Snowmobilers: DNR conservation warden offers safety tips for every ride

MADISON — A rollercoaster of seasonal temperatures and changing snow levels have launched Wisconsin’s early snowmobile season, prompting Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Snowmobile Administrator/Warden Gary Eddy to urge operators to review important safety tips to prepare for safe and fun rides.

“Snowmobilers really need to be careful because conditions for safe, early season snowmobile riding are just developing,” Eddy said. “Riding conditions can become less than perfect at any time of the season, but you can almost always count on them being a bit tricky early in the season. Corners become icy, rough terrain and rocks may be exposed, road routes may be bare and ice conditions can be inconsistent.”

Many northern counties have opened some or all of their snowmobile trails and snowmobile enthusiasts have been able to take advantage of some early season riding. However, Eddy adds, many trails are in need of new snow to freshen conditions.

Here are Eddy’s top tips for a safe and fun ride:

  • Review the Wisconsin Snowmobile Regulation pamphlet at dnr.wi.gov, keyword snowmobile — and make sure you have a valid trail pass and registration.
  • Use of hand signals is voluntary, not mandatory. If you are inexperienced or uncomfortable giving a hand signal…don’t! Focus on staying in control and to the right.
  • Check trail conditions on Travel Wisconsin’s Snow Report webpage or with local snowmobile clubs; ice conditions with local bait shops, clubs or sheriffs’ departments.
  • Use a safe and responsible speed based on the conditions; experience, visibility, trail conditions and volume of riders
  • Snowmobiling on frozen waters demands extreme caution for unique hazards – including open water areas and weak ice. Lack of adequate snow on the ice affects steering, braking and overall control. Carry or wear a life vest, always ride with a companion and refrain from riding at night. Ask local fishing clubs and bait shops about waterways ice covers.
  • All operators at least age 12 and those also born on or after January 1, 1985 are required to possess a valid, snowmobile safety education certificate to legally operate solo. Certificates issued by other states/provinces are honored. Learn more by visiting the dnr.wi.gov and searching keyword snowmobile safety.
  • Stay on marked trails and routes. Snowmobile clubs work hard to secure permission for trails on private property. Cutting corners or going off trail, upsets landowners and closes trails. Don’t ruin the experience for others.
  • Practice “Zero Alcohol” which is a personal choice to not consume any alcohol while snowmobiling. Riders wait until they are done riding before consuming any alcohol.
  • Stay to the right hand side of the trail, especially on hills and corners. Taking the middle of the trail on hills or corners is highly unsafe, irresponsible and illegal.

For more safety tips, information on safety classes or to view a copy of the snowmobile regulations, visit dnr.wi.gov and search keyword “snowmobile.”