Motorized Sleds Popular Southern Tier Pastime

by Eva Potter

Motor-powered sleds have been around since the early 1900s, but it was in 1954, that the grandfather of modern-day snowmobiles was born. That’s when David Johnson, Paul Knochenmus and Orlen Johnson, employees of Hetteen Hoist and Derrick Shop in Roseau, Minn., made the first concept snowmobile using a grain silo conveyor belt for the track and an old Chevy car bumper for the skis.

While the original concept model, made on company time, didn’t impress their boss Edgar Hetteen, the second model, the Polaris Sno Traveler, hit the mark and in 1956 the first production model rolled off the assembly line in Minnesota.

Originally designed to make hunting locations more accessible, today’s snowmobiles offer another way to enjoy the great outdoors during the winter months and what better way to explore Cattaraugus County’s 350-plus miles of scenic trails.

One ideal place to snowmobile is on the 90-plus miles of trails in Allegany State Park (ASP). The park has a reputation for the most well-groomed areas for snowmobiling in the county. When you get cold, stop at the Red House Administration Building’s restaurant inside the park, which is open year round for a quick meal and warm-up.

If you don’t want to go it alone in the park, join one of the nine snowmobile clubs in Cattaraugus County and enjoy the camaraderie while exploring interesting nooks and crannies you might not see any other way.

“The area clubs belong to the Cattaraugus County Federation of Snowmobiles,” according to Jim Johnson of the Enchanted Mountain Border Riders Snowmobile Club. “Each club is like a little kingdom having total control over its trail system, which normally connects with adjoining clubs’ trails to form the trail system in Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie and Wyoming counties.”

According to Mark Pasternak, president of the Franklinville Snowmobile Club, Cattaraugus County trails are created and maintained by the nine clubs in the county and are always officially marked.

You do not need permission to access another club’s trail system. Pasternak said he is very grateful for the landowners who have allowed snowmobile trails to cross their land.

“Without our landowners we would not have a trail system. Our landowners are very good to us,” Pasternak said.

Please remember, it is illegal to ride on posted and private property without permission. It is also very important to follow and obey all trails signs and to understand New York’s snowmobile laws.

Snowmobiles must be registered through the Department of Motor Vehicles and insured just like a vehicle. Also, out-of-state snowmobiles must be registered in NYS.

Ellicottville Village Constable Howard Gifford said snowmobiles are not allowed to ride on railroad property. If snowmobile operators are caught riding along the railroad tracks, they can be issued violations under railroad law.

In the Village of Ellicottville, Gifford said, “We have an actual ordinance that bars (snowmobiles) from using the sidewalks and the streets in conjunction with the state law. New York State Law says they’re not allowed to drive on state highways or any other highway.”

Gifford said the Village of Ellicottville closed their routes several years back but never barred snowmobiles or banned them from the village.

“All we did was close the routes, because of a few people that were running past houses at 3 a.m., cutting across yards, running over brush, bushes, flowers,” he said.

Snowmobilers are still allowed into the village from the main gate at Fitzpatrick & Weller to get gas from Kwik Fill. Riders out and about in the county can also get gas in Little Valley, Randolph and other towns.

Rick Jackson of the Ilex Inn has always welcomed snowmobilers and had a family of five stay at the inn earlier this year. He said they rode 95 miles from Rochester to get to Ellicottville. If the trails are open, Jackson said “they can snowmobile in or they can trailor (the snowmobiles) in.”

It’s important to check the condition of trails and to make they’re open before heading out. Jackson said a guest who was traveling from Cleveland to the Ilex Inn only got as far as South Dayton, because the trails were closed and had to turn around and go back. Lack of snow has been a challenge this winter.

To get a free area snowmobile trail map, just call 1-800-331-0543. For more information about snowmobiling in New York State, visit

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