make a connection with other people who are passionate about the sport and receive advice from the people who know the trails better than anyone else. The Association of Wisconsin Snowmobile Clubs is an affiliation of more than 600 snowmobile clubs.