Uncharacteristic weather made the 2013-14 season difficult for snowmobilers.
Although snowmobile trails in New York state officially closed March 31, many trails in Western New York closed weeks earlier.
“It seemed like we would get enough snow to open the trails for a couple days, then it would warm up and rain would close the trails,” said Paul Weatherlow, secretary of the Chautauqua Lake Snowmobile Club and the Snowmobile Clubs Of Chautauqua County. “A couple of big snowstorms hit hard to the east of us but never quite got west enough to deposit much snow here. Other times we had very low temperatures with high winds that scoured the remaining snow off the fields and left the trails across those fields barren.”
Weatherlow also mentioned a lack of snowfall that added to the difficulties.
“Our county is adjacent to Lake Erie, which typically blankets the county with tons of lake effect snow,” Weatherlow said. “The county normally receives an average of 215 inches of snow, but this season’s total was only about 175 inches – about 40 inches below average.”
Despite the lack of snowfall, the snowmobile clubs in the county were still able to ride and participate in various fundraising efforts throughout the season.
An annual auction took place at the Village Casino in Bemus Point and an All-Club Ride-In was held at the Chautauqua County Firemen’s Grounds in Stockton, continuing events that have taken place for nearly 20 years.
The All-Club Ride-In event featured “A Taste of Chautauqua Trails,” where local eateries donated their signature soup, chili or dessert, and the Snowmobile Clubs of Chautauqua County supplied hamburgers, hot dogs and beverages to attendees free of charge. Nearly 700 riders attended.
Snowmobilers also participated in the Presidents Day Winter Festival, at Lakeside Park in Mayville, which included free snowmobile rides.
“It’s amazing to see a little 3-year-old’s eyes light up and a huge grin on their face as they get their first snowmobile ride around the park,” Weatherlow said.
Nearly 100 snowmobiles and 17 area businesses also participated in the Kiwanis Poker Run, which benefited the Kiwanis Club of Lakewood and a new event this year, Winterfest, held in Bemus Point, raised $2,000 in the first two hours before rain began. Roughly 140 people attended.
Other snowmobile events held this year included the Safari Ride and the Pink Ladies Ride.
According to Weatherlow, The Snowmobile Clubs of Chautauqua County raised over $7,000 for various charities this year.
The Snowmobile Clubs of Chautauqua County is made up of the Cherry Creek Sno-Goers, Ellery Sno-Cruisers, Sunset Drifters, Lake Effect Trailbreakers and the Chautauqua Lake Snowmobile Club.
“Our comprehensive county trail guide, uniform trail signage and Class A large-tracked groomers enable a first-class riding experience,” Weatherlow said.
The five clubs own and operate 24 large-tracked groomers with 24 drags to accompany them. The total investment in grooming equipment is roughly $1.5 million.
“All of the clubs are 100 percent all-volunteer organizations, with members contributing over 5,000 man-hours per season to make snowmobiling happen in Chautauqua County,” Weatherlow said.
According to Weatherlow, even during slow winters, the clubs will use more than $50,000 in diesel fuel.
“Most trail grooming occurs between the hours of 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. Depending upon where the trail is and how much traffic it gets, each trail will be groomed between three and five times per week,” Weatherlow said.
The Chautauqua Lake Snowmobile Club is the largest snowmobile club in New York state, totaling nearly 2,100 family memberships for the 2013-14 season. According to Weatherlow, more than 75 percent of the club’s memberships are from residents outside of Chautauqua County.
Between all five snowmobile clubs based in the county, 54 percent of all the family memberships involve residents from other states.
Chautauqua County has over 450 miles of groomed and signed snowmobile trails.