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By Mike Farmer, Executive Director
Town of Webb Visitor Information Center
Old Forge has been known as the “Snowmobile Capital of the East” since the late 1960s. The village is the largest of seven hamlets in the Town of Webb, New York’s largest township. The Webb Snowmobile Trail System covers about 500 square miles, and adjoins neighboring Inlet, connecting with NY State trails in every direction. It hosts about 12,000 snowmobilers annually on its paid-permit trail network. Access to the North opens to Raquette Lake and Long Lake, in the heart of the Adirondacks. To the East, Inlet provides the gateway to the Moose River Plains. To the West are trails leading from Stillwater to the Tug Hill Plateau, and to the South are the rambling trails of Oneida County. Locally, the riding is a little more technical and a lot more scenic.
The Webb Trail System meanders through forests and pine groves along ponds and rivers, and climbs over small mountains with panoramic vistas. Like the communities, it’s great for families nurturing the next generation of snowmobilers. (continued... )
While not part of the trail system, the frozen expanses of the Fulton Chain of Lakes, as well as Big Moose Lake and vast Stillwater Reservoir provide wide open cruising.
Snuggling in forests blanketed with snow, Old Forge grew its tourism infrastructure with the industry. The area’s reputation and popularity spread throughout Webb’s hamlets of Thendara, Eagle Bay, Big Moose, Stillwater and Beaver River, each with its own unique character and features. The Town acquired the land, created the trail system, and established what Video Mike Grant of Snowtrails TV called “Snowmobile Central”. The Town now owns the land and maintains the trails, and ensures snowmobile access to the area’s 100 lodging facilities, campgrounds, and restaurants.
History: Old Forge, nestled in the mountains at the foot of the Fulton Chain of Lakes, is the capital of the Central Adirondacks. Sportsmen flocked to the area in the late 1800s, when outdoor winter activity carried with it the objective of keeping the blood flowing to stay alive. In the 1930s skiing, ski jumping and tobogganing injected the fun factor into winter activities. The Old Forge Winter Sports Association was formed, and when ski trains pulled into Thendara station with 1,200 enthusiasts onboard, the die was cast. In true customer service fashion, area residents drove family vehicles to the station, greeted the visitors, and drove their new acquaintances to Old Forge slopes.
Old Forge seized the snowmobile industry early on, and sledding visionaries foresaw an organized trail system spreading over the town’s 500 square miles. When recreational snowmobiling was in its infancy, dealerships grew in Old Forge as the community embraced the new sport. Today, Don’s Polaris continues as one of the oldest Polaris dealerships in the Northeast, and Smith Marine is the top Ski-Doo dealership east of the Mississippi. Arctic Cat and Yamaha loyalists flock to Big Moose Yamaha in Eagle Bay. In the 1960s and ‘70s, the manufacturers gathered in Old Forge for the first snowmobile festivals, and SNODEO was born. It’s still going strong every December as a season opener, and it’s been joined by SNOFEST in March, when the big four manufacturers provide a rare “Sneak Peek” rollout of the next season’s sleds. The most popular feature at SNODEO is the 120cc youth races. The kids love it, the parents love it, in fact everyone loves it because it showcases the next generation... the future of the industry. There are now ex-SNODEO racers cheering on their grandchildren around the snowy oval.
Free parking for snowmobile trailers in Old Forge is provided by the Town of Webb at the George T. Hiltebrant Recreation Park at 225 North Street. The large, enclosed pavilion at the park is the site of SNODEO and SNOFEST, and sits at the main entry point of the Trail System. Most of the area’s lodging facilities provide on-site snowmobile and trailer parking for their guests. Town roads in Old Forge are open to snowmobiles for access to the trail system.
Club Info: The local snowmobile club for the Old Forge area is the Inlet Barnstormers. The club, one of the largest in New York, provides grooming on the Inlet portion of the permitted Webb-Inlet trail system, and also services outlying connecting trails and NYS trails. The Barnstormers have been an integral part of building the reputation of excellence for which the Webb-Inlet Trail System is renowned.
In winter the Town of Webb Trails Department employs 20 professional groomers who operate five Piston Bully machines. The crews are out on two shifts per day, seven days each week when the temperatures and conditions allow. All main trails are groomed at least once each day. Those efforts result in the best riding conditions available whatever snowfall nature provides. Daily professional trail preparation ensures heavy snowfalls are packed into solid riding surfaces quickly, and extends the riding season through lean periods.
Three generations of avid snowmobiling families have made Old Forge their winter recreational home. The industry has formed the basis of the area’s winter economy, and local businesses have flourished and grown to meet snowmobilers’ needs. That is what gives birth to the impression of “Snowmobile Central,” where everything in winter is dedicated to snowmobiling. Other Adirondack communities get slow and sleepy in winter; the Old Forge area comes to life as the temperature drops and snow builds up. Only a tiny portion of the business community hibernates (ice cream shops, golf shops, etc.). Everything else amps up for snowy family fun.
Due to the popularity of the community and trails among families, activities such as the Old Forge-Inlet Fun Run have been created to celebrate the youth involvement.
Visiting snowmobilers are pleased to see the snowmobile culture entrenched and thriving throughout the area, and that’s because the local residents are snowmobilers, too. The guys driving the groomers are out riding the trails whenever they aren’t working. Great numbers of snowmobilers have visited Old Forge, then purchased vacation homes here.
The snowmobile culture continues to grow in Old Forge, Eagle Bay, Big Moose, and beyond. Every year more snowmobilers visit Old Forge to ride and enjoy their sport with other like-minded families. It’s special riding, with special people, in a special place: “Snowmobile Central”: Old Forge, Snowmobiling Capital of the East.
LEARN HOW-TO find club trails, trail ID’s, trail conditions, webcams, parking, club houses, businesses (where to stop), snowfall, intersections, PLAN routes, SAVE routes (to your own private account, or to make public), PRINT ROUTES, import routes to your free no-reception-needed “Snowmobiling NY” trail app on your smartphone, and more! How-To Videos also available.