Rhinelander & Tomahawk
- People from near and far take advantage of the Northwoods many snowmobile trails every winter.
However, a variety of factors including poor weather can lead to fatal incidents on those trails.
According to the DNR, the Northwoods saw eight deaths from snowmobile crashes in Forest, Oneida, Iron, Vilas and Langlade counties during the 2019 season.
This year, the Northwoods has also seen eight snowmobile deaths in Forest, Oneida, Vilas and Iron counties with another month of snowmobile season left.
"Unfortunately, you know fatalities do happen. We're always looking to keep our trails well marked with stop aheads and stop signs," said Northwoods Passage Snowmobile Club President Tim Calhoun.
Calhoun said some accidents actually happen off trail as well.
"Not all fatalities happen on the trail," said Calhoun. "The trails are well marked, groomed, and well taken care of, maintained very well in the state. Fatalities happen off trail also."
Oneida, Vilas and Forest County Chief Medical Examiner Crystal Schaub said alcohol has played a roll in some accidents, but it isn't the only problem.
"Basically what it comes to is a majority of our drivers have been unfamiliar with the territory and inexperienced with machine and/or the trail systems," said Schaub.
Nevertheless, Schaub said alcohol can make snowmobiling much more dangerous.
"If you're drinking, you're gonna slow down on your reaction time if you have to slam on your brakes. We get a little more gutsy when we have alcohol on board," said Schaub.
Calhoun and Schaub both said it all boils down to using your head.
"Use your head," said Schaub. "If you're out having some drinks. Do not drink and drive. Leave your sled there. Get on back with somebody else."
"Just make good decisions, and go out and have fun and be safe and enjoy what we got; and support our local economy because we are very fortunate to have snowmobiling here," said Calhoun.
Weather permitting, snowmobile season usually runs until early March.
People with questions about snowmobile laws and safety are encouraged to contact their local snowmobile clubs, the DNR, or local law enforcement agencies.
Written By: Devin Biggs