Snowmobiling in the Northwoods
Snowmobiling has been one of the top outdoor sports in Wisconsin's Northwoods for quite some time. From its humble beginnings in the 70s, with nothing more than a rare trail with a bunch of ditch riding, snowmobiling has grown and matured. Today, this sport is organized by many local snowmobile clubs caring for hundreds of miles of marked and groomed trails.
Snowmobiling can be enjoyed by almost anyone - families or individuals. If you're below age 18 you are required to be safety certified, but a safety course is highly recommended for anyone. In the 25 or so years I've been riding these trails I've seen just about every age group - from senior citizens, to toddlers being pulled in an enclosed buggy behind Mom or Dad's snowmobile.
Trail Etiquette And Safety
You will be crossing a variety of types of trails - forests, roads, frozen lakes. Never cross a lake until it has been marked to do so. Our trails must be treated with the utmost amount of respect. Many miles are on private property, which is a precious privilege granted by a private land owner. Every year we lose private land trails because too many riders have no respect and they leave the trail. Every year it seems like there's more and more riders with no respect, so we lose more and more trails. I hope this trend doesn't continue, because we will end up with only public land trails, making it extremely difficult to find routes.
While riding our trails, please have respect for other riders and STAY on the marked trail. You are not the only one out there. Just like driving on the road - this isn't England, stay on the right-hand side, especially in blind corners. Always assume there will be another rider coming at you on your side of the trail. Be prepared for evasive action.
Racing is for the track. If you think you are Tucker Hibbert or Blair Morgan, then prove it at the track. Keep it off the trail - there are NO trophies waiting for you at the end - you don't want to end up in a hospital bed or a body bag. And for heaven's sake, you don't want to take an innocent person with you!
Snowmobile Safety Checklist
- Know the laws. You can get a book on these from any Department of Natural Resources office. Please click on the following link for information in Wisconsin: http://www.dnr.state.wi.us/
- Know your machine. If you bought it from a dealer, they should have gone over the controls with you. If they didn't, go back and ask. Know what your machine is capable of - and what it is NOT capable of. Read your handbook or owners manual. No, you are not a sissy if you do.
- Know the area you are riding. Stay on the marked trails. This is vitally important on lakes and private land. If you leave the trail on a lake, you could find open water or thin ice and drown. If you leave the trail on private land, the trail could be closed to everyone.
- Dress for the weather that could be coming. More than once, we left for the day in 30-degree temps, but came home in below-zero temps. Be prepared.
- Remember that you're not the only one on the trail. Stay to your right at all times. Expect the unexpected. When entering a corner, assume there is another rider coming at you. Be prepared to take evasive action.
- When riding in groups, please be sure to use hand signals (no, not single-finger signals!) and alert the rider behind you of upcoming traffic, hazards, or stop signs. Make sure the rider behind you STAYS behind you. If you don't see them - stop in a safe place and wait. A good leader always makes sure his group is all there, especially at intersections and stop signs. If there's a group behind you that insists on going faster, or they think they are in the
"I-500", pull over and let them by. If you don't, they will probably try to pass anyway.
- Never ride alone. Always ride with a buddy or group.
This list is by no means complete, but it's a good start.
Written by George