A new snow groomer has been added to the West Yellowstone fleet.
Last Friday marked the official unveiling of the 2007 PistenBully 600 snow groomer, boosting the fleet up to three modern machines.
The machine was provided through the Montana Snowmobile Program.
The groomer is one of 20 snow groomers in the State fleet, which are leased to participating snowmobile clubs throughout western Montana, according to Montana State parks.
With West Yellowstone being an area with some of the highest snowmobile use in the state, good, reliable equipment is an important factor in the mix.
Montana State Parks officials noted that by purchasing a late model snow groomer, a modern, efficient machine can be provided to the club at a modest cost.
Funding comes from a number of sources to ensure safe and clear access to riders that enjoy the 300 plus miles of snowmobile trails linking West Yellowstone and Idaho.
Dave Andrus, Region 3 snowmobile coordinator with Montana State Parks, a division of Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, Claude Coffin, of the Snowmobile Trail Grooming Committee of the West Yellowstone Chamber of Commerce, Robbie Hermanson and Les Dowdle, the grooming manager for the West Yellowstone Trail Groomers, gathered at the grooming shed on Friday afternoon to check out the shiny red PistenBully.
And, as for liking the new, used groomer, which has the luxury-like feeling of a new Cadillac, Dowdle is more than pleased to add it to the fleet.
"You bet, it's a really nice machine," he said.
The Snowmobile Trail Grooming Committee of the West Yellowstone Chamber of Commerce and National Forest Service staffers meet with groomers on a monthly basis to go over the trail systems and discuss finances. Funding for the snowmobile trail grooming is sourced through several grant programs.
Those funds also offer winter employment opportunities in West Yellowstone. This year the grooming staff is composed of seven drivers, including Dowdle and two full-time positions.
Letters are also sent out to local businesses on an annual basis requesting "Fair Share" donations to both the snowmobile and cross-country skiing trail grooming funds, according to West Yellowstone Chamber of Commerce director Marysue Costello.
"We get funding from a number of sources," she said.
The equal distribution of funds from donations help the grooming processes continue in West Yellowstone
"We receive funding from Fair Share, the State snowmobile trail grooming program and from Recreation Trails Program," Costello said.
The Montana Snowmobile Program is administered by Montana State Parks. The program's funding sources include snowmobile registration fees, gasoline taxes, dealer registration fees and nonresident permit fees.
According to Montana State Parks information, in addition to major equipment purchases, the division administers the snowmobile grant program. Grants from this program finance the grooming of almost 4,000 miles of winter trails in Montana. Snowmobile grants are distributed to 27 clubs through a peer-reviewed grant application process based on historic funding levels and other factors.
Montana Snowmobile Program relies on its Snowmobile Advisory Committee to advise the agency on distribution of program funds and all matters related to snowmobiling. Montana Snowmobile Program also enjoys a close working relationship with the Montana Snowmobile Association, an organization of individuals, local snowmobile clubs and businesses interested in promoting snowmobiling.