Update from The MSA President

December 2013

Two Years Went By so Fast

Two years ago, December 2013 seemed so far away. It has gone by so fast, and it’s now time for my last column as the president of the MSA. Ron Corbett will take over as the President of the MSA on Jan. 1, 2014, and I am very confident that the association will be in very good, capable, and dedicated hands.

I will continue to serve on the Executive Board for an additional two years, as the immediate past resident. Lucky for all of you there is no column for the past president to write. I have enjoyed writing this column for the last two years, and will miss it. I know I am not a very good writer, but I have tried the best I could to use this space to be informative to the membership.

A Great MSA Staff Makes It Happen

I could use all of the space allowed this month to just thank all the people who have helped me over the past two years, but there are some other items that I want to use some of the space to talk about. I do want to reiterate to all how good of an office staff the Michigan Snowmobile Association has. The officers and other volunteers could not do the job that they do without our great office staff. I will miss all of the hours of phone time that Bill Manson and I have shared these past two years. I am still going to be talking with Bill often, but not to the extent of the past two years. Not to take away from others, but Bill Manson is by far the most knowledgeable person I know of when it comes to snowmobile issues. I have found him always willing to help where he can. The other staff member that I have to extend my deepest gratitude, for doing an outstanding job, is Karen Middendorp. Karen makes the office happen. You could search for a long time (if not for ever) to find a person who takes her job to heart the way that Karen does. To say that Karen goes above the requirements of her job would be an unjust understatement. Thank you to both Bill and Karen for doing what you do.

The Make Up of MSA’s BOD

Now I want to talk about an issue that I feel strongly about and that is the MSA Board of Directors (BOD) -- and who sits on the board. I have written in previous columns about the need for some changes in the BOD. That is not to say the people currently on the BOD are not good people, I just believe that there needs to be a broader spectrum of representation from across the state. We talked about this at the convention and a committee has been formed to look at changes.

The majority of the BOD comes from the councils around the state, but if a person lives in a county that is not represented by a council there is still an opportunity to be on the BOD and that is an area that needs to be utilized more. There are many areas of the state that do not have councils, but only a few of those areas actually have at large BOD members seated. This needs to change. The more areas of the state that have representation on the board the better our BOD will be.

Not to pick on a county, but I will use Jackson County as an example. There is not a council in the Jackson County area, so there are open positions for a Director at Large from Jackson County as well as the surrounding counties that are not filled.

There is a simple process for an individual to hold a Director at Large position. First, you need to want to. Then send a letter to the office stating your wish to become a Director at Large, along with information about yourself. The request has to be published in the MSA magazine and then voted on by the BOD. I believe that many members do not know of this opportunity, and that is why I have taken the space to explain it here. If you are not sure if you are in a council area, then you will need to call the office to find out. If anyone has any questions about this, you can also give me a call. I will be happy to talk with you about it.

There are so many other things to write about, but no space to do it, so it will be up to Ron to continue next month as the new MSA president. Before I go I do wish to thank everyone who takes the effort to be a member of the MSA. The trails and riding experiences in this state are there because of individual volunteers, but the ability of those volunteers to do what they do happens because of the efforts of the MSA. The MSA needs to be a strong association, so the recreational opportunities in Michigan will continue to include snowmobiling at no less of the level that it does today.

Thank you for allowing me to be the association president for the past two years, and good luck to all. Remember, Each One Reach One to Grow the MSA. THINK SNOW, AND BE SAFE!

November 2013

Share the Trails?

Who or what will we be sharing our snowmobile trails with in the future? In a world of the only thing being constant is change; we must look at how our trails will be used in the future.

There are several ideas out there on the use of trails, and what should be shared trails and what should not be shared trails. This is not just a Michigan issue, but an issue across the snow states. There are many opinions. At the International Snowmobile Congress last June a committee was formed to look at how snowmobile trails could or should be shared.

When looking at sharing trails, there are many criteria that must be looked at. Safety is, of course, at the top of the list of criteria. Other criteria include land access, sustainability of the trails, economic impact, and the acceptance by snowmobilers.

Shared Usage During Snowmobile Season

One of the largest groups looking for access to the snowmobile trail system across the country is ATVs (For this column I will group all ATV, UTV, side-by-side, etc. into one group.) The shared usage must then be divided into during snowmobile use season and during non-snowmobile use season. Both of these seasons have different needs and results.

Let’s first of all discuss the, during snowmobile season use of snowmobile trails by ATVs. There are again two different types of ATVs to look at and that is stock or wheeled ATVs and ATVs modified for over-snow use. When you look at the safety aspect of sharing the trails with ATVs one of the things that has to be looked at besides speed and operating characteristics is the width of an ATV compared to a snowmobile.

A stock wheeled ATV may be 5 or 6 feet wide compared to a typical 4-feet wide snowmobile. When you modify an ATV with a set of tracks for over-the-snow travel, you are going to add another foot or two of width to the machine. The question must be asked, is it safe for a 6-feet wide (or more) ATV to be meeting a 4-feet wide snowmobile in a curve on an 8-feet or even 10-feet wide snowmobile trail?

Remove the factor of a curve and is it safe even on straight sections of trails (where snowmobile speeds would possibly be higher) to meet these wide machines? There is also the fact of two of these machines meeting each other on the trail.

The leadership of your MSA does not feel that these are safe scenarios and would like to see a width limit of 4 feet be placed on machines using snowmobile trails during the snowmobile season. This would, of course, not include machines used for snowmobile trail maintenance, such as groomers and other equipment.

Who Pays for the Groomed Trail?

When ATVs are used on snowmobile trails and the conditions are right, the use does not adversely affect the condition of the trails. The non-modified wheeled ATVs have a smaller window of usage when the trails will support their use without affecting the condition of the trails as opposed to ATVs modified with tracks.

Along with trail usage, the question of who pays for the trails comes to mind. If an ATV is using a snowmobile trail maintained with snowmobile funds, shouldn’t that user have the same requirement of a snowmobile user in terms of a trail permit and sharing the burden of cost?

The Land Ownership Issue

There is another issue to look at when it comes to what is allowed to be used on snowmobile trails. That is land ownership. To speak in very round terms, about half of the snowmobile trails in the state of Michigan are on private property. The landowner of that property gives permission for snowmobilers to use it.

In general that permission is not given with the idea that the trails will also be used by ATVs. Sharing trails with ATVs during the snowmobile season could cause the loss of many miles of trails across the state. Many landowners do not mind if snowmobiles cross their property, but do not want ATV use on that property. We are already losing trails because of off-season ATV use on land that was allowed only for snowmobile trails.

When you ride the snowmobile trails in Michigan, the trails change from public to private ownership seamlessly. Most users of those trails have no idea if they are on private land or public land. Many trails that start on public land have sections of private land somewhere on the trail. It would be nearly impossible for an ATV rider to know where these divisions are.

There are positives to limited shared usage of trails, as well as many other factors that room does not permit me to go into for this column. I am sure that when the committee report is presented at next year’s International Snowmobile Congress it will have many pages. I hope that I am not causing too much confusion on this issue, but I just wanted to let the members of the MSA know about one of the issues currently being looked into. Remember this is not just happening in Michigan, but across all the snow states.

Remember, Each One Reach One to Grow the MSA. THINK SNOW, AND BE SAFE!!!

October 2013

Elections, Fundraising, and Snow Shows

Hopefully, in another couple of months we will have had, or at least had, the opportunity to get our first snowmobile ride of the season in. I have my first trip planned for the end of the first week of December in the Munising area.

I may ride before that here at the house, but that weekend is when the MSA Board of Directors meeting will be held. There is a Snowmobile Advisory Workgroup meeting on Thursday, Dec. 5, and the MSA BOD meeting will be on Dec. 7.

Traditionally, the members present at the MSA meeting go for a snowmobile ride on Friday, starting our season of riding off. In the last, maybe, 20 years there have only been two years that we have not been able to go for a snowmobile ride before the BOD meeting. One of those times was last year. I hope this year will be back to more normal conditions. If anyone has been thinking of attending an MSA meeting, this is a good one to attend because it includes a good day of riding the day before. In reality, all of the meetings are good ones to attend. MSA meetings will provide you with some more in depth insight of what goes on with the MSA and organized snowmobiling.

