By Starrla Cray
DELANO, MN It’s “snow time” for the Delano Snowstormers snowmobile club, and members are hoping this winter will bring a thick layer of the white fluff.
“It’s kind of nice,” member Don Gabrelcik said of the snow that fell Tuesday. “We need more, of course.”
The more than 20 miles of snowmobile trails in the Delano area were ready for use Dec. 1, thanks to hours of hard work by the Snowstormers.
Club member Mike Kopp organizes rides for the group, which is comprised of families, couples, and individuals of all ages.
This year, Kopp is planning rides for every other weekend, alternating between Saturdays and Sundays.
“We have certain rides it seems everyone loves to do,” he said.
Riding along the Crow River to Plato is one of the favorite trips. Another popular one is riding to the snowstorm shelter on Wright County Trail 1, near the Socher farm on the west side of Delano.
“We go there and roast hot dogs and marshmallows over a fire,” Kopp said.
“Anybody can use the shelter,” Gabrelcik added.
The group takes longer trips throughout Minnesota, as well. Wednesday, Jan. 27 through Saturday, Jan 30, the Snowstormers are planning to take a trip to Elbow Lake Lodge in Cook.
“It’s a wonderful place to go,” Kopp said. Last year, 19 members participated.
“We’re shooting for about 25 this year,” Kopp said.
The trip is open to club members, guests, and families.
The snowmobile club has been active since 1979, and currently has 31 members. Kopp said he joined about four years ago, when he moved to Delano. He met the club’s vice president, Curt Ritter, who invited him to a meeting, and he’s enjoyed being a participant ever since.
“It’s a great group of folks,” Kopp said, adding that the rides have been a good way to get familiar with the Delano area.
Other club activities
Club secretary Janice Matter said that the club is much more than just riding snowmobiles, however.
“It’s such a cool group,” said Matter, whose husband, Duane, is the club president.
“We try to have a family picnic in the summer and fall,” Matter said.
Since 2000, youth safety training has also been a vital part of the club.
The next class will be Saturday, Jan. 9 in Delano from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Certified instructors from the Department of Natural Resources teach about 35 students each session. The participants go through outside driving course test as well as classroom instruction.
Trail maintenance is also an important part of Snowstormer activities.
“We have three groups of coordinators who organize the trail maintenance work each fall, and again in the spring,” Matter noted.
Some members don’t even own a snowmobile, and join the club just to help with the trails, Kopp said.
Gabrelcik, who has been involved in the club for about 15 years, said he really enjoys taking care of the trails.
“I ride snowmobile, and it’s a good excuse for us adults to play in the mud,” he said.
Workers use four-wheelers to clear brush and trees from the trails. A Wright County Snowmobile Association groomer is also shared between the Delano Snowstormers and the Rockford Snowmobile Club.
Trail maintenance workers install stop signs, directional signs, and map boxes in the winter. They also work to widen the trails, maintain the shelter, and re-route and create new trails, as well as smoothing out plowed fields before trail riding begins.
Gabrelcik said, in the past few years, there has been less than an ideal amount of snow for snowmobiling.
On a really good year, Kopp said he’s driven about 1,500 to 2,000 miles on his snowmobile.
In the spring, the Snowstormers clean and take down the signs to allow landowners to begin spring field work. Trails officially close April 1.
“There’s a lot of work to it more than people think,” Gabrelcik said.
Gabrelcik said his 11-year-old grandson enjoys helping, as well.
“He just loves doing that,” Gabrelcik said.
Each year, the club has fundraisers to raise money to buy trail maintenance equipment and supplies for the safety training class. The most recent fundraiser was a silent auction Dec. 5.
“It was a huge success,” Matter said.
New members welcome
The Snowstormer club meets the second Monday of each month at 7:30 p.m. at the Delano American Legion. People who are interested in joining the club or who would like more information are welcome to attend.
The club is always open for new membership, Matter said.
“There are quite a few decent benefits to being a member,” Kopp said.
Members get discounts from the Delano Sports Center, for instance. As part of the Wright County Snowmobile Association and the Minnesota United Snowmobile Association, members also receive magazines and other publications.
For more information about the club, go to www.delanosnowstormers.com, call (952) 955-2894, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.