Snowmobile Safety Week: 12 Tips to Keep You on the Trails

Do you love snowmobiling? Then this is your week.

January 20-27, 2024 is International Snowmobile Safety Week. Across the world, snowmobile organizations and operators will be promoting events that help keep everyone safe on the trails.

Snowmobiling is a popular sport in New Hampshire. There are more than 41,000 registered snowmobiles and over 7,000 miles of trails to enjoy in our state. Only four states (Wisconsin, Minnesota, Maine, and Idaho) can claim more miles of trail.

With so many riders, safety is paramount. International Snowmobile Safety Week was created in 1993 to help people learn about safe snowmobiling practices and how safe riding can help to prevent accidents.

Here are 12 tips to help keep you prepared and safe.

12 Tips for Snowmobile Safety

1. Register your sled

A fun day of snowmobiling can come to an abrupt halt if a routine Game Warden check finds you with an unregistered snowmobile. State registration stickers can be purchased at any registration agent throughout the state or at Fish and Game Headquarters in Concord. The person purchasing the registration must be at least 18 years old and show a valid NH driver’s license or NH non-driver photo ID.

2. Know who can drive

There are age restrictions on snowmobile operators and what they are allowed to do in New Hampshire.

  • Any operator under the age of 14 must be accompanied by a licensed adult (18 years or older).
  • Any operator under the age of 12 cannot cross roads.
  • Any operator 12 years old or older must have an OHRV/Snowmobile Safety Education Certificate or a valid driver’s license, even if just on private property.
  • Any operator 12 years old or older who has an OHRV/Snowmobile Safety Education Certificate but not a driver’s license and is operating “along designated roads” must be accompanied by a licensed adult who is at least 25 years old.

You also cannot operate a snowmobile if your driver’s license has been suspended or revoked in any state or Canadian province. Having an OHRV/Snowmobile Safety Education Certificate still does not permit operating a sled while under driver’s license suspension.

3. Wear a helmet

New Hampshire laws state that “Any operator or passenger on a snowmobile under the age of 18 must wear a helmet and eye protection.” If you’re over 18, wearing a helmet is still a basic safety choice. Wear a helmet. It may save your life.

4. Don’t go alone

Getting stranded or lost on a trail by yourself can be not only frustrating but dangerous. Always go with a friend. New Hampshire has many snowmobile clubs that make group riding easy and fun.

5. Dress for the weather

Check the forecast and always wear proper clothing when riding. Especially focus on extremities that are prone to frostbite (fingers, toes, ears, and nose). It’s easier to take extra layers off than to put on layers that you failed to bring. If extreme weather conditions are in the forecast, save the riding for another day.

6. Bring emergency supplies

You never know when a mechanical failure or a medical emergency will arise on the trails. Carry a first aid kit, a survival kit, and a small tool kit for repairs. Make sure to include some spare spark plugs and keep everything in a waterproof bag. Bring along some non-perishable food and extra clothing as well.

7. Let someone know where you’re going

Communicating your plans with someone else lets them know when to expect your return. If an emergency delays your return, then help can be on the way much faster than if no one knew your plans.

8. Don’t speed

New Hampshire has a 45 mph speed limit on all trails where no limit is posted. Speed limits are there to keep you safe. If you can’t control your machine at the posted limit, slow down. Know your limitations and don’t exceed them. Always maintain control of your machine.

9. Watch out for ice

New Hampshire winters vary greatly, so ice conditions can be unpredictable. Always be aware of ice conditions before venturing out. Avoid areas with currents or natural springs. Also avoid objects sticking up out of the ice which can warm the area around them in the sunlight. Stay away from open water. While internet videos may make driving on open water look fun, “skimming” (driving quickly over open water) is illegal in New Hampshire.

10. Know the trails and stay on them

The New Hampshire Snowmobile Association (NHSA) works with local snowmobile clubs to maintain and groom the state’s trail system, working year round to keep the trails, bridges, and signage in good condition so that the trails can be enjoyed all winter long. Veering from these trails can cause damage to private land and damage to your sled. To avoid getting lost and keep the sport fun for everyone, stay on the marked trails and bring a map so you know where you are allowed.

11. NEVER consume alcohol

Alcohol slows your reactions, affects your judgment, and makes you more likely to take risks–three things that don’t mix well with snowmobiling. Operating a snowmobile under the influence of alcohol is illegal in New Hampshire and will constitute a DWI which will result in the loss of your driver’s license as well as your ability to operate a snowmobile. The use of marijuana is also included in the DWI laws.

12. Keep your eyes open

The unexpected can happen at any time. A trail washout, a moose in the path, or a cross-country skier on the side of the trail are all unexpected sights that you could stumble upon while out enjoying the trails. Maintain a reasonable speed, watch ahead and around corners, and never assume that the trail is clear up ahead. Nature is full of surprises. Don’t let them catch you unaware.

A Growing Recreational Sport

New Hampshire is a great state in which to be a snowmobiler, but it is important to always follow the safety tips when snowmobiling here or anywhere else. Celebrate safe snowmobiling during International Snowmobile Safety Week, but remember to practice what you’ve learned all season long.

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