It’s almost difficult to comprehend, given the lack of snow in the Grand Forks area that has brought snowmobiling and other winter recreation to a screeching halt, but some very good snow conditions remain just a couple of hours to the northeast.
A friend and I found that out for ourselves over the weekend when we logged upwards of 80 miles on grant-in-aid snowmobile trails in the Roseau, Minn., area. Despite temperatures that soared into the high 30s Saturday, we found an abundance of snow throughout our ride.
A fairly isolated snowstorm had dumped 5 to 6 inches of snow on the region early last week, and the snow in the woods was knee deep in many places.
Here are some photos from our ride:
Given the conditions, I was surprised by the lack of traffic we encountered on the trails. We met only five other snowmobiles in two days of riding, and one of the groups, I found out later, was a high school friend, his son and a friend of theirs, all from Roseau. When we met them on the trail along state Highway 310 north of Roseau, they were on the homestretch of a 172-mile ride that took them from Roseau to Springsteel north of Warroad, Minn., on Lake of the Woods and then north across the big lake to a land trail near Stony Point and onward to Fort St. Charles on the Northwest Angle.
They’d left Roseau about 10 a.m. and had nearly finished their ride when we met them some 6 hours later.
I register my snowmobile in Minnesota, so a trail permit is included in the price of a three-year registration, which costs $78.50, but my snowmobiling partner from Grand Forks registers his snowmobile in North Dakota and had to purchase a permit to ride the grant-in-aid trails.
The permit, which costs $36 annually, is available at Minnesota motor vehicle offices or through Department of Natural Resources electronic licensing outlets.
The trails were in great shape, groomed in places and well marked throughout, so the price of the annual permit was money well spent. Our ride took us through tamarack and cedar swamps and along and across swampy creeks that remained open, in places. Bridges built along parts of the trail system as part of the grant funding the local snowmobile club receives alleviated the risk of crossing potentially unsafe ice.
We also saw several deer, which found the well-packed trails to their liking. All signs point to a winter that should help deer numbers recover across the region.
Saturday’s high flirted with 40 degrees in the border country, and the snow was pretty sticky. That wasn’t an issue on the groomed trails, but the machines definitely had to work harder to get through the soft snow in the places we had to drive off trail to reach the trail system.
By Sunday, the temperature had dropped 20 degrees and the snow conditions had firmed up nicely. The brown landscape that greeted us as we returned to Grand Forks late Sunday afternoon was a striking contrast to the conditions we’d enjoyed barely 2 hours away.
Looking at the extended weather forecast, the temperature in the areas we rode isn’t supposed to get above freezing this week, so riding opportunities should remain at least through the weekend. It’s still seeming like an early spring, though, so anyone with a snowmobile collecting dust would be well-advised to head north and enjoy the conditions while they last.
You’ll find more information about snow and trail conditions in Minnesota here.