MSA Officers Election

The December meeting will be a bittersweet meeting for me. The meeting will be my last MSA meeting as the MSA President. I will discuss that more in my December column, but I wanted to bring it up now because our MSA Convention is coming up. The election of MSA officers will take place at the Convention. I am term limited from running for president this year.  Our current MSA Vice President Ron Corbett will be running for president. That is not to say that his election is a given, since nominations and voting will take place at the Convention. If elected, I know that Ron will do a very good job for the MSA. The office of vice president will need to be filled, and so far the only person to announce their candidacy has been our current recording secretary, Al Green. If elected, Al will also do the Association a great service. Again, the nominations and voting will not be until the Convention, Oct. 25-27. There may be other qualified individuals nominated for both offices. With Al running for vice president, a new recording secretary will be elected at the Convention. I wonder who that person will be. Maybe it will be someone reading this column. The main criteria to hold office on the Executive Board of the MSA is that you must be either a past or current member of the MSA Board of Directors. Are there any takers out there?

The last office that will be voted on will be the office of MSA Treasurer. That office is currently held by John Houk. John is still eligible to run for office this year, and has done a great job as treasurer. However, nominations and voting will take place at the Convention.

I hope to see many members at the Convention this year. By the end of the Convention, at least four of the five positions on the MSA Executive Board will have different names penciled in to take office on Jan. 1, 2014.

We will also be talking in depth about a possible change to the bylaws of the Association. This change involves how many members comprise the Board of Directors and how they would be seated. As you have already read, the Convention will be at the Great Wolf Lodge this year. They gave MSA fantastic room rates. Those rates include passes to the water park. If you want to know what has taken place and also help guide our future, then this is where you need to be.

New Fundraising Programs

In past columns I have mentioned funding for the MSA and the Michigan Snowmobile Education and Advancement Fund (MSEAF). I wish to mention two new ways that you can help fund YOUR Association. As most of you know, for many years the MSEAF has had a major raffle to raise money. This year the main fundraiser will be different. The MSEAF will be selling four digit numbers. There will be a cash prize given every day, with a guaranteed winner each day. This is approved by the lottery commission and actually uses the Michigan Daily 4 Drawing for the winning numbers. For the days that a number is drawn that was not sold, there will be a drawing from all of the sold numbers to give that day’s prize away. Every number is eligible to be a winner, every day, just like the Daily 4 from the Michigan Lottery. You can buy your numbers now. The first drawing will be on Jan.1, 2014.

The second new fund raiser effort is at no cost to our members. Well, actually there is a cost, but it is money you are already spending. The MSA has entered into an agreement that will allow you to purchase your home fuel at a savings, while at the same time helping to support the MSA. This program is already in effect. You visit the MSA Web site, www.msasnow.org for more information. Once on the Web site go up toward the top of the page and click the button marked Energy Solutions to learn how it works.

Buy Your Trail Permit From MSA

There is one more major snowmobile show left that the MSA will be participating in. That is the Snowmobile USA indoor show in Novi, held during the first weekend of November. I mention this show because it gives those attending one last opportunity to purchase a trail permit in person from the MSA. To purchase your trail permit over the counter from the MSA (at one of the snowmobile shows that MSA attends) is a great way to get your permits. No matter where you buy your permits, the same amount of money goes in to the Snowmobile Trail Improvement Fund. There is also $1 that goes to the seller of the permit, so why not help support your Association by purchasing your trail permits from the MSA. When you do, that $1 goes to the MSA. If you are not able to get your permit from the MSA at one of the snow shows, then please go online, www.msasnow.org to purchase your permit.

Remember Each One Reach One to Grow the MSA. Have fun, be safe and think snow!

September 2013

Work of Organized Snowmobiling a Year Round Job

The snow of winter may have melted last spring, but the work of organized snowmobiling continues all year. The snow was freshly gone in most places, and still falling in other places, when the MSA sent representatives to the American Council of Snowmobile Associations (ACSA) spring Fly-In held in Washington, D.C., in April.

At this event, we accomplished many things, with business meetings lasting into the evening hours. One of the items that we discussed was a group called Winter Wildlands Alliance. The Winter Wildlands Alliance is a VERY bad group for snowmobilers. This is a national group that is pro human-powered snow sport enthusiasts. I do not wish to take away from human-powered activities, but this group’s goal seems to be to exclude all other users so that they can better enjoy the outdoors. On their Web site they list a quit, tranquil experience as one of the things they promote. They actually state they want to ensure this. What this means is that they do not want snowmobiling allowed in any area that would allow snowmobiles to be heard by human-powered snow sport enthusiasts in another area. Can you imagine the enormous scope that this entails?

The Sound of Snowmobiles

In the West where snowmobiles may operate above the tree line, sound can travel for a great distance in the clear air. Here in Michigan there are many areas that we snowmobile in that the sound also carries for a long distance. The sound of snowmobiling is not the only item this group is against, but it is the one that takes in the largest geographical area.

This group filed suit against the U.S. Forest Service regarding the Forest Service’s Over Snow Vehicle (OSV) exemption from the 2005 travel plan. This exemption is what allows us to operate snowmobiles off trail in two of the three National Forests in Michigan as well as other states.

A judge in Idaho ruled in favor of the Winter Wildlands Alliance suit and stated, in part, that the exemption was contrary to law. The judge’s order (if it stands) will force the exclusion to be removed and OSV’s to be included in the travel plan. This will directly affect areas open for off- trail riding in the National Forests. More information on the ruling and what is being done is on our Web site, www.msasnow.org. The Web site will be updated as information becomes available.

They Are Not Our Friends

One of the reasons I am taking up so much room in this column is because of the far reaching effect this will have, and another reason is to make you aware of this group. I hope that everyone visits their Web site, www.winterwildlands.org, to learn more about them. They are NOT our friends. While on their Web site, take time and look at where they are getting funding from. Please take this in to consideration when shopping. I know that I will not be purchasing a beer, a jacket, or any other item from a company that gives money to the people who are working to close down areas to snowmobiling. This is not just a Western issue; it is an issue for all snow states. The president of this group has a Chicago address and the treasurer has a Washington, D.C. address. The Winter Wildlands Alliance is a national organization against snowmobiling.

The Future of Our MSA Board of Directors

The summer was full of many other events and meetings for snowmobiling, too many to include here, but I do want to inform you of one of the items that MSA is spending time on. It has been a concern that as snowmobiling evolves in this state, the makeup of the MSA Board of Directors should be changed to assure that members throughout the state have an opportunity to help direct the MSA. At this time, the MSA Board of Directors is appointed through councils from different areas in the state. Some areas of the state have very active councils and some do not. Another factor of concern is that using councils as the primary way in which people are chosen basically means that someone has to be active in one group to be active in another. I am all for the existence of councils and the benefit they have, but the reality in our busy world is that not everyone has the ability to be involved in a council. We have to look at how that affects the ability of people to serve the MSA as a director and perhaps a future officer (being a past or present director is a qualifying factor to be eligible to hold office).

I formed a committee and a tentative plan has been presented to the Board of Directors. The plan still needs a lot of time spent on it. We want to make sure we do it correctly. The Board of Directors has approved the concept so that it can be worked on further. The plan, as it is now, will include the opportunity for each county of the state to have a representative on the Board of Directors, as well as each grant sponsor to have a representative. I will give a full explanation on this at the MSA Convention in October.

The concept will not be voted on for approval at the Convention, since it will not be finished in time to meet our bylaw requirements. Changes in the bylaws require a posting of the considered change and then a vote open to the MSA general membership. This is normally done at the Convention but can also be done by special meeting for that purpose. There are many details to work out, but I believe this is the correct direction to go. Hope to see many of you at the Convention. This year’s convention will be one of the most child friendly conventions we have had when it comes to the location. I will let you read about that in the MSA Convention article.

Remember -- Each One, Reach One to grow the MSA. Think Snow and Be Safe!

