Snowmobilers have fun and try to get fast speeds on icy lake

By Jeff Smith

A snowmobile about to take off on Jan. 28 at Deerfield Lake during the “Thunder on the Ice” Radar Run.

On Sunday, Jan. 28, the Black Hills Snowmobile Club hosted the 2018 Annual “Thunder on the Ice” Radar Run on Deerfield Lake.

The Black Hills Snowmobiling Club hosted the event and 38 snowmobiles were registered for the event.

Sally Rall, who was the secretary for the Black Hills Snowmobiling Club for the past 12 years, said that it was a good event.

“There are usually more runs. There were more vehicles but they raced more last year,” Rall said.

The Black Hills Snowmobiling Club members always go to the Southern Hills for the Radar Run because even if it has been a bad snow year the lakes in the area will still have good ice. A section of ice is plowed to create a track for the event. The track is about a half mile long.

Rall thinks that this year was the 25th year for the Radar Run. The Black Hills Snowmobiling Club started in the mid 1960’s.

Sally Rall said her husband Juel has been part of the Black Hills Snowmobiling Club for more than 40 years. They are the oldest members in the club now.

The Black Hills Snowmobiling Club has about 80 members. Some new ones joined the club at the Radar Run.

All of the snowmobiles made over 150 runs during the day. Even after their recorded run snowmobilers took some fun runs. The snowmobilers race towards a radar gun which clocks their speed to determine each snowmobile’s top speed.

The weather was unsettled with the sun bright and shining one minute and then cold wind bringing snow the next minute. It was the second year there was a vintage class of snowmobiles.

There were 15 different classes in the Radar Run. Trophies were given out to the first and second place rider of each class.

The riders and organizers took a break at noon and had a raffle drawing. Multiple prizes came from area businesses. The race trophies were awarded at the Mt Meadow Store and Campground about 4 p.m. Rall said the event ran smoothly and was thankful to the handful of club members that stepped up to the plate and made it that way.

It was the fourth year that a circular track was set up for children under the age of 13 for the “Kids Fun Day.” Rall said there were lots of  little 120cc snowmobiles, some were provided by the club’s members and were available to ride.

“This year there were a lot more kids with their own snowmobiles,” Rall said.

There were 15 younglings that signed up to ride and there were also many younger brothers and sisters playing on the sidelines.

“Many kids have never idden before,” Rall said.

When the children registered, they each received their own  T-shirt with the Black Hills Snowmobiling Logo and unlimited riding.

The snowmobile club used to do head-to-head racing but it became too expensive because of the liability. The snowmobile club does have insurance in case of accidents.

There have been other events that the Black Hills Snowmobiling Club has held in the past but it all depends on the snow that is available.  “Play Day” was a large event for children where they would find a big field and set up a “kid’s rodeo”.

This event stopped due to concerns about insurance.

Right now the club’s insurance can cover the children who register and ride on the 120cc snowmobiles. These have lower speeds.

Safety is important to the organization and to the South Dakota Snowmobile Association. The goal for the club is to promote safe and organized snowmobiling in the area for this generation as well as future generations.

There are many club rides at several different times of the year. During bad snow years in South Dakota the members might go to Wyoming more.

For the past 25 years, 15-35 members have gone to Dubois, Wyo. for a trip. During the trip they might go on a three to four day snowmobile ride. In addition to the Dubois trip they also try to go to the Bighorn Mountains.

Only a few states have their own state trail system for snowmobiles.

The program with the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks relies on snowmobile registration fees, fuel tax reimbursement and a four percent initial registration tax on the purchase price of snowmobiles.

The funds help groom the trails in the Black Hills. The eastern part of the state has its own system where they have to do grooming on their own.

There is 1,195 miles of trails on the eastern side of the state. Rall said that the snowmobilers from that side of the state will come to the Black Hills when there is not enough snow on the east side of the state.

“Whenever people come here from other places they always remark how good the trails are marked here,” Rall said.

There is around 350 miles of snowmobile trails in the Black Hills.

The area by Mt. Meadow has the most amount of trails in the Southern Hills. The Lead-Deadwood area has the most in the Northern Hills.

Rall said a lot of money has been spent trying to keep the trails open and keep access to the Black Hills National Forest and national parks. The problem of state parks and forests restricting snowmobile use is not just in South Dakota but across the U.S.

Rall said that “green” people have tried to say that snowmobiles destroy the environment. She said that four-wheelers are more destructive.

Rall said there are lots of national studies that prove snowmobiling is not destructive to the environment.

Manufacturers of snowmobiles have created the vehicles so they emit fewer pollutants. Smog-forming pollution and fuel leaks have been an area of concern for those who are opposed to snowmobile use on public lands.