Snowmobiling essential to Wisconsin economy - Paycheck

Snowmobiling essential to Wisconsin economy

Wisconsin’s economy thrives every winter as snowmobilers hit the scenic trails of the north. As the state draws in over $1 billion annually from the world of snowmobiling, the sport draws out winter enthusiasts who are passionate about snowy Wisconsin weather and the chance to spend time on the trails of the North Woods.

“As with any travel activity and recreational experience, we know thatwhile you are enjoying the trails in Wisconsin you are also going to need a place to sleep, food to eat, and stores to shop at,” said Andrew Nussbaum, regional tourism specialist with the Wisconsin Department of Tourism. “When the snow is on the ground and the trails are open, businesses in Wisconsin see a very positive economic impact. Is there anything more “Wisconsin" than riding your snowmobile to a supper club for the best fish fry in town?”

Restaurants, taverns, hotels, stores, and equipment and rental shops around the state rely on snowy winters to attract snowmobilers. Business soars throughout the season especially in the North Woods. Many businesses fully depend on the tourists who arrive each winter to remain in business. “Snowmobiling is what keeps the North Woods alive,” said Eric Walloch, owner of The Toy Shop of Eagle River, a snowmobile rental and repair shop. “People don’t realize how snowmobiling affects the local economy. I’m not just making money at my shop; I’m a cog in the big wheel. We also have hotels and restaurants that snowmobilers frequent. They might be up here for the weekend but only snowmobile for one day.”

Matt Vike, a member of Orfordville Country Riders Club in the Rock County Snowmobile Alliance, is grateful for the trails of northern Wisconsin. He takes time off work each winter to travel to the Eagle River area to enjoy them with friends. “The trails are my second home,” Vike said. “You can see scenery that you might not otherwise get to see.”

Wisconsin boasts 25,000 miles of trails set up and maintained by 40,000 volunteer members who make up 600 clubs and operate 200,000 registered snowmobiles. Wisconsin’s average snowmobiler spends $2,000 on the sport and rides 1,250 miles of trails annually. The average age of snowmobilers is 45 years old and 95 percent of them consider the sport to be a family hobby, all according to the Association of Wisconsin Snowmobile Clubs. “For me, snowmobiling is relaxing and is my alone time,” said Matt Artis, Evansville farmer and snowmobile enthusiast. “If I get a chance I like to go up north for three or four days for riding and vacation. The North Woods are just amazing with snow cover and seeing the wildlife running around.”

Statewide trails open in mid-December and close March 31. But the labor required for trail preparation begins months before December. Since most trails cross private property, club volunteers are responsible for contacting private landowners to obtain land use permission, clearing brush along fence lines in the fall, setting the trails and trail signs, working with land managers to cross public lands, grooming trails throughout the riding season and trail deconstruction in the spring. “We all owe a huge thank you to our private landowners,” Vike said. “If they didn’t let us use their land, we couldn’t have as many beautiful trails as we do.”

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Mary Hookham

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