March 2013

A Good Season -- Still Work to Be Done

It seems like the season has just started, and now it is nearing the end. I hope the area that you enjoy riding in was blessed with ample snow this year. The winter started off a little slow, but once the snow came in my area it just kept coming. It has been the best snow year in several years.

We started grooming in the Jordan Valley area just before Christmas and have been grooming pretty much ever since. There were several meltdowns, but for the most part, they did not destroy the trail completely. Some of the warm ups actually helped the trail. The warm ups turn our dry lake, effect snow into a layer of high moisture snow that then freezes. We have learned over the years that when we get some warm weather that settles the snow, and we can groom it flat before it freezes, we generally have a better trail than if it had stayed cold.

I have heard many people say how good the snowmobiling has been in many parts of the state. The grant sponsors are out working to make the trails the best they can be. That’s not to say that there have not been some problems along the way.

One of the first accumulating snows this year was both a blessing and a curse. The weather had been warm and the trees became covered in the wet heavy snow, many of the trees bent over and closed off the trails all over the Northern Lower. Trees that were 20-feet away from the trail bent over and blocked the trail along with the trees along the trail. The trees then froze in that position. Even when you would knock the snow from the tree, they would not stand back up. Hundreds (probably thousands over the whole area) of trees had to be cut in order to clear the trails for the groomers to get through. This trail clearing took many grant sponsors to the brink of what their volunteers could effectively handle. Many groups had to hire heavy equipment to go in and clear trails.

A Good Winter, Only a Few Trouble Areas

After that first heavy snow, it has been a good winter. MSA has only heard of a few areas having major equipment problems. One group in the western U.P. didn’t get their equipment that was being repaired by the dealer back before the snow fell. This caused many complaints of rough trails in that area. Adjacent grant sponsors tried to help until they had their machine back. It is hard to groom more than you already have without causing a problem in your own area. The tractor was eventually returned, so grooming could be done by that group.

Remember when you see bad trails (not just rough at the end of the day), please call the MSA office and let us know about it. We can’t help fix what we do not know about. When a complaint is made to the office about bad trails the person taking the call fills out a form with all of the information. The complaint form is then sent out by email to the MSA officers, the grant sponsor for that area, the DNR contact for that area, and the DNR program manager in Lansing. As you can see, it is not ignored, and it does mean something.

When I receive an email about a bad area, I normally make some calls to try and find out what is going on. I or one of the other officers will then work toward a solution when possible. There have been some complaints this year, but overall the grant sponsors are doing a great job. When you look at the hours that people volunteer to make the trail system what it is in this state, it is nearly unbelievable. All of the volunteers deserve a huge THANK YOU!

Educating our Legislators

The officers and the office staff of MSA have been very busy this winter doing many events as well as attending meetings all over the state. One of the events we do that is huge for snowmobiling in the state of Michigan is taking our legislators out snowmobiling. This year the trip was a two- day trip that started and ended in Petoskey -- at the snowmobile club house there.

There is not enough space here to tell everything that goes in to this ride, but I will say that it is made possible by many people volunteering to help. This year the Petoskey Snowmobile Club stepped up to help big time. The ride started at their clubhouse, and they made sure the clubhouse was open with fresh coffee and doughnuts in the morning. The club went way beyond that. We had to haul snowmobiles there the day before, and Jim Yell and his wife Teresa gave us the use of their barn to put nearly 20 snowmobiles in for the night. In the morning several club members volunteered to move the snowmobiles from Jim’s barn to the clubhouse. They had them all there ready to be assigned to the riders in the morning. They also loaned us a key to the clubhouse, so when the ride ended the next day there was a warm place to change clothes and organize all of the gear that needed to be packed up.

After leaving Petoskey, we rode toward the Mackinaw Bridge. We stopped at the Harbor Springs Snowmobile Club groomer barn in Pelston, where that club had it open and ready for a nice rest stop. Members of the Harbor Springs Club also volunteered to move cars from Petoskey to Mackinaw City for some of the riders who could only ride with us for one day. This group also went above and beyond to help. Our ride also included crossing the Mackinaw Bridge, twice. To help us get 20 snowmobiles over the bridge for a short ride and then back to Mackinaw City, Travis from Indian River Sports Center loaned us his 10-place snowmobile trailer and his truck to pull it with. We were met in St. Ignace by representatives of the Straights-Area Snowmobile Club. All three clubs had their groomers ready to show the legislators and answer questions. Thanks to everybody who helped. This ride was a great success. We also had the Directors of both the DNR and the DEQ ride with us on Sunday. We had some great discussions of what can be done to make snowmobiling even better in the state of Michigan.

Remember, Each One, Reach One to grow the MSA.

HAVE FUN, BE SAFE, AND THINK SNOW.

January/February 2013

Helping Fund Your MSA

It’s time to take down that old American Council of Snowmobile Associations (ACSA) calendar, put up the new 2013 calendar, and get ready to win some money in 2013. It seems like every time you turn around someone is asking you to open up your wallet to support a cause. Of course snowmobiling is no different. Your support helps pay the bills and allows the fight, to keep our options as snowmobilers open, to continue. It’s too bad the people who do not like us (you can decide what you want to call them) are so good at raising money, and of course so wrong in their thinking.

The MSA, and other organized snowmobile groups, would like few things better than to not have to constantly defend our ability to ride snowmobiles and the availability of places to ride. The truth is the people who do not like us are very well organized, when it comes to fund raising. Some of these groups are funded by people who have more money than they can find good uses for, so they use it to fight motorized recreation. This means that groups like the MSA must always raise funds to help keep ridding areas open.

MSA has many other things that would benefit snowmobiling in which we would rather spend our (YOUR) money on. But we must always be ready to fight the fight for accessibility. When we lose access, we have nothing. There is no need to have a snowmobile if you have no place to ride.

We all know that MSA does many more things and works with many positive groups and organizations, but spending in one area always takes away from another. I thought I would spend some time this month talking about some of the ways we raise money, and the unnoticed benefits that some of the fund-raising may have.

Fund-raising Efforts

I mentioned the ACSA calendar at the beginning of this column, or what Bill Manson likes to call the Ugly Calendar (They have improved the look for this year.) The ACSA calendar is primarily a fund-raiser for ACSA, but if you buy your calendar from the MSA it becomes a fund- raiser for the MSA. We get to keep a selling fee for the calendar. The calendar is a great way to win some money. There are prizes given away every day, and winner’s names are returned to the pot after each drawing.

The MSA has a few other agreements that have a pay-back to MSA, our members, or both. One of the well known ones is our association with American Income Life (AIL). American Income life gives all of our members a $4,000 dollar accidental death and dismemberment policy. AIL also provides a $2,000 scholarship program. AIL sends out a mailing to all of the MSA members notifying them of this benefit and offers to have a representative meet with you. To date AIL has paid out about $59,000 in benefits to MSA members through this member-benefit policy.

Liberty Mutual is another company that works with MSA. Liberty Mutual gives the members of MSA a discount for auto insurance as well as other policies. Liberty Mutual has an Infinity Agreement with the MSA. Last year that agreement earned the MSA more than $10,000.

At the December 2012 meeting your MSA Board of Directors agreed to enter into an agreement with Foremost Insurance Group. This agreement offers the MSA members a discount on Foremost products that includes snowmobile, motorcycle, ATV, and other insurance products. The agreement with Foremost also offers non dues revenue to the MSA.

Helping Get Our Message Out

Another thing that these three agreements with these insurance companies do for MSA and its members is to allow MSA to include information to our members when they do mailings. That may not sound like a big benefit, but every time the MSA does a membership mailing it costs around $4,000. If each company does one mailing to you and we include information to you from the Association, that is a $12,000 benefit to the MSA. The Board looks very hard at any agreement that causes mail to be generated to our members. We feel that the agreements that are in place have enough benefit to our members and the Association to warrant the mailings. When you receive the mailings, please think of the benefit to your Association. Remember that doing business with these companies has a return to your Association.

