By: Mindy Simons
Anyone who has visited the Hayward Lakes area in the winter months, on any given weekend, will see cars and trucks traveling here from all directions. Some carry cross country skis, winter fat bikes, snowshoes, and various other outdoor recreational gear, while the remainder are hauling snowmobiles. With over 600 miles of groomed trails in Sawyer County, the Hayward area has become a premier destination for snowmobile enthusiasts. What many of these visitors don’t realize is the behind-the-scenes operation that is responsible for our amazing trail system.
The Sawyer County Snowmobile and ATV Alliance is made up of 10 snowmobile and ATV clubs throughout Sawyer County. This all-volunteer organization builds, maintains, and grooms the entirety of the 600-mile snowmobile trail system within Sawyer County. As winter approaches, groups of volunteers begin by brushing the trails, repairing signs, and placing barricades around private property. After brushing operations are complete, all the equipment is serviced and grooming drags are hooked up, the anticipation for snow is on. Volunteers monitor the thickness of area lakes as freeze-up begins, and once it is safe, crews mark the lake trails with reflective stakes to indicate the safest passage. Signage for businesses and general directional trail markers are inspected and installed. Much of the Sawyer County trail system is connected by lakes, so it is vital for safety that these are carefully monitored and marked. When the snow starts falling and temperatures drop, the trail grooming process begins. The volunteer groomers often work late at night into the early morning hours to take advantage of fewer riders on the trail, but also to allow the freshly groomed snow to set up with the colder overnight temperatures. There really is a science when it comes to getting beautifully groomed trails. The volunteer grooming staff then reports their activity as well as general snow and trail conditions to another Alliance volunteer, who then collects that and publishes a trail report. This gets published on the Alliance Facebook page, as well as on the Hayward Lakes Visitors and Convention Bureau website to give riders the most current information.
The common and most important link here is the volunteers. When you are out on the trails this winter, remember the work of these men and women. Thank a volunteer and be courteous if you encounter grooming operations on the trail–or better yet, join a club and get involved!