Authorities Warn Snowmobilers to Take Safety Precautions

This holiday weekend is the unofficial start to the snowmobiling season in Maine, and several factors could make it a dangerous one.

Temperatures have struggled to stay in the single digits this week, and are expected to be subzero in parts of the state this weekend.

"Your odds for getting into trouble increase when the temperatures are that cold," said Corporal John MacDonald with the Maine Warden Service. He is advising riders to pack extra layers of warm clothing.

So far this winter, there has been one snowmobiling fatality in Maine. Last winter, there were nine fatalities. MacDonald said some of the leading causes of fatalities include excessive speed, falling through thin ice, and drinking while driving.

"People think they're out in the wilderness, they'll have a few pops before they head back on the trails," said MacDonald. "It's not a safe thing to do, and it certainly is against the law."

He said wardens will be prioritizing snowmobile safety this New Year's weekend. They're advising people to wear jackets that come with built in flotation, and pack ice picks, in case they fall through thin ice.

"It could save your life," he said.

In a typical winter, there are more than 85,000 snowmobilers registered statewide, according to the Maine Snowmobile Association's Executive Director Bob Meyers. He said roughly 20 percent are riders from out of state.

"Maine is regarded as the snowmobile destination in the northeast," said Meyers.

One concern is having enough volunteers to maintain the state's 14,000 miles of trails. With fewer people involved in local clubs, they are seeking help for trail upkeep.

"It's a huge winter industry and the infrastructure is based on volunteer labor," said Meyers. "If everybody pitched in and just did a little bit, that's all it would take."

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