The MSA also works with the Michigan Snowmobile Education and Advancement Fund (MSEAF) through their raffles. In return, the MSEAF funds many things that the MSA does. The MSEAF is doing a cash raffle this winter. The prize will be $19,999.00. The tickets will only be sent out to MSA members, and will be $10 each or three for $25. There are of course other raffles that tickets or flyers are sent out for that help keep the MSA a viable voice for snowmobiling in Michigan. Maybe someday your Association can spend less time fund raising, but until then, thank you to all of the members and non members who purchase tickets. Thank you to all of the members for taking time to open up the envelopes from the companies that have agreements with the MSA. As you can see, they really are a benefit to members and MSA.

Remember, Each One Reach One to Grow the MSA! Have fun, be safe, and think snow!

 

December 2012

Looking Forward to a Great Season!

It does not seem like this should already be the last column for my first year as president. It has definitely been a busy time. Looking back on the past year, there were some changes. MSA has dealt with those changes and worked through them.

The biggest change for MSA last year was the office move. Our new offices are located in Wyoming. Most of the winter was spent trying to find a suitable building that could be purchased. Spring was spent getting the building ready and making the actual move. The summer months were spent fine tuning everything at the new location so MSA was ready to serve members to the fullest this season.

That does not imply that staff in the office is not busy all year long. The summer time is not spent idle; organized snowmobiling is a 12-month a year project.

There were many more things that happened this past year. The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) moved the snowmobile program from the Forestry side of the state House to Parks and Recreation side. Makes sense to me since we are a recreational activity. This does of course mean many changes have taken place, with new people coming in to the program. Some people who stayed with the program also moved to Parks and Recreation. Along with this change, came a new program unit manager in Lansing. So far he has impressed us in how he is working to improve the snowmobile program. The DNR also had a new director appointed this year. So you see, the changes have been many.

Don’t Forget Sign Changes

The change that has been the most noticeable and controversial to snowmobilers was the approval of draft number six of the Michigan Motorized Trail Signing Handbook by the Snowmobile Advisory Workgroup. We have spent a great deal of time working to let people know about this, as well as working with the grant sponsors, so that everyone has an understanding of how the trails will be signed. Many of the grant sponsors are finding that there are more arrows being put up than they had planned on. A second order for arrows had to be placed to have enough for all the trails.

Tom Anderson and his family were generous enough to donate a space at the Snowmobile USA show in Novi so that the MSA could have a sign display setup. We spoke to snowmobilers who had questions about the signs. I was kept busy all three days of the show speaking with, and listening to, snowmobilers about the signs.

While on the subject of the Snowmobile

USA show in Novi, there seemed to be a high level of excitement about the new season. The show was very well attended. Vendors reported that people where buying more this year. At the MSA booth there were as many trail permits sold by mid-day on Saturday than during the entire show last year. There were also quite a few memberships sold. That is always good. As they do every year at the Novi show, the Snowmads put on a safety course. It also seemed well attended.

Protecting Our Right to Ride

With fresh snow on the ground and snowmobile tracks already having been made across our fields here, I am looking forward to a great season. One thing we have to always remember is that no matter how good the weather for snowmobiling is there are other things needed to have a good season. One of the things we need is a place to ride. This is one of the more important things that organized snowmobiling works very hard to keep. Without access to public and private lands, we would have no use for all the great snow that Mother Nature may give us. There are many areas in the Snow Belt of North America that have groups trying to kick us and all motorized users out.

Just this past week, I received a copy of the Sierra Club’s letter from Wyoming trying to have us as users removed from a large percentage of the Shoshone National Forest that has traditionally been used for snowmobiling. We have to be ever vigilant and keep organizations like the MSA and other state and national associations across the country strong, so we can fight the battles for access. Here in the state of Michigan, we as snowmobilers have been paying $8 extra for each snowmobile registration to build a protected fund for purchasing permanent easements across private property. It has been a slow progression getting everything in place with the sate so that those funds can be expended and easements purchased. After a recent meeting with the MSA, the new unit manager in Lansing assured us he is working to have the process in place by the end of the year. That means that easements can start to be purchased.

Remember -- Each One, Reach One to grow the MSA. HAVE FUN, BE SAFE, AND THINK SNOW.

November 2012

Grant Sponsors Working Hard to Get the Job Done

The preseason trail work should be wrapping up, and the trails are about ready to open for the season. This year has been a trying year so far for the grant sponsors that maintain the trails in Michigan. With last season’s low snowfall, trail permit sales were down dramatically and that has a direct effect on the grant sponsors.

There was about 124,000 trail permits sold last year. Many people believe that the decreased need for grooming last year should cause a surplus of funds in the program this year. They have asked where all of that extra money is going to go. The actuality of it is, low grooming was more than offset by low trail permit sales. When all the accounting was done for last season, there was $970,000 moved forward to start the 2013 season off.

That left about $1.2 million for the purchase of equipment and special projects. That sounds like a lot of money, but here is how it works out. Looking at my files from past equipment purchases; ten years ago that $1.2 million would have allowed funding for 17.39 groomers or a mix of groomer power units, drags, and special projects like new or replacement bridges. Today that same $1.2 million allowed for the funding of five groomers.

This year was the first year for Tier 4 I emission requirements on off road equipment, so that added about $15,000 to the price of each power unit. I could continue about how the price of each item has gone up, but I believe you get the idea. The bottom line is that there are many groomers that should have been replaced but where not. The grant sponsors will do the best job they can to keep the machines going and the trails groomed this year, but there will undoubtedly be some expensive repairs needed on some machines this year.

Sign Changes

The grant sponsors normally start brushing and signing the trails in early fall, and this year was no exception to that; other than this year the sign order was not available until the third week in October. The brushing started as normal, but with the biggest sign change in over a decade, there were no new signs available when work started. Now all of the signs have to be put up within just a few short weeks. If you hear a few extra calls for help this year, don’t blame the grant sponsors for procrastinating. It was not their fault. If you don’t hear calls for help, think about making a call yourself and asking if any help is needed. The grant sponsors would love to have more help preparing the trails every year. Getting enough people to do the job makes it an enjoyable task for all. Many groups make a weekend out of it, with a cookout and other events.

Trail Reports

For the 2012-13 season, trail reports from the msasnow.org Web site will be available as an app on your Smart Phone. It will be the same accurate report (submitted by the people who actually maintain the trails) that is featured on the MSA Web site. The report will be complete with maps. Look for it at your app store, and check it out. I would like to thank Jim Barrow for putting this app together.

There will also be more MSA clothing and accessories available on our MSA Web site. We are going to have about ten items available to order. Those items will change from time to time. An MSA commercial member will be supplying the items on an as-ordered basis and will drop ship the item to you. This allows the MSA to offer more items without the cost of stocking those items. It will also allow for specific sizes to be available and quickly shipped. Thank you B&D Classic Sewn for taking on this project at no cost to MSA.

Don’t forget Each one Reach one to Grow the MSA. Have fun, be safe and think snow!

October 2012

Sign Changes and the Importance of Increasing MSA Membership

The season we all look forward to is just around the corner. We spent last weekend at the MSA All Sports Show and Swap Meet held in Martin in conjunction with the AmSnow Super Sled Shootout. There was a great turnout of vendors and swappers. We did have some rain that kept some of the attendees away, but it was overall a very good show.

I spent most of the time that the show was open in the MSA tent talking with members about many things, including explaining the new sign rules to those who had questions. We had a nice display with the new signs on one board and the signs that will no longer be used on another board. This made it easier to explain how the signs will be used this year. This display was the first time anyone had a chance to see the new arrow sign that is replacing many of the chevron signs.

When people hear that all of the chevrons are being removed from the trail, they often have a negative reaction (or at least the ones who stopped to talk about it). In the past, chevrons had a dual use. They were used to mark curves and mark turns.

It is true all chevrons are being removed, but the ones that marked turns are being replaced with a new arrow.

As I explained, when you turn from a trail that is located on a road, rail grade, power line, or other area that continues; there will be a sign about 350 feet before the turn. The new arrow sign will be located at the actual turn. Also, when the trail makes a sharp 90-degree turn there will be the same signs marking this turn. People I explained this to soon got a level of understanding and approved of the changes.

The curves in the trail will not be marked. Remember that a curve has a radius to it -- as opposed to a turn being a sharp change of direction.

