Just like every winter, area snowmobilers had their fingers crossed for snow in December.
With snowfall totals approaching 70 inches for the season, their snowmobiles have gotten plenty of use in what the National Weather Service said is the fifth snowiest season since the mid-1880s. Genoa-Kingston Trailblazers members join the club not only for the family-oriented camaraderie, but also for the educational safety classes.
The only active snowmobiling club in DeKalb County, it was established in 1974. Club members Darrin Kein of Maple Park and Heath Strohacker of Sycamore teach safety courses required for children 16 and younger to operate a snowmobile. The club also maintains about 55 miles of snowmobile trails that connect with trails all over northern Illinois maintained by other clubs.
Trails are open from Dec. 15 through March, but there must be at least 4 inches of snow on frozen ground, or 6 inches of snow if the ground is not frozen.
The club is a member of a statewide association that advocates for snowmobilers’ rights at the state and national levels, and provides maps and other publications.
Although the local clubs maintain the trails, they are regulated by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, which also provides an online safety course.
“Online classes are fine, but they don’t get hands-on experience,” said club President Jay Schaack of Cherry Valley.
Along with teaching safety to people learning about snowmobiling, members also provide a winter safety net for area first responders.
Kein said that during the January snowstorms, “we had 15 guys ready to rock” when firetrucks, rescue squads and tow trucks couldn’t reach stranded motorists.
“We each try to carry an extra snowsuit and helmet,” Kein said.
Schaack said they also carry backpacks containing hats, mittens, water, granola bars and other supplies.
Kein said sometimes they have to make multiple trips to get everyone out of a vehicle to safety. That might mean taking them home, to a nearby business that’s open or maybe just to the next farmhouse down the road.
At a recent meeting, Kein also said the club would like to collaborate with another organization to purchase a cutter, which is a snowmobile trailer on skis that can be used to carry extra supplies as well as people.
Although they all agree it’s not necessary to join a club to enjoy snowmobiling, they encourage it.
“No one should ever ride alone,” Schaack said. “When you’re in a club, there’s always someone you can call to ride with you.”
It’s also not necessary to own a snowmobile to join a club. Jeff Peterson of Sycamore joined the club and rents a snowmobile to join outings.
Club members are not fond of those who don’t ride on the marked trails.
“They give snowmobilers, in general, a bad name,” Kein said.
One way they try to counteract any negative public image is by giving back to the community. They conduct food drives for the local food pantry, and have been known to help local families in need.
Club members are hosting a “feather party” meat raffle starting at 4:30 p.m. today at Mott’s Lounge in Burlington. They will raffle off about 35 meat items including steaks, hams, bacon and more.
If you go
• What: Genoa-Kingston Trailblazers Feather Party
• When: 4:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 22
• Where: Mott’s Lounge, Burlington
• Why: Club fundraiser raffling meat items. Open to the public.