Snowmobiling Trails…and a Little Snowmobile History

Snowmobiling Trails…and a Little Snowmobile History

By Kathi Caldwell-Hopper

Snowmobile trails in NH

Snowmobile trails in NH

With 7,000 miles of snowmobile trails throughout the state, it’s easy to see why snowmobiling is one of New Hampshire’s most popular winter sports. Those who enjoy snowmobiling look forward to high snow totals because they know the trails in the White Mountains are some of the best around, with the opportunity to experience the beautiful scenic vistas that make New Hampshire so naturally wonderful. 

Whether you are new to the sport or an experienced rider, here is some basic information about snowmobiling in New Hampshire. Be aware that snowmobilers can only ride on trails designated and signed as a snowmobile trail. While there are a number of trails on state owned or managed land that are maintained by the New Hampshire Bureau of Trails, the majority of trails are on private land. The well-maintained snowmobile trails that everyone enjoys in New Hampshire are due to an enormous volunteer effort by the snowmobile clubs throughout the state. Without these dedicated, hardworking volunteers, snowmobiling in New Hampshire wouldn't be the sought after sport that it is. It is essential that snowmobilers respect the land. While you don’t have to join a club to use the trails, being a part of a snowmobiling club is a good way to meet others who are passionate about the sport and to learn more about it. 

Riding on ACTIVE railroad tracks is illegal and extremely dangerous. Riders should not operate along, within, or across active railroads. Railroads that become snowmobile trails are signed open for winter use and are listed below.

A statewide corridor snowmobile map (maintained by the New Hampshire Snowmobile Association) can be accessed at www.nhstateparks.org by clicking on “snowmobiling” under “activities.” For information and updates, call New Hampshire Bureau of Trails at 603-271-3254. The corridor map provides an overview of New Hampshire’s trail system. Maps for the trails maintained by each local club can be obtained on a club’s website or by contacting the club directly. A list of clubs can also be found on the state parks website. Keep in mind that your snowmobile must be registered when operated anywhere other than your property. Registrations can be obtained in person at authorized registration agents throughout the state. You can also get one at the New Hampshire Fish and Game Headquarters, or by calling Fish and Game at 603-271-4300. If you belong to a club, you’ll pay a discounted registration fee. 

Here are suggestions of trail systems in the White Mountains, listed according to which club maintains the trails. 

The White Mountain Snowmobile Club is a non-profit organization, founded in 1970. They maintain the trails in the Lincoln-Woodstock area, located in the heart of the White Mountains. The trails include a wide variety of riding terrain like mountains, ponds, railroad beds, and fields. Their main trail is Corridor 11, which allows access to many of the areas most popular lodging and dining establishments. For further information about these trails, visit www.whitemtsnowmobileclub.org.  

Twin Mountain Snowmobile Club at www.twinmtnsnowmobile.org has a large network of beautiful trails, with updates posted on their website. The club is a non-profit organization that maintains and grooms the snowmobile trail system just north of Franconia Notch in NH. Corridor 11 passes thru our town with scenic White Mountain views within the national forest. The clubs’ volunteers are dedicated to snowmobiling and ensuring a great place to ride. 

The White Mountain Trail Club is a small club whose goal is to provide an integrated trail system that can accommodate the needs of private, public and business interests while promoting a good community relationship. Volunteers spend over 400 hours per year clearing, grooming and maintaining the trail system; there are now approximately 50 miles of trails open to all types of use. While the group is rooted as a Snowmobile Club, over the years they also to recognize and support all outdoor enthusiasts. The vast majorities of the trails are on state or federal land and through responsible and respectful use will provide all users a way to enjoy nature at her finest. Please keep in mind that there are others on the trails, some using skis or snowshoes and perhaps even dog sleds; please pass safely and courteously. Obey all trail signs including speed limit and Closed Trail signs. Be aware of and stay off Cross Country Ski Only Trails. View a map of trails or check for trail updates at www.whitemountaintrailclub.com.

snow machine

Some NH Snowmobiling History

While times have changed, trails are many and snow machines are sleek, modern and fun to ride, snowmobiling has evolved over the years. When did snowmobiling begin in earnest in NH? According to www.nhsa.com (NH Snowmobile Association), the new form of recreation began in about 1959 in the state. It didn’t take long for the sport to gain popularity, and people of all ages were soon giving this new form of winter fun a try. 

Soon, snowmobile clubs formed. An umbrella group formed in around 1969 with a meeting at Christmas Tree Island in the Lakes Region. Some of the early clubs that had formed attended the meeting, along with many individual snowmobilers. Soon, the NH Snowmobile Association was formed. 

Historically, it is believed the first over the snow machine was built in about 1909. It was 10 feet long using and track design, a “one lunger engine” and it steered.

Virgil White, an Ossipee, NH Ford dealer invented an early machine. He created a track and ski unit that could be converted for a Model T Ford. White was the first to use the word “snowmobile”.

White got a patent for an attachment to convert the Model T into a snowmobile. He put it on the market in the winter of 1922. He knew it would have a chance of gaining in popularity in a snowy state such as NH where winters were long and snow made travel from place to place quite difficult.

The conversion units were sold exclusively through Ford dealers and revisions and improvements were made over time. Country doctors and postal mail carriers found the snowmobile very helpful in their jobs. Now they could reach remote homes and areas that might have been cut off due to deep snow; lives were saved (and probably many babies delivered at home!) due to the snowmobile.

However, sales were not as good as White and the Ford Company had hoped for and manufacturing rights were sold to a Wisconsin company. They sent reps to run a factory in West Ossipee, where until 1929 they made about 3,000 units a year. The company closed its door in 1929 and a fire took the factory. 

This was only the beginning of snowmobiling. While some years lagged before it became a full-fledged, highly popular sport to sweep the country and beyond, by the early 1960s it was back on the scene. It didn’t take long for snowmobiling to become the wildly popular pastime it is today.

If you are a fan of snowmobiling history, visit www.nhsnowmobilemuseum.com for a wonderful look at old snowmobiles by Polaris, Yamaha and more. The museum is located at the Bear Brook State Park Museum Complex. You may also call 603-722-7069.

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