The snowmobile season officially kicks off Saturday thanks in large part to our recent snowfall. Trails opened at 8:00AM this morning and although there were a few people out, members of area snowmobiling clubs say trail conditions are not ideal just yet.
"They're rideable, but they're rough. Ya know? It's early season and you know you get the cushioning once you get more snow base," Doug Waehler of the New-Tom Fleas Snowmobiling Club told NewsChannel 7.
The New-Tom Fleas Snowmobiling Club is only one of ten in the area that work together at maintaing the trails.
Waehler says six inches of snow or more usually makes for the best base trails. He also warns against taking your snowmobile on the ice too early.
"Ice is never safe. Ya know? The trails will be marked across the ice after the local people go out and check it," Waehler warned.
If you're unfamiliar with an area, Waehler says the best thing to do is ask the locals if the ice is safe.
The DNR also offers snowmobile safety courses if you need to get certified to operate a snowmobile or just want to brush up on a few safety tips. Anyone born on or after January 1st, 1985 must have snowmobile safety certification to drive a snowmobile in public areas. Kids must be 12 years or older to enroll in the certification class.
"We feel that it's key to keeping the snowmobiling safe," Waehler said.
Leading the charge in Oneida County is Deputy Brad Fogerty of the Oneidia County Sheriff's Department.
"Three things that we stress a lot: safety, responsibility and ethics," Deputy Fogerty said about his classes.
One of the most important lessons students learn in the snowmobiling safety course is that riding a snowmobile is a privilege not a right. That's why it's important to act responsibly and show respect when driving on the trails.
Deputy Fogerty says it's also important to be familiar with current laws and regulations, especially when it comes to where you can drive you're snowmobile and at what speeds.
"Most of the causes of the crashes that we see are speed, alcohol, inexperience and unfamiliar terrain," Deputy Fogerty explained.
Despite Oneida County ranking number one in snowmobile accidents and deaths, Waehler says they have seen a decrease in the number of accidents involving kids and adults who have gone through the safety program.