The Importance of Membership

There was also a membership booth in the MSA tent. We had some great volunteers with a passion for and understanding of the importance of MSA. It is surprising how many people just don’t get it when it comes to the MSA. The MSA is the only voice being heard by the lawmakers of our state to help maintain and when possible, improve our recreational activity of choice. The MSA is the only voice being heard when it comes to access to areas for snowmobiling. The MSA is in communication with the National Forest Service, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the Department of Environment Quality (DEQ), the Park Service, American Council of Snowmobile Associations (ACSA), International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association (ISMA), and many other groups and agencies. The MSA works with them to make sure that snowmobiling is given the priority that we all believe it deserves.

I know I am, as they say, preaching to the choir here, but there is a reason. The MSA needs members to keep it strong. The more members, the stronger we can be. A greater number of memberships will accomplish many things, not the least of is to help keep the doors open and the MSA working for our chosen activity. The MSA is a strong Association and doing everything we can to keep costs down, but I would rather have more members helping to fund the Association than more fundraisers.

Each One – Reach One!

Another benefit of having more members is that when it comes down to it, numbers count. When we go to Lansing or Washington, D.C., or wherever we need to go, the higher the membership numbers that we represent, the stronger it makes our (your) voice. As we all know there is a benefit to being informed, and by being a member of MSA you are kept informed on what is going on. So now, back to the choir, what is one of the best ways to get new members and help make us even stronger? The best way is through YOU, the reader of this column, and member of MSA. You have a vested interest in the MSA and a passion for our sport. You also know of other snowmobilers who are not members of the MSA but are snowmobilers. We need these snowmobilers to become members of your Association and help you make the MSA stronger. This could be termed Each One - Reach One! If every member just added one more member to the membership roles, look where we would be. We are counting on each other for this.

PSA Announcements

There was a big screen TV in the MSA tent and Mike Grant from Snow Trails TV brought in a DVD that had a preview of some Public Service Announcements (PSA) that will be airing this season on Snow Trails TV. These PSAs will air on Sunday mornings.

As many of you know, I also operate a trail groomer when time permits. Groomer/ snowmobile safety is a passion of mine. A few years ago, Mike spent many hours with me while grooming and shot a lot of video showing the safe and not so safe ways to pass a groomer on a snowmobile. We then shot some more footage at our groomer workshop where we could stage some wrong things to do. There were several PSAs made with this footage and some of them will be used this season. When you see a snowmobile sliding sideways and almost being run over by a groomer on TV, remember this was staged and I never came closer than 3 inches to the groomer. In real life, I have had snowmobilers not stop until they where under the front of the groomer I was operating. HAVE FUN, BE SAFE, AND THINK SNOW!

September 2012

A New MSA Office and Positive Changes for the Snowmobile Program

I know it does not seem like it should be getting close to the time to start talking about snowmobiling, but it is. After the hot dry weather of June and July, I know many have been looking forward to the snowmobile season for most of the summer.

Your MSA has been busy during the off season. We have attended meetings in Washington, D.C., as well as going to the International Snowmobile Congress that was held in Sturbridge, Mass.

One of the items that took place this off season was something that was discussed at the December 2011 MSA Board of Directors (BOD) meeting. At that meeting, the Executive Board (EB) brought up to the BOD that lower pricing in the real estate market could make it time for the MSA to look at purchasing a building for our office.

We had been renting our office space at a reduced price the last couple of years, with the understanding that the rent would be increased when the occupancy of the surrounding offices picked up and our space became more in demand. A motion was made and passed by the BOD to allow the EB to look for, and purchase, a building to be used as the home of the MSA. To shorten a long story, the MSA office is now in a nice building on S. Division Avenue in Wyoming.

There was a lot of time put into this move by many people, but I want to take this opportunity to give special praise and thanks to Karen Middendorp. Karen, as many of you know, is very dedicated and takes her job at the MSA office to heart. Karen, along with her entire family, went way above the call of duty on the office move. They spent night after night cleaning, painting, and many other things to get the building ready to be occupied as the new home of the MSA. This was done mostly during the evenings because the office still had to operate at the old location during the day. I would like to personally thank Karen, Bob, and family.

Michigan DNR Makes Some Changes

The Michigan Department of Natural Resource (DNR has made several changes since last we had snowy trails to ride. The DNR has moved the snowmobile program over to the Parks and Recreation side of the house. It makes sense to me since we are a recreational activity.  The change was announced last winter but has mostly taken place after the end of the season. The changes are still ongoing, and implementation is still being laid out.

It has so far been a mix of moving people who we have worked with in the past into Parks and Recreation and integrating new people from Parks and Recreation into the snowmobile program. I was able to ride the trails with some of the top people from Parks and Recreation who hold field positions. I found their attitude to be refreshing.

The MSA has been involved in several meetings involving Lansing staff, including the Chief of Parks and Recreation, Ron Olson. I believe moving the snowmobile program to Parks and Recreation is a good change for the program.

Another change in the DNR was at the top. Rodney Stokes was tasked by the Governor for another position and Keith Creagh is now the Director of the DNR. Keith Creagh rode with the MSA in February as the then head of the Michigan Department of Agriculture. After spending three days riding the trails with Keith, I believe he has the right attitude toward snowmobiling and will do us good in his new position.

Take Note: Sign Changes on the Trail

One last thing I would like to talk about is signage on our trails. I wrote at the end of last season that it looked like the sign changes would be adopted, and they have been. This year there will be a noticeable difference in the signing of the trails here in Michigan. I am not going to go in depth about the changes here since we have an article dedicated to that in this issue of the magazine.

This is a very controversial change, as change of any kind usually is. I do believe that after reading the article with the sign changes spelled out you will have a better understanding of what has changed. We are posting a picture and description from the signing manual (of all of the signs that are used on our snowmobile trails) on our Web site, along with a link to the manual itself. Please take the time to look at this, and maybe even read the entire manual. This book is used by the grant sponsors when signing the trails. Reading this manual may give you a different perspective when riding our trails.

HAVE FUN, BE SAFE, AND THINK SNOW!

Bruce Wood, President

March 2012

Working Hard for Snowmobiling Even With

Poor Riding Conditions

Well, it has been what I consider to be a poor year for snowmobiling. With this year’s weather, it may be hard to believe, but Michigan is one of the best areas in the Midwest for snowmobiling. Even with poor riding conditions, MSA volunteers continue to work hard for snowmobiling.

Here is a little bit about what is going on. I am writing this in the middle of February, so it makes it a little awkward for reading in March. Recently, the MSA Executive Board along with MSA’s Executive Directors and a couple of past presidents went on a three-day snowmobile trip with several of our legislators as well as the heads of both the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and the Michigan Department of Agriculture. It is through rides like this that we are able to give the legislators first-hand knowledge of snowmobiling and what snowmobilers needs are. We work hard to show these legislators how important snowmobiling is to the state and what we are trying to do to make it better. This event went very well, and a big thank you goes out to the clubs in the Upper Peninsula that helped to make it a success.

When you read this article, MSA’s annual Ride In at the Kewadin Casino in Sault Ste. Marie will have taken place. Today, it looks like the weather is going to cooperate and we will have had good weather and ride able trails for this event. If I did not see you at the Ride In this year, I hope you put it on your calendar for next year -- let’s go for a ride.

A few days after the Ride In, we have a midweek ride with one of our U.S. Congressman. The last few days of February will be spent going on an Enlightenment Ride.

This is a ride in which we invite some of our trail partners to join us. Some of those partners include the National Forest Service and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR). It gives these representatives an opportunity to ride with us. Like the Legislative Ride, it gives us time to enlighten participants regarding our sport and the needs of snowmobiling in the state.

The first of March we will be attending the Snowmobile Advisory Workgroup (SAW) meeting that is being held in Ishpeming. MSA’s Groomer Workshop will be held on that Friday and Saturday.

Our groomer workshop is a great place for the groomers to come and see and operate grooming equipment that is currently available. Attendees also participate in some classes.

Snowmobile Trail Signs

One of the items that we will be discussing at the SAW meeting will be signs for snowmobile trails. This issue has been worked on for a few years now, and it may get finalized at the SAW meeting on March 1.

