You could pick up snowmobiling.
It’s not just the ditch riding if yore. With roughly 160 miles of trail in Olmsted County alone, this is a hobby with expansive views.
“All the trails are interconnected. You can ride from here to Ely, Minnesota,” says Jim Miesbauer, of the Byron Snow Bears Snowmobile Club.
When he and another rider hit three different conventions in Northern Minnesota, they snowmobiled there from Byron, staying in motels along the way.
“300 miles later, two days, three days later, we’re at the meeting. You can ride anywhere in the state from Rochester,” affirms Miesbauer.
Who can we thank for this infrastructure? Guys like Miesbauer, who are out there, maintaining the trails. He’s been riding for 45 years and grooms part of the Douglas Trail for the DNR.
The trail is shared by fat tire bikers, sled dog teams, and snowmobilers. The speed limit is 50 miles per hour.
A trail map of the Rochester area and connecting trails is put out by the Byron Snow Bears, Stewartville Drift Skippers, and Kasson-Mantorville Snowdrifters. You can find the maps in local establishments like the Bear’s Den in Byron.
There is no place to rent a sled in Rochester, but if you want to take a ride, a snowmobile club might be the best resource.
First, though, “Go to the license bureau and pick up MN Snowmobile safety laws, rules and regulations. That is a must. You better read that first,” says Miesbauer.
Additionally, anyone born after 1976 needs a certificate to snowmobile.
Miesbauer is a safety instructor. This year, he had 48 students go through his class. He says the sport’s popularity has evened out since its peak in the 80s and 90s. A lot has to do with the inconsistent winters.
Miesbauer bought his first sled back in 1971, a ‘69 Ski Doo.
In 1978, the trail system began to develop.
“Before that, you just jumped in a ditch and rode,” says Miesbauer.
“It’s a combination. Hot doggers like the ditches, because they’re jumping. The recreational snowmobiler likes trails. It’s safe. I never recommend ditch riding. It is dangerous. There’s every kind of obstacle you can imagine in a ditch.”
Clubs groom the trails and mark them for trail hazards.
So do you want to ride one? If you do, head out to Sunday’s trail appreciation day, where Miesbauer says he and others will be happy to let you on for a cruise. Just make sure to dress in layers and wear a helmet.
- What – Byron Snow Bears Snowmobile Club Trail Appreciation
- When – Sunday, Jan. 29, 12 p.m. – 4 p.m.
- Where – Douglas Trail Parking Lot
- Cost – Free
- More info – byronsnowbears.com