You may not see any snow when you look out the window right now, but winter is here and now is the time to think about all of the outdoor activities it brings. One of the best ways to experience New York State’s natural winter beauty is on a snowmobile, exploring the snowmobile trail system that crisscrosses 45 counties through woods, fields, towns and our State Parks. Snowmobiling is a fun, family-friendly way to enjoy winter scenery and wildlife, especially for those people with disabilities who are unable to do strenuous activities like cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
With over 10,000 miles of public trails, there’s something for everyone to enjoy from local loops to weekend getaways. Many of our parks have trails connecting to the statewide trail system. And some parks, like Allegany State Park, have not only over 60 miles of groomed trails but also winterized cabins that are open year-round for a warm winter weekend retreat.
The New York State Parks Snowmobile Unit has a few tips to make sure you return from your trips safely and are ready to ride again another day:
-Attend a New York State Snowmobile Safety Course. Adults are not required to take a course but it’s recommended that everyone take one, regardless of experience or age. Requirements and a list of upcoming courses are available here.
-Always ride with a buddy, and always leave a travel plan including a return time with someone at home.
-Never drink and ride. Alcohol effects reaction time and judgement.
-Wear a helmet any time you’re operating a snowmobile, no matter how short the trip.
-Ride as conditions allow and within your ability. Slow down at night and when weather such as falling snow reduces sight distance. Check local conditions before crossing frozen bodies of water to ensure the ice is thick enough to ride. Always obey posted speed limits and local regulations.
-The safest place to ride is on the trail. New York State snowmobile trails are maintained by dedicated club volunteers, and deep or drifting snow off the trail may hide dangerous hazards. In addition, the majority of trails are actually located on private property with the permission of the property owner, and trespassing can close trails permanently for everyone.
If you’re new to the sport, or have never been on a snowmobile before, the New York State Snowmobile Association is teaming up with New York State Parks to offer Take a Friend Snowmobiling events where you can learn more and take a free snowmobile ride, conditions permitting. An event is scheduled at Grafton Lakes State Park during the annual Winter Fest on January 28, 2017. Necessary equipment will be provided; participants are urged to dress appropriately for outdoor weather conditions. More Take a Friend Snowmobile events can be found at the Snowmobile Association website.
Post by Bennett Campbell, State Parks