With snowmachine ridership up, officials take stock of Lakes Region trails
February 25. 2017 9:42PM
Zack Nickerson, 17, of Londonderry rides a trail near Lake Massabesic in Manchester on Monday, Feb. 13, 2017. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)
The group had nothing but praise for snowmobilers in the state, who have carved out a winter recreation niche that is now more than half as large as the state's summer boating industry.
"It's really the volunteers that make this happen," said Fish and Game Major John Wimsatt. "The clubs have been working very hard to make this a great trail system."
But the activity is not without its dangers, especially when riders drive over ice.
It's been one of the more deadly periods for snowmobilers in recent memory after three men died after their machines went through the ice of Lake Winnipesaukee on Feb. 11. "We're all very saddened by those incidents," Gamache said.
Snowmobile association Executive Director Monica Jerkins said club memberships are well over 20,000, compared to 12,000 in last year's warm winter. Last year, the state had 23,000 snowmobiles registered. This year more than 46,000 snowmobiles are registered.
Gamache said the state has been working closely with the clubs to improve trails and to promote the industry.
"Most of the registration fees go right back into the trails," he said. "(On Friday) we were looking at a $60,000 (snowmobile) bridge project in Ashland, which was just finished, and we found some new improvements we have to make."
Jerkins said New Hampshire's snowmobile industry is unique, in part because the state is so involved. "I don't know of another state that has anything like this great system," she said.
Kinney said the credit goes to the volunteer trail maintainers, who work on the system in their spare time. Landowners abutting the trails also play a big role, he said, "because they allow snowmobiles on the trails, even though it's right near their property."
The sport of snowmobiling in New Hampshire is now drawing people from other states, much as summer activities do, Kinney said.