Local snowmobile clubs groom trails for start of season

STOUGHTON, Wis.– Dane County’s snowmobile trails have officially opened for the 2020-2021 season, which means Dave and Bonnie Nielsen can return to a job that keeps them busy.

“Our job is to take (the trails) down as smooth as we can to make it a nice ride and a safe ride,” Dave Nielsen said.

The couple grooms and pans more than 30 miles of Stoughton trails.

“I dominate the radio, I bring treats, and it’s our date night,” Bonnie Nielsen said.

The Nielsen’s took off on one of their first of many grooming rides Wednesday night, estimated to last about six hours. They volunteer for the Stoughton Viking Snowdrifters Snowmobile Club.

Dave and Bonnie Nielsen said their work makes all the difference to riders.

“It’s like going down a highway that’s just been resurfaced, it’s nice and smooth,” Dave Nielsen said.

His advice for new and returning riders is to stay on the trail. Not only does it mess up the trail, but it also damages the land underneath that belongs to private owners.

“We’re going to lose these trails if you don’t stay on the trails that are marked,” Dave Nielsen said.

Before heading out, Dane County Parks Director Darren Marsh also recommends doing some research about where you’re going.

“With the pandemic right now, we know that there’s places that are going to be closed or hours that are different than normal,” Marsh said.

Dane County has more than 500 miles of trails and it’s possible the weather could close them down at any given time.

“That minimum criteria (to open) is six inches of snow with below freezing temperatures,” Marsh said.

Both Marsh and the Nielsen’s also recommend signing up for a local snowmobiling club if people enjoy the sport often enough.

“Everybody does there little part to help us out, which makes a lot of difference,” Dave Nielsen said.

Trails in the northcentral and northeast regions of Dane County remain closed at this time.