At this time, we are working on draft number six of a sign manual. If this draft is passed, one of the biggest things that riders will notice next year will be the removal of chevron and winding trail signs. There will be other changes, but the removal of these signs will be the biggest change for the average snowmobiler.

It is felt by many that part of the problem of excessive speed on our trails is the amount of signs that are on the trail. Some believe that people are riding from sign to sign. These same sign changes have been made in other states and parts of Canada.

There will still be all of the “Stop Ahead” and “Stop” signs as well as plenty of confidence markers to mark where the trails are. Sign changes have yet to be passed, and we will post updates on our Web site and on several online forums when these changes are approved and before implementation next year. There will also be an article in the first issue of the Michigan Snowmobile News next season explaining what the changes will be.

Also, in March we will travel to Washington, D.C. We will attend American Council of Snowmobile Association (ACSA) meetings on Sunday. Talk with several government and non-government agencies on Monday, and meet our Congressmen and Senators on Tuesday.

As you can see, it will be a busy several weeks. I hope that everybody was able to do some riding this year, and I hope to see you at one of the events that MSA will be holding or attending. Have a safe and enjoyable summer.

January/February 2012

Looking Forward to the Future of the MSA

Here we are at the start of another new year, and this year starts off with a change in officers within the Michigan Snowmobile Association (MSA).

The bylaws of the MSA call for a term limit of two years for the office of president. It doesn’t seem like it, but Jim Dickie has come to the end of that short two-year term limit (Jim may disagree on how short it seemed). I wish to thank Jim personally for all of the work he did, and the time that he spent taking care of the business of the MSA. He worked hard to help make sure that we remain the best snowmobile association in the world, yes the world. Thank you Jim! As Jim moves on, he will still be part of the MSA Executive Board as the immediate past president for the next two years.

Don Reed will be ending his time on the MSA Executive Board, completing six years on the board -- two as vice president, two as president, and his last two years as the immediate past president of the association. Thank you Don for all of the countless hours you have spent for the MSA during your six years on the Executive Board. Don will still be active in MSA and has been elected as a member of the MSA Executive Committee, as one of the five members representing the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

The MSA Executive Board

I have been the vice president of MSA for the last two years. Ron Corbett of Flushing was elected to take my place as vice president. Ron will make a very good addition to the MSA Executive Board, with both his snowmobile and business background. Ron is no stranger to leadership in organized snowmobiling, having served as vice president of MichCanSka during its formation and ride to Alaska which also raised funds for diabetes research.

Returning to the MSA Executive Board, (hopefully for several more terms) are MSA Recording Secretary Al Green and MSA Treasurer John Houk. Both Al and John have done an excellent job for the MSA, and I know they will continue working toward the very high standards they have set for themselves. As members of the MSA Executive Board, the secretary and treasurer sort of have dual roles within the association. They are not only responsible for the record keeping of each office, but also are an intricate part of the leadership of the association and attend all of the events of the association. Thank you Al and John, for continuing on as part of the MSA Executive Board.

A Little Background

Who am I? I started snowmobiling back in 1968 on a 1968 Evinrude 16 hp Skeeter. As the story goes, my father and I went ice fishing one day, and on our way home we stopped at a snowmobile shop and my father bought that machine -- and so ended our days of ice fishing. At that time, we lived in southern Michigan. On the weekends we would take the machine to a state recreation area and take turns riding the short looped trails that were available, while dressed in the warmest hunting clothes we had. By the time I was in high school, my Mom, Dad, and I all had our own machines and the best-of-the-day, one- piece suits.

Most every night during the winter, if the weather would allow, we would go for a ride on the frozen country dirt roads as well as the same trails we rode our horses on in the summertime. We also took a few trips up north each year for some big rides. Times were changing for snowmobiling. Also, while in high school, I was very active in both 4-H and FFA. I spent my high school summers and several years after, bailing hay, riding and showing horses, and rodeoing. My winters were spent snowmobiling. A few years after high school, I joined the U.S. Army and stayed for six and a half years. I spent three years each in Germany and Alaska as a flight engineer on Chinook helicopters. I left the U.S. Army as a sergeant.

Within a few months of leaving the Army and moving back to Michigan, I had a brand new snowmobile and could not wait for the snow to come. I also joined a local club here in Northern Michigan, where my wife Connie and I now live. That’s when I joined the MSA. As time went on, I got more and more active in, not just riding a snowmobile, but the organized part of snowmobiling. I also got involved in trail maintenance and grooming. I became part of the Charlevoix County Snowmobile Council. As the council grew, we changed the name to the Jordan Valley Trails Council, as it is now.

I served about a decade as vice president of the Council and have been Council president for the last two years. During that time, I also spent several years as the president of the Charlevoix Snowmobile Club. I started to go to MSA meetings as a member of the Board of Directors, representing the Jordan Valley Trails Council. After several years, I was elected as part of the MSA Executive Committee. Four years ago, I was elected as the MSA Recording Secretary, and served in that capacity for two years before being elected as vice president two years ago. At the 2011 convention, I was elected as president of the MSA. For the past year, I have also been a grant sponsor representative for the DNR Snowmobile Advisory Workgroup.

As we move forward and continue to lead the way in organized snowmobiling, I look forward to the support of the MSA membership. I hope I did not bore anyone too bad with my background, but I thought it important for you to know a little about who you have entrusted the running of your association to. I am not retired and work a 40-hour plus week, so if you call me I may not be able to answer my phone right away. Make sure to leave me a message, and I will get back with you. I will be using my vacation time to take care of my responsibilities as needed, just as I have for several years now. Next month I will get back to talking about what is going on with MSA and snowmobiling. Safe Sledding to All!

 

 

December 2011 Article

First I want to congratulate Bruce Wood and Ron Corbett as the newly elected President and Vice-president of MSA respectively.  Bruce is from the Charlevoix area and has great knowledge of the snowmobile program in MI. as he is the past Vice-president of MSA and is currently the President of the Jordan Valley Trails Council. The council maintains the trails in that area. He grooms trails, fixes groomers, brushes the trails plus does many other jobs relating to the trails in the Jordan Valley area. Bruce is also a member of the state Snowmobile Advisory Council. Ron Corbett is from the Flint area and is active in several snowmobile clubs. He is currently the Vice-president of MichCanSka, the group that rode from the Soo to Toke, Alaska in 2010. Ron has a vast business background and a special interest in sales. Both of these men love snowmobiling and offer great leadership talent to guide MSA into the future.

I want to thank the members of MSA for allowing me to be your president for the past two years. It has been an honor and a privilege to lead one of the best snowmobile associations in the United States.

I have met and worked with many wonderful people that enjoy snowmobiling as much as I do. It is unbelievable what dedicated volunteers can accomplish. Working with many different kinds of individual personalities, businesses, and units of government can be a real challenge at times. However the love of snowmobiling and wanting to make sure we have a place to ride our sleds brings us all together for a common goal. As I have said in the past,”we are all in this together”, meaning the snowmobile manufacturers, dealers, associated businesses, grant sponsors that maintain and groom the trails, and all the riders, as each group has an individual interest. We need to work together, respect each other and cooperate together in the best interest of snowmobiling. We all need each other to survive

I have had many individuals ask me “What is MSA ?”  The simplest answer that I can give that they can relate to is this:  MSA is a group of volunteers that want to make sure that we (you and I) have a place to ride our snowmobiles.  All the work that MSA participates in has this one common goal, a place to ride our sleds. Education is probably the biggest job for MSA. Educating the people that make laws, rules and policies about snowmobiling  is of utmost importance. Changes in leadership roles in government and business will always happen and MSA needs to make the necessary adjustments to deal with change in a positive way for snowmobiling.  This winter MSA will again work to get our elected officials, including the governor, out on the trails so that they will become more knowledgeable about snowmobiling in Michigan.  MSA will also be hosting a ride for the leaders of the Michigan DNR, National Forest Service, and other agencies so that they will better understand the snowmobile program and how the trail system interconnects across Michigan on private, state and federally owned lands. They need to know that all trails are critical to Michigan's economy and that volunteers contribute countless hours of time, energy and money to make sure that the public has a place to ride their snowmobiles. MSA will also be helping out at the I-500 snowmobile race at the Soo. Volunteers will help with security and serve as hosts in the VIP room. There will also be an MSA booth in the commercial tent manned by volunteers to meet and greet the public. As you can see MSA will be very busy this winter. Please contact the MSA office if you would like to volunteer to help MSA with any activity.

