So far its looking much better than last year was for snowpack, but that winters meager snowfall is having a hangover effect on the sport.
Snowmobile registrations, which fund trail grooming and parking lot plowing, are down by nearly 8,800. That means Idaho Parks and Recreation collected $286,000 less for its snowmobiling programs, or about 20 percent less money for this winter than last winter.
Its the first time since 2009 that statewide snowmobile registrations dipped below 30,000, according to Todd Wernex, trails specialist for Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation.
He noted that its common that fewer snowmobilers register their sleds after a winter with low snowfall.
Because snowmobilers dedicate a portion of their registration money to specific snowmobile areas around the state, Southwest Idaho has fared better than other areas, Wernex said.
Snowmobilers should still brace themselves for possibly fewer trails groomed, or trails groomed less often, this winter.
If its an average winter, they might not notice a difference, Wernex said.
But if this winter brings lots of snowfall, snowmobilers must realize that groomers will have to prioritize their operations.
They will focus on the main trails first and groom everything else at least once or twice, Wernex said.
But news isnt all bad in the snowmobile world.
The McCall area got a new groomer this year, which typically means fewer breakdowns and more time spent grooming trails.
Camas County and Blaine County each received new groomer transport trucks to move the groomer between trails.
GROOMERS NEED A GOOD BASE
Snowmobile grooming hasnt start yet because the snow isnt deep enough.
Wernex said groomers need about 18 inches of packable snow in order to start on the trails.
Sometimes it takes more, because if the snow is too light and fluffy, it wont pack down properly.
Each areas grooming coordinator determines when theres enough snow and the right kind of snow to start grooming.
Grooming updates will be available this year on Facebook under Idaho Snowmobile Program.
However, many snowmobilers dont wait until they fire up the groomers to get into the mountains.
The McCall area, Deadwood area, West Mountain near Cascade and Trinity Mountains all offer good early season snowmobiling.
Those are the four where we typically have the most early snowfall, Wernex said.
FIRES OPEN TERRAIN
The Trinity Ridge Fire burned 147,000 acres in the popular Trinity Mountains area east of Boise.
Forest fires are a mixed bag for sledders. The fires open up terrain and can make entry easier into prime bowls and basins, as well as increasing terrain for boondocking. But fires also create hazards.
It opens up new areas, but the risk of falling trees is something people should pay attention to, Wernex said.
Idaho Parks and Recreation offers free avalanche safety courses for snowmobilers. Each course includes a classroom session and a field session.
New this year, each class must have a minimum of 10 people signed up. You can sign up for classes at parksandrecreation.idaho.gov.
Look on the home page or click on the snowmobiling icon.
Æ Nov. 28 Boise Classroom 7 p.m. at Moto Tech at 7126 W. Victory.
Æ Dec. 5 Nampa Classroom 7 p.m. at Moto Tech at 1217 2nd St. South.
Æ Dec. 12 Mountain Home Classroom 7 p.m. at the Elmore County Search and Rescue building.
Æ Dec. 19 Twin Falls Classroom 7 p.m. at Action Cycles and Sleds at 2540 Addison Ave. E.
Æ Jan. 11 Fairfield Classroom 7 p.m. at the American Legion Hall.
Æ Jan. 12 Fairfield Field 8 a.m. at the Chimney Creek parking lot.
Æ Jan. 25 Cascade Classroom 7 p.m. at the Valley County Sheriffs Recreation Patrol Building.
Æ Jan. 26 Cascade Field 8 a.m. at the Anderson Creek parking lot.
Æ Feb. 2 Boise/Idaho City Field 9 a.m. at the Whoop Um Up parking lot.
Æ Feb. 8 Twin Falls Classroom 7 p.m. at Action Cycles and Sleds at 2540 Addison Ave. E.
Æ Feb. 9 Twin Falls Field 8 a.m. at the Diamond Field Jacks parking lot.
CLUBS AND EVENTS
Snowmobile events are a great way to meet other riders, check out new terrain, and just join the fun of an organized snowmobile ride. Different snowmobile clubs throughout Southwest Idaho host events all winter.
You can learn more about snowmobile clubs in the state at idahosnow.org.
Mark your calendar for these events, and its only a partial list. There will be details on these events this winter in Idaho Outdoors.
Æ Donnelly Club Fun Run, Dec. 29.
Æ Garden Valley SnowGoers Fun Run, Jan. 5.
Æ Cougar Mountain Snowmobile Club Fun Run at Wellington Snow Park, Jan. 19.
Æ McCall Snowmobile Club Fun Run at Bear Creek Lodge, Feb. 2.
Æ West Mountain Snowmobile Club Fun Run and auction, Feb. 16.
Æ Idaho State Snowmobile Association Ride at Cascade, March 1-3.
Roger Phillips, 377-6215Twitter: @rogeroutdoors