Snow or no snow, planning for the snowmobiling season is proceeding cross Vermont. The official Vermont Association of Snow Travelers (VAST) season starts Dec. 15, or at any point thereafter when there is sufficient snow cover on the VAST trails.
This week the Green Mountain National Forest announced some trails will be closed to snowmobiles this winter, due to unsafe bridges. The Green Mountain National Forest works with VAST to maintain more than 470 miles of trails on its property. Those trails are all mixed-use, open to cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and winter hiking, as well as snowmobiling. The affected trails will remain open for pedestrian uses.
"Due to recent evaluation by Forest Service engineering staff, several trails and bridges on the Manchester Ranger District have been determined to be structurally unsound and unsafe for use by the snowmobiling public this season," the press release states. It calls the closure temporary, saying the bridges will "undergo further analysis to determine if they will be replaced, repaired or removed."
Meanwhile, many Vermont town select boards have been fielding annual requests from local snowmobile clubs to use selected town roads over the winter. Case-in-point is a request at the last Wilmington Select Board meeting from the Deerfield Valley Stump Jumpers.
"Deerfield Valley Stump Jumpers have submitted their annual request for use of town roads for snowmobile trial access," the meeting minutes state. "They have added North Road, part of Chimney Hill, however Chief Szarejko told them this road was not safe for snowmobiles."
The board unanimously granted the club's request, with the exception of North Road.
In order to use VAST's statewide trail network, snowmobilers must purchase a pass, commonly called a TMA or Trails Maintenance Assessment. Early bird prices for 2016 TMAs expire Dec. 15. Snow cover permitting, season TMAs are good Dec. 15, 2015 through April 15, 2016.