The snow has started to fall which can only mean one thing: snowmobiling season is upon us. Snowmobiling can be a wonderful time to spend with family and friends creating memories deep in the Black Hills of South Dakota, but there are a few safety items to keep in mind when taking to the trails. Take a look at these few snowmobiling safety tips to ensure you have an enjoyable and safe snowmobiling trip with your family and friends.
Don’t drink and ride. Alcohol will greatly impair your ability to operate a snowmobile, so it is important to not have any alcohol prior to taking to the trail or while on the trail.
Slow down. The Black Hills are a beautiful place to go snowmobiling, so take your time and enjoy the scenery. Trails can be unpredictable at times so it is important to slow down and allow for space and time to react to changing conditions.
Avoid traveling across bodies of water. The weather in South Dakota can be unpredictable, so while a body of water looks like it may be frozen solid, chances are it could have been melting and won’t hold the weight of you and your snowmobile. Find a way to go around.
Stay on marked trails. The Black Hills terrain is unpredictable and changes drastically in some areas. Trails are marked specifically to ensure that you have a good time, get to see the best scenery, and are as safe as possible, so trust them and stay on them. Watch out for tree stumps, fences, and other barriers that may be covered in snow.
Never travel alone. There is power in numbers. If something happens, it is important to have someone with you to help in case you get injured. If you have to travel alone, tell someone your destination, planned route, and your timeline for return, as well as a phone number to call in case you are out of cell range.
Dress appropriately. It is important to be prepared for all weather conditions in the Black Hills, as the weather can change within an afternoon. Always wear a DOT approved helmet and facemask. Wear layers of clothes to help keep you dry and warm, such as snowmobile suits, bibs, jackets, boots, and waterproof gloves to help cut the wind.
Follow guidelines set forth by Mad Mountain. It is important to follow the guidelines set in place by Mad Mountain representatives. If they say not to go over a certain speed, don’t go over that speed, etc.
Keep your headlights on. Your headlights aren’t always to help you see, but to help others see you. Especially when there are a lot of people on the trail, it’s important for people to see you coming to avoid a crash, especially around turns.
Things to Remember:
Operating Under the Influence: In South Dakota, snowmobiles are classified as motor vehicles. Therefore the operator of a snowmobile who is under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or otherwise, may be prosecuted under the same provisions of the state's DUI laws. The legal limit in the State of South Dakota is 0.08 percent.
Plowed Roads: No person may operate a snowmobile on a roadway that has been plowed or where snow removal has taken place. Except to cross the road only after stopping and yielding to any oncoming traffic, or, when operating in a road ditch is not possible, to the extreme right-hand side of the road until such time as the operator can against use a road ditch or an unplowed area.
Speeding and Reckless Operation: No person may operate a snowmobile at a speed that is greater that is reasonable and prudent under the circumstances, or in a reckless way so as to endanger the person or property of another.
Wildlife: No person may, while operating a snowmobile, chase, harass, kill or attempt to kill any game animal or game bird. When encountering elk, deer or other wildlife, please stay on your snowmobile and keep moving. Limited contact reduces the impact on wild animals during the critical winter season when food supplies are at the lowest and animals are the most vulnerable to stress.
Accidents: The operator of a snowmobile involved in an accident on public lands, frozen public waters or any private lands leased for public snowmobile use which results in damage to a snowmobile or another property in excess of $1,000 or results in death or injury requiring medical attention to any person must immediately report the accident to a law enforcement officer. If the snowmobile operator is physically incapable of filing a report, then someone acting for him/her must file. Failure to report such an accident is a Class 2 misdemeanor.
Trail conditions are available online at gfp.sd.gov/snowmobiling and via the mobile app: SDGFP Outdoors. Trail conditions are also posted to Twitter accounts dedicated to both the Black Hills (@SDsnowBHills) and East River Trails (@SDsnowEast).
All Above Information was published in the 2019-2020 South Dakota Snowmobile Map, by the State of South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks