History

SNOWMOBILING HISTORY IN THE DEERFIELD VALLEY

There have been sleds roaming the Deerfield Valley for over 30 years. It was not as sophisticated as we have it now. There were no TMAs to help finance trail cutting or subsequent trail grooming. The trail was created by a few dedicated riders who wanted a trail system. The system was cut by these riders with no money for supplies. When there was a brook to cross, the best we could do was to throw wooden pallets in the stream and depend on snow to ultimately cover the pallets and make the trail navigable. Other times logs were simply put on the stream bed to do the same thing. Culverts which we now use were unthinkable due to the costs and ultimately transporting them to the stream location. Our major problem was that a rain storm would cause high water levels and simply wash the pallets away. Other times the pallets would simply disintegrate as a result of the snowmobile traffic. In that event you had to get a fast start and rush over the stream site. We needed many stakes to mark the trail but the cost was a problem. At the time I was a Ski Ambassador on the Mount Snow slopes. I developed close relations with the Ski Patrol organization. At the end of each season, the bamboo poles that were used on the ski trails were taken down and the ones which showed signs of wear, were scrapped. I was allowed to rummage through the bamboo and I salvaged the better ones for our snowmobile trail system. They were installed the following season when our volunteers prepared the trail system for the coming snowmobiling season.

It was always necessary to get the landowners permission in order to use his property. There is a couple of situations which comes to mind. I owned a vacation home in the Chimney Hill complex. I could not reach the trail system from my chalet because there were no snowmobile trails there at the time. I went to the Chimney Hill manager to get permission to cut a trail on the property. I was told that I would have to get permission from the Chimney Hill Board of Directors. I drove to Connecticut where the board held their meetings and proposed cutting a trail system on the property. There was one board member who opposed the trail. However, most of the board members supported the idea of the trail system. Over the coming years, the dissenting board member became an ardent member of the snowmobile fraternity working every year as a major volunteer. With his support we extended the trail system to the Chimney Hill Club House at the top of chimney hill.

The other case which comes to mind, we had a landowner who had the trail system cross through his property. However, the Deerfield River passed through his property. Snowmobile riders would occasionally come down on the frozen Deerfield River and exit onto his property at a point that was not a marked trail. It was a bad place to ride. The landowner contacted us and requested that we post a club member along the Deerfield River to keep club members from entering his property at that point. We offered to post signs in the area. That was not good enough. He withdrew permission for us to use his property. That was a major problem since this property was part of the trail system which goes into the town of Wilmington. We had no choice except to close the trail on his property. That is an example of what happens when snowmobile riders enter property not marked as part of the trail system. There have been other cases over the years where we had to close part of our trail system due to rogue riders who leave our marked trail to ride on unchartered property.

Trails we originally cut were frequently just wide enough for one sled to navigate. We made sure there were occasional wide spots to allow sleds to pass each other. Frequently one of the sleds had to back up to the spot to facilitate the passing. The limited grooming we had was when one of the club members would hook up a home made drag to his sled and ride the trail in order to pack the snow to some extent. The bumps were rarely cut flat.

Our monthly meetings were held in places such as the West Dover Fire Station and the Wilmington Fire Station. We also met at Cliff Duncan’s personal home located next to the Duncan Cable TV Service facility on Sunny Knoll Drive. Cliff was our club president at the time.

There were many activities our club had. A couple that come to mind was a ride we took to the Wilmington Green Meadows Residential School where kids with learning problems went. We would give the kids a ride on our sleds. The school is no longer in operation.

We also had “Progressive Dinners”. We would have a group ride to the home of a member who has agreed to have an appetizer for the group. After that we would ride as a group to a home where the member would have the main dish. Then, we would ride as a group to a home that will have the desert ready for us. That would not work any longer. With a membership close to 2,000, it would be a challenging job to prepare the meal for one of the stops.

The club made donations to the community. For instance, we donated a rescue toboggan to the Deerfield Valley Rescue organization along with a snowmobile to pull it. There have been injuries along the trail system and DV Rescue came to the site with the toboggan and transported the injured to their ambulance in order to transport the person to medical care. During the summer, the toboggan can be equipped with wheels. It has been pulled into the woods by an ATV (All-Terrain-Vehicle) to rescue injured hunters and hikers.

It’s always good to remember “How it all started” and that the Deerfield Valley Stump Jumpers (DVSJ) exist today due to the “MANY” hardworking volunteers and landowners who allow us to use their land for our trail system.

John Zach