Snowmobile Trails Open Today

Snow better in Northern Hills, ‘sketchy’ in Southern Hills
trails officials say

By Mark Watson
Black Hills Pioneer
BLACK HILLS — Snowmobiling season opened today in the Black Hills allowing winter enthusiasts access to the 350 miles of trails.“This is a lot better than it was last year at this time,” said Shannon Percey, the district park manager with the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks. “We didn’t have enough snow until Dec. 27 when we got that big storm.”

Trail groomers will begin their annual trail maintenance at 3 p.m. today. Six snow cats will operate on 12-hour shifts.

This year, the recent storms have allowed much of the Black Hills to have “adequate snow” for the trails, but the farther south you go, the less snow is on the ground.

The Northern Hills trails, around Big Hill and Trailshead, will have great snow,” he said. The central trails, by Black Fox have adequate snow but it is not abundant. On the eastern side, over by Recreation Springs and Lead-Deadwood have adequate snow, but during the last two days, the snow has really gone down.”

Percey said Monday’s and Tuesday’s warm temperatures melted the most recent snow.

“All the snow we received Saturday is gone,” he said. “We’re down to that 40 inches that fell (after Thanksgiving.) In the woods you will find enough snow, but on the south facing slopes there might not be any.”

South of Trail 8, Percey said, the snow is “really sketchy.”

Snowmobilers will also have to contend with logging trucks hauling the last of their loads for the season. Some of the roads which are part of the trail system were plowed allowing access to the tree stands. Trail 9 will not open till Saturday due to logging in the area.

“We’ve had a lot of reroutes due to the logging activity,” he said. “The Forest Service is getting in and trying to get the trees with (pine bark beetles) our so they don’t infect other trees. The trail map will look pretty much the same though. The trail may have been on a logging road, and now it will be beside it.

Percey is hoping that today’s snow will pile onto the trails.

“The three to six inches that we are expected to get will really help out,” he said.

He cautioned riders to be careful, especially with the early season snow.

The Black Hills trail system has been in existence for the past 30 years and is mostly in the Northern Hills. The northern most portion is at Big Hill, just outside Spearfish and the system extends south to near Hill City.

Percey said that this season is expected to have average temperatures with above average precipitation.

But it is not just on the designated trails that snowmobilers can ride. The forest is open unless posted closed, but Percy cautioned riders to be aware of public land.

There were a few areas closed which include a winter wildlife range west of Spearfish and three cross country skiing areas at Beavercreek, Eagle Cliff and Big Hill.

In South Dakota, all snowmobiles must be properly licensed to operate on public or private lands, except those private lands owned by the snowmobile’s operator. A resident snowmobile license costs $20 for two years and can be purchased at the county treasurer’s office. Non-resident snowmobiles validly licensed in another state can be legally operated in South Dakota. Unlicensed snowmobiles (both resident and non-resident) may purchase a special five-day permit that is available at many trailside vendors. The temporary permit costs $40.

According to state law, snowmobilers who operate in road rights-of-way and/or public snowmobile trails must show proof of financial responsibility (liability insurance).

The Black Hills trail system is open from Dec. 15 to March 31.


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