Remember, MSA is made up of volunteers working to ensure that you have a place to ride your sled.

Pass the word!

See you on the trails,

Jim

 

November 2011 Article

Many years ago, before I got involved with organized snowmobiling and MSA, a few of my friends and I would leave on a Thursday evening and head north for a long weekend of snowmobiling. All we thought about was getting out on the trail and having a great time riding our sleds. We never gave  much thought as to how the trails were established or maintained or who groomed them. We had a set of DNR published trail maps and just assumed that the trails were all taken care of by the DNR. After all, we had their maps and a lot of the trails were on state land. It was not until the late 90's and early 2000's when we  heard about the possibility of Yellowstone being closed to snowmobiles that we learned more about MSA and the snowmobile program in Michigan and the American Council of Snowmobile Associations (ACSA) on the national level. It was at this time that we discovered that volunteers from the local snowmobile clubs and other local entities were the ones that did all the trail maintenance and grooming and not the DNR.  In order to get more involved in protecting our right to snowmobile in Michigan and other snowmobile areas across the nation we decided to form a new snowmobile club and join the MSA . MSA is a member of ACSA that fights for our rights on  the national level, including Yellowstone. In doing so we meant other volunteers from other clubs involved with MSA  and ACSA. that loved snowmobiling as much as we did.. What is common among all these groups is that they are made up of all volunteers. Jointly we work together to make sure we have a trail system in Michigan to enjoy and that our voices are heard on the national level through ACSA.

Since those early years of my involvement with MSA I have visited with hundreds of snowmobilers  that still think like I did years ago!  Many snowmobilers still do not know that the entire snowmobile program, with a few exceptions, is dependent on VOLUNTEERS !!  It is volunteers, people like you and me that love snowmobiling, that do all the work of establishing, brushing, maintaining and grooming the trails that we all enjoy. Some people still think that MSA receives and operates with the trail permit money! That is untrue since MSA is only a selling agent for the DNR and all but one dollar or less of each trail permit sold through MSA is turned over to the DNR for deposit in the constitutionally protected snowmobile program account. Grants from this account are then made to reimburse the 69 snowmobile grooming clubs and other responsible grooming entities for their costs in maintaining the trails. For the record, MSA operates on money received from memberships, donations, merchandise sales, and fund raising activities.  In addition, all officers and members of the Board of Directors of MSA   are also volunteers. MSA employees only 2 full time and one part time people.

To my knowledge there is no other sport where volunteers have worked together to create a state and nation wide program that serves the public like snowmobilers have done. It is the love of the sport that keeps the volunteers active to make sure that those of us that love snowmobiling continue to have a right to ride and a place to ride our sleds. Years ago I never knew that it was individuals and families  that united together in clubs and statewide organizations, like MSA, to promote and protect our sport.  I challenge each of you to tell others about what snowmobile volunteers have accomplished in Michigan and across the nation. Unfortunately, in today's tough economy volunteer ism is declining. Let's hope the that the next generation of snowmobilers will get involved and volunteer to make sure that their children will have the opportunity to enjoy snowmobiling as much as we have.

Our next MSA Board of Directors meeting is on Saturday, December 10th, 9am at Foggy's in Christmas, MI.  We plan to go snowmobiling on Friday the day before. You are invited to attend the meeting and to go snowmobiling with us. There is a Snowmobile Advisory Work group meeting on Thursday, December 8th , 10am at Foggy's in Christmas, MI. The public is invited to attend.

Ride safe, ride smart and see ya on the trail.

October 2011

Working Hard for Organized Snowmobiling

Plan on attending the MSA Convention being held at McGuire's Resort in Cadillac on Oct. 21-23.

On Sept. 17, 2011, in Eagle River, Wis., Bill Manson, MSA'S executive director, was inducted into the International Snowmobile Hall of Fame. Bill was nominated by the Michigan Snowmobile Association Executive Board of Directors. Simply put, the snowmobile program in Michigan would not exist as we know it today without Bill's many years of hard work and dedication to organized snowmobiling. Bill has demonstrated great leadership in organizing snowmobilers and snowmobile clubs, and in working with units of government and private businesses to make sure snowmobilers have a safe trail system to use and enjoy. Bill has also helped develop multi-state and national organizations that support snowmobiling and access to our public lands for snowmobiling.

Being inducted into the International Snowmobile Hall of Fame is a prestigious award. We are very proud of Bill and offer our congratulations.

Designated Wilderness

Recently, a new MSA member asked me why MSA is opposed to “designated wilderness” areas as he and his friends really didn't understand why “designated wilderness” areas would be considered bad for anyone. His question was prompted by a small bumper sticker he received with other information when he signed up as a new member at a recent snowmobile event. The sticker says “Support Access – Oppose Wilderness.” Idaho snowmobilers first developed the sticker several years ago when Congress wanted to designate hundreds of thousands of acres as wilderness in mountain areas, where snowmobiling was popular. What many people do not realize is that no mechanized device is allowed in a “designated wilderness” area. That includes snowmobiles, ATVs, guns, cars, trucks, boats, bicycles, wheel chairs, chainsaws, motorcycles, etc. Roads are closed off and access can only be gained by walking. For this reason, MSA supports access and opposes wilderness. MSA feels that public lands should be open to the public for recreation on both a state and national level. Designating areas “wilderness” is the political way of locking the public out of public lands and preventing the public from using the lands for recreation. We must stand for our rights to use public lands for recreation, including snowmobiling.

MSA Events

I hope you attended the MSA All Sports Show and Swap Meet at the US-131 Motorsports Park at Martin last month. As you probably know, this show replaces the MSA Snow Show that used to be held in Hastings. It was a new endeavor for MSA. If you have some ideas on how to make the show better for next year, please let us know.

Plan on attending the MSA Convention being held at McGuire's Resort in Cadillac on Oct. 21-23. It is a great time to meet many other MSA members as well as an opportunity to meet and visit with the MSA officers. The Cadillac Winter Warriors will be hosting Friday night's activities, which will focus on the convention's theme “Cadillac Country Fair.” Look for more information in this month’s magazine.

September 2011 Article

It has been a long hot summer and often times I find myself thinking about snowmobiling down a smooth trail on a sunny afternoon. Last winter, however, while on the MichCanSka ride in some of the coldest conditions that I have ever experienced, I remember thinking about sitting on a nice warm sandy beach. Seems like you just can't win, but at least the thoughts help make the unbearable weather a little more tolerable. MSA has had a busy spring and summer with many changes taking place in Michigan's snowmobile world. I will share these changes with you in the next few paragraphs.

The first change, and probably the biggest, is the change in location of the MSA Snow Show from the Barry County Fairgrounds (Hastings) to the U.S. 131 Motorsports Park just off U.S. 131 in Martin, Michigan. The dates for the MSA All Sports Show & Swap Meet are September 23-24, MSA, American Snowmobiler's Magazine 22nd annual Aeroquip Super Sled Shootout, and the U.S. 131 Motorsports Park have combined forces to produce the best ever fall snowmobile event in Michigan. All four of the snowmobile manufacturers will be present, along with a host of other venders.

A huge swap meet is scheduled with very reasonable prices that INCLUDE 2 passes to the show. Reserve your space now! Check out the ad in this magazine or on the MSA web site (msasnow.org) or call the office for details. MSA will be sponsoring a youth safety class at the show on Saturday. Contact the office at 616-361-2285 to register.

The Historic Snowmobile Registration should be available around October first, if not before. The registration sticker will be black and white, will cost $50, and is good until you transfer title to a new owner. The sled must be at least 25 years old to be eligible for the Historic Registration. No trail permit is needed for a snowmobile registered as a Historic Snowmobile.

There will be a youth Snowmobile Safety Class available on the Michigan DNR web site starting in October. The course will take a minimum of three hours to complete. Each page is “timed” and requires the participant to study the material and answer questions at the end of each chapter as well as pass a test at the end of the course. As soon as the course is available, MSA will post a link on the web site. Having this course available on line should make getting a safety certificate easier for our youth without having to travel a great distance.

