According to the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, snowmobile riders heading out on the trail should have a plan and be prepared for the onset of challenging winter conditions at a moment's notice. FILE PHOTO

According to the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, snowmobile riders heading out on the trail should have a plan and be prepared for the onset of challenging winter conditions at a moment’s notice. FILE PHOTO

YORK COUNTY — With thousands of miles of trails to ride and explore, Maine is well-known as one of the premier destinations for snowmobiling and many scenic trails around York County are among the best in the entire state.

But as the snowmobile season kicks into full gear, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is reminding enthusiasts that more than 95 percent of Maine’s 14,000 miles of trails are on private property.

Some private landowners have granted permission to snowmobile clubs to establish trails on their property, but department officials suggest trails will only remain open by using equipment safely, staying on marked trails and always following established snowmobile laws, such as registering the vehicle. 

Guidelines issued by the department recommend that when crossing railroad tracks, users should be careful not to spin snow onto the tracks. Over time this snow builds up creating a ramping effect that has caused train derailments in Maine.

Other suggestions include riding to the right on trails, stopping at all railroad crossings, not altering a snowmobile’s factory exhaust and riding at a reasonable and safe speed and within an operator’s experience and ability.

The department also encourages riders to stay alert and be on the lookout for obstructions or wildlife on trails and carrying a map and staying on marked trails.

It asks snowmobile riders to exercise extreme caution when crossing waterbodies and to never use alcohol or drugs while operating a vehicle. 

Riders heading out on the trail should have a plan and be prepared for the onset of challenging winter conditions at a moment’s notice.

Department officials also recommend that riders share their plan for the day with friends and family to include where they expect to travel and when they plan to return.

Snowmobilers should bring a small pack to include essential items such as food and water, a means to make fire, extra socks, any needed medications, a map and compass and a GPS or cell phone.

As far as safety goes, everyone under the age of 18 must wear a helmet while operating or riding on a snowmobile on a trail funded under the Snowmobile Trail Grant program.

Children must be 10 years of age or older to operate a snowmobile on land other than that owned by their parent or guardian, unless they are accompanied by an adult. A child must be 14 before crossing a public way while operating a snowmobile.

Under Maine law, if a person under 18 has a snowmobile accident, the owner of the sled, the person who furnishes the sled and the parent or guardian responsible for the minor are jointly liable with the minor for damages caused in the operation of that sled. 

According to the Maine Snowmobile Association, ridership in Maine continues to grow.

A report issued by the association this fall said snowmobile registrations through August in the state were 85,035, which is a 44 percent increase from the 2015-2016 season.

It was also the first time registrations exceeded 80,000 since the 2010-2011 season and was boosted by a 60 percent increase in out-of-state registrations.

Tha association says that the out-of-state hike was likely because of poor snow conditions in many areas of the Northeast in previous years, but many visitors took their first-ever trip to Maine as a result of that and based on their experience decided to return.

— Executive Editor Ed Pierce can be reached at 282-1535 ext. 326 or by email at [email protected] 


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