14 | Snowmobile VERMONT TRAILS REPORT by Matt Tetreault, VAST Trails Administrator As I contemplate what to write about this month, the temperature outside is nearly 90 degrees and the air conditioner in the office is running full tilt. The fall leaves are brown and crispy, but not from crisp fall mornings we are used to near the end of September here in Vermont, but from the summer-like weather that is gracing us the last few weeks. We are all still thinking about golf, ice cream and activities on the lake like it’s the Fourth of July and not the fourth of October. Since my article is going to focus on a certain word, I am going to just say it. At some point, this month, next month or the month after the weather is going to CHANGE! “Nothing remains constant except change itself,” as the saying goes. Don’t worry, I’ve got more one- liners about change, so please, by all means, keep reading. We all undergo change in our lives sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. Sometimes we don’t really know if it is good or bad at the time, and we may not know the answer for some time. Positive thoughts can help to achieve great things and can ultimately help us cope with change. As James Belasco and Ralph Stayer noted, “Change is hard because people overestimate the value of what they have and underestimate the value of what they may gain by giving that up.”     Change is not only relating to the seasons right now but also a major factor in my personal life currently, which is part of the reason I am writing this. It helps me a little mentally, but also it applies to snowmobiling and VAST in general. Change is applicable on many levels at this point in time. Things have changed in the last 50 years with snowmobiling at VAST. We are trying to address and cope with some of these changes. This summer, the VAST board of directors got together and held a summer summit. It was a large discussion surrounding change and how we can keep VAST and snowmobiling thriving and moving forward in a changing society. The end product of VAST is great trails for our membership to enjoy each season. This involves thousands of volunteer hours. First, landowner permission is obtained to pass the trail through. Once that is completed, there is brush removal along the trails, trail construction projects involving trail tread improvements, drainage, bridge reconstruction and so on. Then comes the signing of the trails which continues throughout the winter as landowner requests and other needs arise. Our largest expense is grooming of the trails, which is ultimately what the riders notice the most. This expends nearly $1,700,000 of our $4,000,000 budget annually. Then comes the all-important piece that holds it all together: funding from the riders in the form of snowmobile registrations and TMAs. The majority of this revenue goes into trail maintenance, grooming and grooming equipment. If the costs of these increases, so do the TMA prices. How does VAST maintain the current number of trails at the same level with a stable or possibly even a shrinking income source? It is the million dollar question. What needs to happen is change. Even though this is the 70s edition of the magazine, it is not the 70s anymore. There is a much higher level of expectation from our membership now than there was in the 70s. Instead of a 50-mile trip riders are expecting over 300 miles in a day of riding, with the expectation they will find beautifully maintained trails the entire distance. This is a user paid form of recreation and unfortunately, some of the users are finding other, less expensive activities. They are changing and shifting their resources and, as a result, VAST must be smart and diversify or change to meet current needs and demands. At the summer board summit, significant changes in our programs were discussed along with many less minor ones as well. A few small changes can go a long way in what we are trying to accomplish. One of the big changes is growing the membership a bit. If there are more trail users, the financial burden is spread out further, making it cheaper for everyone to snowmobile. However, this is only good to a certain tipping point. Whatever that magical number is, once we jump over it, there is even more trail maintenance to be done and the costs start creeping up again. It is somewhat simple economics, which I will not get into. VAST is hitting the powersports shows hard this year all over the northeast trying to attract new riders to our beautiful state. We hope to see each