With the opening of snowmobile season just around the corner, Kevin Forney has been busy.
Forney, the president of the Seven Valley Snow Goers snowmobile club, has met with other clubs whose trails join his. He’s been busy helping with the maintenance of 88 miles of trails. The county has nearly 350 miles of trails.
Now he’s looking to get the word out on the upcoming season and safety precautions people should take.
Cortland County is a major corridor for snowmobile trails, Forney said Tuesday. His club covers trails from Preble to Virgil and Little York to Truxton. “We kind of run it end to end — north, south, east and west,” he said.
Snowmobile season the last two years were bad, the snow needed for the trails didn’t arrive until late February and March. Forney is looking for a turn around. “You put so much effort into marking these trails and then coordinating with the 147 landowners,” he said about the opening of the season. “If it wasn’t for these 147 landowners in Cortland County, we don’t have a trail system.”
However, without 5 inches of base snow to ride on, the trails won’t open.
Safety is Forney’s biggest priority and the first step starts not with the rider, but with the trail.
“One is safety and that’s what all of this is about,” he said. “Getting these trails marked so that it is safe.”
3 die in snowmobile mishaps
New York saw seven fatal snowmobile accidents in 2017. The state reported three just last weekend.
For riders, Kevin Forney of the Seven Valley Snow Goers had several safety tips:
• Always ride with somebody else. “Never go by yourself,” he said. “It’s just not worth it.”
• Be prepared for the weather conditions and the changes of them. “You may leave when it’s sunny and 35 miles from here there is lake effect (snow) and next thing you know you’re in a white out,” Forney said.
• Speed limit for snowmobiles out on the trail is 55 mph, unless marked otherwise. However, riders should use judgment. “You have to be familiar with your conditions, just like driving a car,” he said.
• Trails are closed between midnight and 6 a.m., Forney said.
• The state has a zero tolerance to alcohol, Forney said, so don’t drink and drive.
The season is also an economic generator. “It is a multi-million dollar tourist industry,” Forney said.
Meghan Lawton, the director of the Cortland County Convention and Visitors Bureau, did not have figures on how much snowmobile season generates in Cortland County.
Yet the bureau is looking to do more promotion for the season, she said. “Snowmobiling is definitely a huge draw for the county.”
Promotion would aid in riders coming to Cortland County. “If they want to get away from the Tug Hill, they can come down here and ride,” she said.
A trail sign marks the designated stop for an intersection of snowmobile trails and Route 11 in Homer. Longitudinal and latitudinal coordinates are printed on the sign to aid with emergency 911 response.
Lawton said the bureau is working with the county Planning Department to put restaurant and lodging markers along snowmobile trail maps.
In the U.S. alone, snowmobiling generates roughly $26 billion a year, according to the International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association.
With the season almost here there is one issue Forney expects to deal with: rogue riders.
“These are usually kids,” Forney said. Rogue riders tear across the county loudly and annoy landowners. “That’s always an issue with us,” he said.
Two issues new to this year deal with two trails.
First, the Cosmos Hill Road trail — which runs from Route 90 in Homer to Blue Creek Road in Cortlandville — is closed this year. A new home along the trail has disrupted its flow. “There is nothing we can do about it,” Forney said.
The next, is the club working with Pyrotek to reroute around the Gutchess Lumber Sports Complex along Route 13 in Cortlandville, Forney said. In the end, it’s about having fun. People interested in joining can get more information from the club’s website at www.svsginc.com. Around 250 members belong to the Seven Valley Snow Goers, Forney said. There are also seven other snowmobile clubs in the greater Cortland area.