As most of you know, the cost of a snowmobile trail permit will be $45 for the 2011-2012 season. The price will stay at $45 for the next five years. The trail permit money is used to buy trail grooming equipment, to repair and maintain that equipment, to buy fuel, to brush and maintain the trails, to buy trail signs, to sign the trails, to pay for trail easements across private property, to design and build bridges across streams, and to pay for program administration. To date over fifty one snowmobile clubs have indicated a need for 66 new groomers and 48 new drags. (There are approximately 170 groomers used for snowmobile trail grooming in Michigan.) The need far exceeds the money available. In recent years 10-12 groomers were purchased each year. At that rate, it will take 15+ years to replace all the groomers. Bridges are very costly and take a lot of time to design and build. In years of low grooming any extra money left in the program is used to pay for additional bridges and to buy additional equipment. This past season there were 372,906.7 miles of trails groomed at a cost of $1, 704,183. That works out to $4.57 a mile just for grooming. That amount does not include the cost of bridges, trail maintenance, easements, new equipment purchased, etc. As you can see, after we ride our sleds a little over 10 miles our $45 trail permit cost is already used up.

I hope you found the information about the recent changes helpful.

Mark the MSA All Sports Show and Swap Meet dates on your calendar and plan to attend. It should be a great show. I hope to see you there.

March 2011

Another snowmobile season is almost over. It seems that we wait all year to go snowmobiling and then the season never lasts long enough.  For MSA winter is the busiest time of the year. The office is busy with trail permits, raffles, trail condition reports, setting up legislative rides, dealing with the web site, along with a number of other duties and requests.  MSA volunteers have also been very busy helping with security and manning a booth at the I-500 snowmobile race at Sault Saint Marie.   Many hundreds of miles are driven by volunteers each year to help with MSA partnerships, meetings, and events.

This was the first year for MSA to help with the I-500 race.  Eight MSA volunteers took turns to help with security around the race track and pit area, and another six volunteers took shifts in manning the MSA booth in the commercial tent.  Many friends stopped by to say "Hi" and to talk about snowmobile issues.  A particular issue was the Huron-Manistee National Forest  where an individual wants hunting and snowmobiling banned from the semi-primitive areas because he wants a "quiet area" in the woods. He also questions as to whether snowmobiling and hunting should be allowed in the national forest if these activities are allowed on lands near the national forest. The U.S. Forest service has received comments from the public and will use them in determining if a change needs to be made in their "Forest Management Plan". It looks like it will be 12-14 months before a verdict is reached. A special "Thanks" to all individuals that sent a letter to the National Forest Service in support of snowmobiling.  You did make a difference!

Another first for MSA while at the I-500 race is that a group of MSA and MichCanSka members took Jim Cantory, from" The Weather Channel" for a two hour snowmobile ride on Michigan's great trails and he loved the experience.  Jim told me that he grew up in Vermont and has snowmobiled in the past.  The "Weather Channel" crew was at the race to do a story about the race and the weather.
It will be aired in April.

Getting more exposure for MSA to the public is important so that more people will become aware of what MSA is all about.  By branching out and attending other snowmobile events, MSA volunteers can pass our message on to others.

The MichCanSka Adventures snowmobile club just completed their snowmobile ride to raise money for Diabetes Research.  It was a 2000 mile ride in Ontario. I participated in the ride and snowmobiling from Wawa to Hearst was the coldest ride that I have ever experienced.  It was 250 miles long, mostly in the bush, and temperatures were well below zero the whole ride. Several people experienced frost bite and a few had frozen fingers and thumbs by the end of the day. A warm motel room never felt so good!
Anyone interested in snowmobiling to Alaska with MichCanSka Adventures should send an email to Bill at: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and let him know that you want to participate.

I hope to see many of you at the MSA campout in June and at the "MSA  All Sports" show in September at the U.S.-131 Motorsports Park located just off U.S.-131 near Martin, Michigan.  This will be a great event! Plan to attend. 

Enjoy the spring and summer, but remember to think "Snow".

January 13th, 2011

I am happy to report that on Dec.1 at approximately 10:45 PM the Michigan State Senate passed House Bill 6261 allowing owners of snowmobiles that are 25 years or older to purchase a one-time “Historic Registration”. The “Historic Registration” will also serve as a permanent trail permit for as long as the sled is owned by the same person. The Michigan House of Representatives passed the bill months ago. The passage of this bill is a huge step in allowing the owners of antique and vintage snowmobiles to ride more of their sleds at different events each year without having to register them every three years and without having to buy a trail permit every year. MSA worked hand-in-hand with representatives of the antique and vintage snowmobile groups for over a year to get this legislation passed. It will take effect October 1, 2011. (See Bill Manson's article for more details.)


In September MSA sponsored a swap meet during the American Snowmobile's Super Sled Shootout that was held at the US-131 Motorsports Park near Martin, Michigan. This was a great event at a great facility. We got to witness world speed records being set for snowmobiles racing on the asphalt quarter mile drag strip. When I first was asked if MSA would consider sponsoring a swap meet at this event, I was a little reluctant because snowmobiles racing on asphalt was not the normal snowmobile thing to do! However, MSA could use another fund raiser, and there were enough volunteers to help so the decision was made to sponsor the swap meet. I am very happy that we participated as we made many new friends and got to know the sponsors and promoters of the event. Not to mention that watching the races and witnessing world records being set made for a great experience.

While at the races, Bill Manson and I met with the sponsors and promoters of the AmSnow's Shootout on a business basis. They invited us to join forces with them by moving our fall Snow Show from the Berry County Fairgrounds to their event at the US-131 Motorsports Park starting in 2011. After we discussed the pros and cons of moving the show along with the “technicalities” of a move, we told them that we would take the information back to the MSA Board of Directors for discussion at the December 11 board meeting
.
Prior to the board meeting MSA officials also met with several business venders that had supported the MSA Snow Show for the past several years. We wanted their input and ideas. All of them told us that we needed to make a change with the snow show as they felt it was getting “stale”.

After lengthy discussion at the MSA board meeting, a motion was made and passed to join forces with the AmSnow Shootout and move the MSA Snow Show to the US-131 Motorsports Park near Martin, MI. The new dates for the Snow Show will be September 23 and 24, 2011. We view this move a winning situation for all involved for a few major reasons. First, the facility is right along US-131 with easy access. Second, the show will be a couple of weeks earlier allowing for the possibility of better weather. And third, promotion will be shared by MSA, American Snowmobile Magazine, US 131 Motorsports Park and Bellman Oil Company.

We feel that change is good because it adds excitement and motivation. There will be a huge swap meet with more venders, and all four manufactures have told us that they will be there with snowmobiles and ATVs. We have asked the antique and vintage snowmobile clubs to join us at the show to help make it a premier snowmobile and recreation event. We feel that this will be an exciting weekend for all snowmobilers. More news on this premier event will come after all the details have been worked out.


On Feburary 5, 2011, MSA will be partnering with the I-500 snowmobile race in Sault Saint Marie. MSA will have a membership booth and will provide volunteers to help out where needed on race day. This partnership is a new adventure for MSA, and we are looking forward to meeting snowmobiler friends and helping with the race. We know that thousands of snowmobilers, not just racers, go to the I-500 event for entertainment.
As you can see, MSA is moving forward by partnering with different groups to promote different interests of snowmobilers.


In the next few months MSA will be making contacts with our state representatives and senators to offer them an opportunity to go snowmobiling. We want them to experience riding Michigan's great trail system and to meet some of the volunteers, club members, government officials and business owners that work so hard to ensure that there is a trail system for all snowmobilers to enjoy. Educating our elected officials and snowmobilers in general is very important in keeping our sport alive and healthy.
Think snow, ride safe, and see you on the trails.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 03 December 2013 01:16
 

Snowmobile trails in Michigan are open from December 1st through March 31st.
The Michigan Snowmobile Association is a volunteer organization dedicated to the
improvement of the sport of snowmobiling in Michigan.