By JOAN JOSEPHSON
POSTED: November 30, 2008
There's so much snow in and around Cassadaga this year, the community has attracted weather reporters to give "live" accounts from the village streets.
The residents here and in other areas across the county are expecting a "long winter" with the snow sticking around for quite a while.
Those welcoming the snowfall include skiers who are already on the slopes and snowmobilers who are waiting patiently for the trails to open.
Stephen Smith, president of the Chautauqua County Federation of Snowmobile Clubs says come Dec. 19, when deer season is over, there will be 400 miles of trails open in Chautauqua County.
"After several years of below normal snowfall, many snowmobilers are chomping at the bit to get out and ride," he said.
He said they will have to be patient, just a little bit longer.
"The trails aren't quite ready. Snowmobile trails on private land in Chautauqua County cannot open until after the big game muzzle loading hunting season is over and the pre-season preparation of the trails are completed by the local clubs," Smith said.
This means the trails won't be open until the morning of Dec. 19 and snowmobilers are advised to check with local clubs to make sure the trails are open before heading out to ride.
Chris James, president of the Chautauqua Lake Snowmobile Club says the trails are not open until fallen trees, brush is cleared and signs are put up to give snowmobilers direction safely along routes and away from hazzards.
Janes also emphasizes that since more than 90 percent of the 400 miles of snowmobile trails in Chautauqua County are on private property, riding before the official opening of the trail is trespassing.
"Many of these private landowners have planted winter crops and are concerned that early riding, before the ground has a chance to freeze, will damage the crop and reduce yield come springtime," he said.
Snowmobilers must respect the wishes of the landowners, he said. "They are the backbone of the New York snowmobile trail system and without them, there would be no trails."
Those who do not follow the trail requirements could be subject to charges and fines, including having their sled impounded, Smith said. "Violators face trespassing charges and could jeopardize the trail if the landowner shuts down access."
The five snowmobile clubs in Chautauqua County are responsible for maintaining the 400 miles of trails with volunteer labor providing thousands of hours that are necessary, Smith says.
"Trails are routinely rerouted as changes in the landscape happen during the off-season," he said, noting that "anyone heading out before the season opens is exposing themselves to an accident ready to happen."
"Common sense should overcome snow fever," Smith said, offering these pointers:
Even after the official opening of the trails on Dec. 19, snowmobilers should always be aware of trail conditions before heading out to ride.
Contact the local club where you plan to ride to be sure the trail is open.
Take it easy while getting back into the swing of snowmobiling. Many snowmobilers are anxious to try out newly purchased sleds and should take the time needed to adjust to handling the new machine.
Riding before the trails are cleared and signed is risky business.
Always respect the landowners and stay on the trail or stay home if the trail is closed.
Make sure youthful operators have completed the required safety classes.
It's a good idea for adult riders to brush up on snowmobile safety as well.
The local clubs that can be contacted for more information include:
The Chautauqua Lake Snowmobile Club; the Cherry Creek Snow Goers; The Ellery Snow Cruisers; The Lake Effect Traileblazers and the Sunset Drifters Snowmobile Club.
Contact information is listed on the web site at www.chautauquasnow.com/federation.
For more information on Chautauqua Lake Real Estate & Living visit: www.chautauqualakehomes.com