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Wisconsin Snowmobiling & Key Tips To Stay Safe

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Wisconsin is the birthplace of snowmobiling and each year, more than 200,000 registered snowmobiles hit Wisconsin's 25,000 miles of groomed trails.  Snowmobiling is a great activity that can be enjoyed by the whole family, but it does come with its own set of inherent risks that should be considered;

  1. Extreme cold weather

  2. Vast wooded terrain that may change from one season to the next

  3. Snow covered objects

  4. Unpredictable ice thickness rivers, lakes and streams


When winter environmental factors are combined with excessive speed and alcohol the potential for serve injury or death increase dramatically.   In the 2012/2013 snowmobiling season, there were 142 accidents requiring medical attention and 20 fatalities according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR).  In over 70% of these accidents, alcohol was a contributing factor.  That’s a 10% increase over the previous snowmobile season.  

Consuming alcohol not only impairs one's judgment when it comes to speed and general safety, it can also further limit vision (most fatal accidents happen between 8PM – 3AM) and contribute to hypothermia.   So just like with a car, motorcycle or any other type of vehicle, don’t drink and drive.


When it comes to children, most fatal injuries are caused by them striking a solid object.   For this reason, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under 16 not be allowed to operate snowmobiles, and that all riders (drivers and passengers) be required to wear helmets.


Snowmobile safety training is highly recommended for all snowmobile operators, but is mandatory for some.  If you were born on or after Jan. 1, 1985, and are at least age 12, you must complete a snowmobile safety certification course to operate a snowmobile on Wisconsin public snowmobile trails and areas.


All snowmobiles operated in Wisconsin must be registered.  Residents of Wisconsin have two main options when registering their snowmobile:

 A $30 public registration allows you to operate your snowmobile on any area open to public riding and on private property with the appropriate permission and is valid for 2 years.

The free, private registration allows a private property owner to register a snowmobile for his/her use or an immediate family member’s use. However, the snowmobile can only be used on the owner’s/immediate family member’s private property or lands leased by the owner/ immediate family member. 


As with any vehicle, car, motorcycle, boat, etc, make sure that you have insurance on your snowmobile.   There are a number of policy options and not all Wisconsin agencies offer coverage.   Make sure that you talk to your agent and see what policies are best for your needs.  

At minimum, you should carry liability insurance for your snowmobile.  This will protect you if you should injure another individual or someone's property.   You can also look at comprehensive policies that also cover repair and loss for your vehicle.  


As with any sport, taking a few precautions and having the right gear can alleviate many injuries and accidents.  Here is a quick list to review when snowmobiling:

  1. Always check the weather conditions before you depart to make sure there are no oncoming storms or dangerously low temperatures approaching

  2. Wear appropriate gear including helmet and face shield or goggles; layers of clothing (water repellent); warm mitts or gloves; warm boots; windproof outer layer;

  3. Carry a safety kit containing a first aid kit, flashlight, matches, tool kit, and compass

  4. Stay in control by knowing and staying within your own abilities and the abilities of the vehicle

  5. Plan your route and tell someone else, including estimated time of arrival

  6. Don’t speed: Speed is a factor in most snowmobile accidents.

  7. No drinking: As with cars, alcohol impairs judgment and slows reaction time. Stay sober on the trail.

  8. Always keep your snowmobile in top mechanical condition and get it checked out regularly.

  9. Ride in a pack of friends and be aware of each person in the pack to avoid collisions with each other.

  10. Avoid crossing frozen bodies of water. As odd as it may sound, drowning is one of the top causes in fatal snowmobile accidents. If you have to cross, never operate in a single file when crossing frozen bodies of water.

  11. Always be alert to avoid fences, snow covered objects and low strung wires.

  12. Never operate on a street or highway and keep an eye out for depressions in the snow.

  13. Keep headlights and tail lights on at all times.

  14. When approaching an intersection, come to a complete stop, raise off your seat and look for traffic.

Whether your 7 or 70, with a little planning, snowmobiles are a great way to discover some of our state's natural beauty.   For a complete, update list of snowmobile regulations and information, visit the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resource's website by clicking HERE


Regardless of the cause of the accident, if you have been injured, it is important that you consult with an experienced accident lawyer as soon as possible. Many times the lawyer will be able to determine if there is liability and help you recover compensation for your injuries.