At the start of snowmobiling season, New York State has urged riders to keep safety in mind, both when operating and during any breaks with fellow riders.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, snowmobile safety courses continue to be offered. Successful completion of this course results in the issuance of a NYS Snowmobile Safety Certificate.
This certificate is required for youth between ages 10 and 18 to operate a snowmobile, but all riders can benefit from taking a course that provides fundamental information which all should possess to ensure the safety of both rider and other trail users.
State Park Police, State Troopers, Environmental Conservation Police Officers, Forest Rangers and local enforcement agencies enforce State Laws on snowmobile trails, including instances of unsafe or reckless operation, speed limits including the state’s maximum speed of 55 MPH, and operating while intoxicated.
Those rules apply on all local and club trails, as well as the 10,500-mile Statewide Trail System, which traverses 45 counties and includes lands under the jurisdiction of state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), New York State Canal Corporation, local governments, and many private landowners.
State Parks is anticipating an increase in snowmobile trail use this season. Outdoor recreational equipment sales have increased during the pandemic, snowmobile registrations in New York are running ahead of last year’s figures and the current closure of the U.S.-Canadian border will prevent New Yorkers from going to that country for snowmobiling.
“We want to remind snowmobilers, especially those that may be new to the sport, of safe operating practices, and that reckless operation, speeding and operating while impaired or intoxicated present significant and serious risks to all trail users, and rules will be strictly enforced by law enforcement” said State Park Police Chief Mark Van Wie.
“While outside riding is a safe activity during this pandemic, COVID-19 safety protocols should be followed at trailheads and during breaks This would include maintaining a safe social distance of at least six feet and the wearing of face masks. Also, snowmobilers should not be sharing gear or other items,” he added.
State Police Acting Superintendent Kevin P. Bruen said, “We encourage snowmobile enthusiasts to take advantage of the beautiful trails in our great state, but we want to make certain the first priority is safety.
“Remember, there is no excuse for operating any motorized vehicle or device while impaired, whether it be a vehicle, snowmobile, boat or ATV.
“By making responsible and safe choices, New Yorkers can do their part to keep our trails safe and enjoyable for all.”
DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said, “Year after year, snowmobiling continues to be one of New York State’s most popular winter activities and we encourage outdoor enthusiasts to check out the abundant trails available close to home.
“In addition to the usual precautions for riding safely and following the rules, I join State Parks in reminding all people to wear masks, socially distance, and observe the other important guidelines to stop the spread of COVID-19.”
The New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) reminds New Yorkers to register their snowmobiles before hitting the trails. Snowmobile registrations must be renewed annually and may be renewed online on the DMV website.
“This is perfect weather to enjoy snowmobiling in New York and I urge riders to ride responsibly,” said DMV Commissioner Mark J.F. Schroeder.
“We remind New Yorkers that they are legally required to wear a helmet and to never operate a snowmobile while impaired. Be safe and enjoy the ride.”
Under COVID-19 guidance provided by the state Health Department, individuals must wear face coverings when they are in a public and are within six feet of distance from other individuals; in a situation or setting where they are unable to maintain six feet of distance from other individuals; or in a public or private transportation carrier or for-hire vehicle.
Snowmobile safety courses remain available, with limited class size under state Health Department safety guidance.
A listing of available classes can be found online.
Recommendations for safe riding include:
- Prior to starting your ride, check over the snowmobile to make sure it is in good working order and carry emergency supplies.
- Always wear a DOT- or SNELL-approved 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 and within your abilities.
- Always ride to the right side of the trail especially at hill crests and curves.
- Operate at a speed which is safe and prudent for the given conditions.
- 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. Consider wearing 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.