Not so happy trails for snowmobilers

Club members take down signs after an almost snowless winter prevented them from opening the snowmobile trail system in Ozaukee County

THE SNOW RUNNERS LTD have yet to take out all the snowmobile trail signs in the northern portion of Ozaukee County, and this is one season they didn’t even need to be posted. The trails never opened due to a lack of snow. Holding some of the signs were (from left) Trail Master Jeff Clasen, Secretary Kevin Schueller, President Steve Krier, Trail Master Kyle Schueller, club member Casey Frey and Trail Master Kent Schueller. Photo by Sam Arendt
Ozaukee Press staff

It’s not that what happened this snowmobile season is extremely rare; it’s that it came off of the opposite extreme last year.

The snowmobile trails in Ozaukee County never opened this season, and it wasn’t even close.

Usually, the few county clubs get together to decide if the trails should open.

“There was never a point where there was a countywide discussion,” trail boss and Snow Runners LTD member Kent Schueller of the Town of Fredonia said.

“It was that bad of a season where it never really came to mind.”

Schueller is one of the trail groomers who keeps snowmobiles’ paths smooth, which is a more vital element than many people realize.

The better the trails, the more riders will use them, hence businesses such as restaurants, bars, gas stations and hotels along the nicely groomed trails will be frequented more often.

At least five inches of snow is required for snowmobiles to ride, Sno-Drifters President Kathryn Houpt said.

That standard was never reached in this area this season, which Houpt said no doubt made an economic impact.

“It not only hurts the bars and restaurants, but also the dealers who sell snowmobiles and parts and clothing. The weather

affects a large group of people,” she said.

As a result, snowmobile riders head to where there’s snow.

The Sno-Drifters, which meet in Saukville but primarily covers an area south of that, went to the Eagle River area.

“Typically, our club does one outing every year as a group,” Houpt said.

The location, she said, changes with Mother Nature. If Ozaukee County has enough snow, riders will stay.

“We’ll meet somewhere local and ride for a fish fry or an afternoon or an evening, depending on what kind of snow conditions there are,” she said.

Schueller said he his family and friends took two trips this year, one to the Minoqua area and another to the Superior area.

“If you’re that avid and you’re really into the sport, and you’ve got the trailer to haul it, you just go up north,” he said.

“The Northwoods and U.P. had a great season.”

But snowmobilers didn’t have to go that far to partake in their passion.

“I think there was snow as far south as Shawano. Highway 29 and north was decent,” Schueller said.

The clubs, however, still did all the prep work for the trails last fall. They marked the trails with stakes, removed brush, made sure creeks are noted and spoke to the land owners who have trails running across their properties, sometimes on the edge of farm fields and other times even across their driveways.

“You ask for permission every year,” Houpt said.

“You’ve got to anticipate a good year every year,” Schueller said.

At the end of the season, clubs pull out the stakes and signs. The Snow Runners have yet to take out their signs due to busy schedules and muddy conditions that cause all-terrain vehicles to get stuck, Schueller said.

It’s not unheard of to have a slow season, he said, but the area is coming off one of its longest seasons in recent memory.

“Last year we had the best year, you could say, in 20 years, to one of the worst,” Schueller said.

“So that’s crazy.”

“It’s disappointing but people love snowmobiling and they want the trails to be maintained,” Houpt said.

“The clubs work together and work very hard to make sure the trails are available.”

For those interested in snowmobiling, Houpt and Schueller suggest joining a club for the camaraderie and to keep the hobby going.

“Trails wouldn’t exist without the clubs maintaining them,” Houpt said.

The Snow Runners, which covers the northern portion of Ozaukee County, is holding its annual fundraiser on Saturday, Moonlight Meltdown, a 5 and 10-kilometer run and walk along with music and food.

“Even though we didn’t use the trails this year, it still takes money (to get them ready),” Schueller said.

Some of the proceeds from the event go to the Port Washington and Belgium fire departments. For more information, visit



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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
(262) 284-3494


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