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Snow Rovers are happy sledders this winter

By Staff | Feb 1, 2010

This winter has been a real healer for snowmobile dealerships and for enthusiasts of the drift-busting sport.

After a few years with little snowfall, there are a lot of happy sledders out on the trails this year. Among these are members of Blue Earth’s Snow Rovers snowmobile club which has been in existence since 1971.

Thanks to the tireless efforts of the late Norbert Mensing, the club was born 39 years ago. Its corporate authorization resolution was signed on Jan. 11, 1972 by Gerald A. Kabe, president and James D. Meyer, treasurer of the Blue Earth Snow Rovers, Inc. at the First National Bank of Blue Earth.

According to Luella Hermanson, who joined the Snow Rovers in 1974, the club quickly grew to 175 members by the mid-1970s.

“The Snow Rovers first met at Ed Fuch’s farm south of Blue Earth on Hwy 169,” says Hermanson. “We had a little shack down the hill from Ed’s house where we could cook a meal and the area was a great place to ride. We probably were there about a year or so before we went to Arch and LaDonna McDonald’s farm. They wintered out of state, so they let us use their house to warm-up.”

By 1978, Hermanson says a group of volunteers from the Snow Rovers built the first clubhouse on the McDonald farm.

“The first clubhouse was built into a hill,” recalls Hermanson. “Next to the clubhouse and below the McDonald home there was a pond. Club members used it for many activities. We also served our first soup suppers here.”

On Jan. 23, 1987, the organization lost its clubhouse when a fire consumed all but the Snow Rovers logo which had originally been designed by Norbert Mensing.

“It was a big job to get the land at the current clubhouse site,” recalls Hermanson. “We had to purchase the land from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. The purchase took quite a bit of paperwork and the club was assisted in that process by State Representative Henry Kalis, Walters.”

On June 23, 1988, club president Joan Hall; contractor/board member Norbert Mensing; State Representative Henry Kalis; Minnesota State Highway District Engineer Bob Pecore; and club secretary Luella Hermanson broke ground for their new building on Hwy 169 South.

The group felt it was ideal for what they wanted and was also located right in the middle of the state (snowmobile) trail.

At the time, Mensing said $15,000 in insurance money would go toward the construction of the new building. He and Duane Hermanson donated their services, as contractors, to build the 30×60 square foot, one level, wooden structure.

Club members had the $40,000 structure completed by the 1988 snowmobile season.

To indicate the building was a snowmobile clubhouse, the late Dick Pfaffinger donated a sled to put on the property in front of the building, says Hermanson.

Current president of the Snow Rovers, Perry Olson, says he still has a picture in his mind of the furry helmet Mensing always wore while snowmobiling and when he was at the club. It must have been one of a kind, since he has never seen another like it nor has Hermanson who fondly recalls the unusual helmet as being black and white.

The Hermansons got interested in the sport because it was a nice form of recreation and was also local.

Olson first got involved in the organization when his children were young.

“I wanted them to have a safe place to ride and the groomed trails provided this,” he says.

Currently, membership consists of 41 individuals and families. Olson says this is low considering there are numerous licensed snowmobilers in the county.

“If they knew their membership fees ($40 singly or $40 for a family) helped with repair costs for the groomer and skid and the gas to drive it, maybe we would have more members,” says Olson.

Fortunately, he says, having volunteers drive the groomer helps somewhat contain the costs of maintaining the county trails. Among the Snow Rovers who consistently help with this are: Al and Donnie Krieger, Kim Meyers, Nick Bleess, Kevin Walker, and Jeff Nowak.

Olson says there are 75 miles of groomed trails in the area which the local club maintains. At three to five miles per hour, it is a very slow process to get from point A to point B. The groomer’s route includes trails to Frost which meets up with the Kiester trail; the Elmore route which connects to the Iowa trail; Blue Earth; and the Guckeen trail which meets with the Fairmont trail. The drivers then go to Delavan which intersects the Mapleton trail before going on to Easton which meets back up with the Kiester trail.

“They do the grooming of these trails at night,” explains Olson. “This is done because the snow needs to set-up and stay put, making for better trails.”

They also like to groom the trails before the weekend. Sometimes, Olson says, if they have the manpower, the trails are groomed up to two to three times a week.

Olson says it is not unusual for the driver of the groomer to stay out until 1-2 a.m. to complete a trail. And, depending upon the snow, on a good day, (with no breakdowns or getting stuck) it takes between 32-36 hours to groom the entire trail system.

“If the driver becomes stuck, he unhooks the skid, then works the groomer out,” explains Olson. “He then hooks a rope to the skid and using the groomer, he is able to pull it out. He then hooks the skid back up to the groomer and continues grooming the trail.”

Getting stuck generally happens when there is a real fresh, deep snowfall. Fortunately, Olson says, the groomer the club purchased in 2004 has a wide track, so they get through the snow pretty well without getting stuck very often. Al and Donnie Krieger currently store the vehicle in one of their sheds.

“The groomer can seat two people comfortably,” says Olson, “but you have to be strapped in because of the bumpy ride.”

Snowmobile trails are open from December 1- April 1, says Olson.

“This year we were a little later in getting the signs up,” says Olson. “We cannot put any signs up until the tractors are out of the field. With the fall harvest going until about Dec. 9, we had to wait before we could clean out the brush and put up the trail signs.”

In addition to promoting and enjoying the freedom a snowmobile ride allows, the Snow Rovers also conduct a snowmobile training course for youngsters age 11-16.

“There is a $10 fee to take the class,” says Olson. “Originally, the class was taught by Bruce Grev, Duane, Luella and Wayne Hermanson. Currently, Mark Wickersham, Kim Meyers, Bud Nowak and myself are licensed through the DNR to train snowmobile safety. We are limited to 20 per class.”

He says those taking the class do online research first with a program developed by the DNR. Then, from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on one Saturday, the local instructors do a review class with the students and have them drive their sleds. If they pass, the DNR then sends them a card, much like a drivers license, saying they are a licensed snowmobile driver.

To read more of this story, see this week’s Register.