Wisconsin’s winter is in full swing on the snowmobile trails, making it prime time to introduce a friend or two to this family-friendly outdoor activity.
Feb. 8 - 17 is Take a Friend Snowmobiling Week, sponsored by the International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association and supported by snowmobile clubs nationwide.
The Department of Natural Resources urges all snowmobile enthusiasts to share Wisconsin’s trails with someone who has never experienced the outdoor fun.
“Wisconsin has some of the nation’s best snowmobile trails in the country, thanks to the landowners who open their property and the volunteers who sign and groom many of the nearly 25,000 miles that can be open if conditions allow,” said DNR Conservation Warden Martin Stone, administrator for the DNR’s Off-Highway Vehicle program. “And, safety is part of that fun. Wardens and partner law enforcement recreational patrols are on those trails, working to keep the trails safe and fun for all to enjoy.”
Sober, Safe Speed, Helmets and Ice Conditions
An important goal for wardens is to help everyone have fun and make lifelong memories.
“Safe snowmobiling means you must operate within your specific capabilities, operating at safe following distances when riding with others and utilize appropriate speeds for the terrain, and of course whether it is daylight or night riding conditions,” Stone said. “Practice ‘Zero Alcohol’ which is a personal choice to refrain from drinking any alcoholic beverages until you are done operating any motorized vehicle for the day or night and are back at your cabin, hotel or home.”
Snowmobiling while impaired can have devastating consequences for you and others. Always wear a helmet, adequate clothing, and stay within designated riding areas.
The constant factor for any outdoor winter activity in Wisconsin is ice. Winter’s fluctuating temperatures, snowfalls and snowmelts have made for often-changing terrain and mixed conditions on snowmobile trails.
“As you think about where you want to ride, please make sure you take the time to check in with the area’s fishing clubs, snowmobile clubs or outfitters on the ice conditions. The DNR does not monitor those conditions, but those local experts will know,” Stone said.
Here are more easy-to-follow snowmobile safety tips:
In all likelihood, the ice looks thicker – and safer – than it is.
The best advice to follow is no matter what the month, consider all ice unpredictable.
There can be cracks and changes in the thickness you may not be able to see. This is especially true after the first cold nights, and the early ice is spotted.
Always remember that ice is never completely safe under any conditions.
Go with a friend. It is safer and more fun.
Carry a cellphone and let people know where you are going and when you will return home.
Wear proper clothing and equipment, including a life jacket or a float coat to help you stay afloat and to help slow body heat loss.
Carry a couple of spikes and a length of light rope in an easily accessible pocket to help pull yourself - or others - out of the ice.
Do not travel in unfamiliar areas - or at night.
Know if the lake has inlets, outlets or narrows that have currents, which can thin the ice.
Take extra mittens or gloves, so you always have a dry pair.
The DNR wants you to be safe enjoying the outdoors. Common sense is the greatest ally in preventing ice-related accidents.
And remember, snowmobile safety education is required in Wisconsin. All riders at least age 12 and born on or after Jan. 1, 1985 are required to complete a course before they can legally operate. Riders age 16 and older may complete the course over the internet. Riders younger than that must complete the course in a classroom setting.