Follow designated trails and avoid frozen bodies of water
The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (State Parks) are reminding snowmobilers to ride responsibly and put safety first as they enjoy the state’s abundant snowmobiling opportunities.
“With recent tragedies in mind, DEC is encouraging snowmobilers to follow common sense safety recommendations. In addition to wearing a helmet, snowmobilers are encouraged to stick to designated trails,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “Given the warmer temperatures we’ve had this winter, lakes and ponds that appear to be frozen over may be deceiving. Venturing out on ice that is not thick enough can lead to tragedy and we want to ensure that snowmobilers have an enjoyable time while also taking proper precautions to stay safe.”
Four inches of ice is usually safe for accessing ice on foot. Double that thickness for traveling on white ice. Ice thickness can vary on every body of water or even within the same body of water. The presence of snowmobile tracks or footprints on the ice should not be considered evidence of safe ice conditions. Individuals are strongly encouraged to check ice conditions and avoid situations that appear to present even a remote risk. Testing the thickness of ice can be done with an auger or ice spud at various spots.
State Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey said, “With 10,500 miles of state-designated snowmobile trails, New York is a premier destination for snowmobiling. We want everyone to enjoy our trail system, but encourage them to know the safety regulations and follow them to help ensure riders and their families have a great time.”
Everyone operating a snowmobile should be familiar with safe riding practices and all applicable laws, rules, and regulations. The best way to learn is by taking a snowmobile safety course. To find a course, go to NYS Parks Snowmobile Education (leaves DEC’s website) web page. A safety certificate is required for youth between ages 10 and 18.
Before heading out, riders are reminded to check trail conditions with local snowmobile clubs. To find a club, visit the New York State Snowmobile Association (leaves DEC’s website) website.
Top safety recommendations include:
- Check over the snowmobile to make sure it is in good working order and carry emergency supplies.
- Always wear a helmet and make sure to wear the proper snowmobile gear including bibs, jackets, boots, and gloves.
- Always ride with a buddy or at least one other person.
- Ride responsibly. Ride within your ability, ride to the right, and operate at a safe and prudent speed at all times. Respect landowners, obey posted signs, and stay on the marked trail.
- Frozen bodies of water are not designated trails. If planning to ride on ice, proceed with caution and be aware of potential hazards under the snow. Wear a snowmobile suit with flotation built-in and carry a set of ice picks as a precaution.
- Never drink alcohol or use drugs and ride.
The Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP) oversees the development, maintenance and oversight of a statewide snowmobile program, which features approximately 10,500 miles of state-designated snowmobile trails. For more information on snowmobiling in New York, visit the NYS Parks Snowmobiles (leaves DEC’s website) web page.