Snowmobile riders throughout the state would welcome a fresh round of snowfall, but despite less-than-ideal conditions in some areas, they're hitting lakes and trails with a fervor.
In advance of Snowmobile Safety Awareness Week - Jan. 19-27 - the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources reminds snowmobilers of the importance of safe and responsible riding.
Minnesota has more than 22,000 miles of groomed snowmobile trails, about 21,000 of which are maintained by local snowmobile club volunteers. Add in the thousands of lakes on which people ride and there's no shortage of opportunity to experience Minnesota atop a sled.
Every year, however, multiple riders are killed or injured while riding a snowmobile.
"Snowmobiling is fun and exciting - and is a great source of physical activity - but every time they fire up the engine snowmobilers should make safety their priority," said Bruce Lawrence, recreational vehicle coordinator for DNR's Enforcement Division. "By keeping a clear head and using common sense, snowmobile riders can go a long way toward ensuring a safe ride."
Here are some key safety points to keep in mind:
• Don't drink and ride - alcohol and snowmobiling are a bad combination.
• Wear a helmet and proper clothing.
• Drive slower at night and be prepared for the unexpected.
• Check local trail and ice conditions.
• Cross with care.
• Avoid riding alone.
• Ride safe, stay on the trail and respect private property.
• Smart riders are safe riders - take a snowmobile safety training course.
To legally operate a snowmobile in Minnesota, residents born after Dec. 31, 1976 must have a valid snowmobile safety certificate. Options for classroom and online safety courses can be found at mndnr.gov/safety/vehicle/snowmobile/index.html. For additional safety tips, see mndnr.gov/snowmobiling/safety.html.