We may have been basking in the 80s last week, but our days are numbered before we trade sandals for snow boots and gear up for another Minnesota winter. For some, especially members of the St. Michael-Albertville Foxtailers snowmobiling club, the season can’t start soon enough. But before riders hit the local trails, the club will be hosting what they call their most important event of the year: their youth snowmobile safety-training day.
In conjunction with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and , students age 12-16 (must be 12 years old by Jan. 1, 2012) can sign up for the snowmobile safety certification class, where state certified trainers teach them about snowmobile maintenance, winter apparel, rules of the trails and personal responsibility for nature and private property. The class usually draws close to 75 youth, who go through classroom training, a written exam and a behind the wheel test to receive their certification. This year’s training will take place from 7-8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 18 and from 9 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 29. Participants must attend both dates to receive their certification.
“You can see the excitement and interest in the kids, in how they pay attention and interact with the instructor,” said Foxtailer president Andy Swanson. “They’re into the sport of snowmobiling, so they’re just excited about getting certified and being able to go ride on the trails.”
Snowmobiling enthusiast Ryan Swenson, 16, took the training course three years ago, and said the training was an important first step toward independent riding.
“I thought it was pretty easy and pretty fast,” Swenson said, adding he had already learned a lot from the times his dad took him along on his sled. “It was fun to experience being behind the wheel [during the driving test]. I knew a lot of the rules, but the class helped me know even more.”
Swenson has since put his training to good use, logging more than 2,000 miles last year alone. In the winter he frequently rides to school, rides after school with friends and goes on an annual father/son snowmobile trip with other members of the Foxtailers Club.
To register for this training through STMA Community Education, click here, and then click on ‘available courses’ at the top of the screen. The training class is found in the section labeled ‘middle and high school activities/classes.’
When they’re not working to educate young snowmobiling enthusiasts, the Foxtailers Snowmobile Club keeps busy with a combination of trail grooming and fun. As one of 12 snowmobile clubs in Wright County, this club is in charge of grooming approximately 45 miles of trails through Albertville, St. Michael, Hanover and a section of Otsego. Club members regularly go out for group rides, and they take an annual trip to different riding hotspots.
“There’s a big sense of community within snowmobilers, it’s a lifestyle for a lot of people,” Swanson said. “Being in a club is a good way to meet other snowmobilers and share your interest.”
Swanson said members also feel pride in volunteering their time and efforts toward the cause of snowmobiling in this area. They mark trails, work with landowners to get permission to ride and work with the cities, in addition to the important annual snowmobile training to help educate new riders.
“It is truly important for the club to train kids to be safe, responsible riders,” Swanson said, adding local riding opportunities will diminish if riders don’t use the trails responsibly. “It’s all a part of keeping snowmobiling successful, safe and going on around here. The club does a lot of stuff, but this is really important.”