DNR urges snowmobile, ice safety amid winter storm this holiday weekend


Snowmobilers enjoy a morning riding right on a trail in Gogebic. / Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

It’s finally time to tune up the snowmobiles and break out the hand warmers, as Michigan is bracing for the impact of one of the largest winter storm systems of the so-far mild season.

Heavy snow, blizzard conditions and low visibility are expected to hinder travel to varying degrees across the state, according to the National Weather Service.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources urges all outdoor enthusiasts to use caution, especially when snowmobiling or venturing onto the ice.

“Unfortunately, with the unseasonable winter we’ve experienced this season, there are still marginal ice conditions throughout the state,” said Lt. Tom Wanless, DNR recreational safety, education and enforcement supervisor. “Accumulating snowfall often creates blankets of snow on top of bodies of water that are still freezing, which creates deceiving perceptions that the water is solid and safe to venture onto.”

If you plan to be on or near ice, the DNR reminds you to wear a life jacket and carry icepicks in an easy-to-reach spot, such as clipped onto your chest. You can test ice thickness and quality using a spud, needle bar or auger. If there’s ice on the lake but water around the shoreline, be extra cautious for potentially hazardous conditions.

The DNR’s Ride Right snowmobile safety campaign urges snowmobilers to ride sober, at a safe speed and on the right side of the trail or roadway. Group leaders should also “lead right” by riding at a comfortable pace that their most novice rider can safely maintain, stopping regularly to check on the group, using an experienced snowmobiler to ride last in the group and limiting the overall number of riders in the group.

“All snowmobilers should slow down when taking corners and make a complete stop at all intersections,” said Cpl. Mike Hearn, DNR snowmobile and off-road vehicle specialist. “This is often when collisions happen, because people take a turn too fast or tight and collide with another snowmobiler or object or leave the path. Just slow down.”

The DNR encourages all individuals to complete an approved snowmobile safety course. If you are interested in becoming a snowmobile safety instructor, learn more on the DNR website.

So far this winter, one snowmobile fatality has been reported.

Conservation officers throughout the state will be conducting advanced patrols over the holiday weekend to help ensure people are enjoying outdoor activities safely.

Additional winter recreation safety tips are available on the DNR’s website.

Visit Michigan.gov/Snowmobiling to buy a trail permit or find places to snowmobile.

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