Fire up the sleds, but be safe

The snow has put some fresh powder on snowmobile trails in Northern Michigan, and people are starting to fire up their sleds for the first time.

The Department of Natural Resources wants you to think safety, especially after two riders were killed this last weekend.

"I told him it looked like a good day to go riding, so if he didn't have any problems, Iâ??d see him tomorrow," laughs Larry Hensley, who played â??hookyâ?? to go snowmobiling for the first time this year Tuesday.

It's opening day in another way. The snow has fallen, and the sleds are making treads.

"Even an experienced rider will forget how fast he's actually going until he comes into a corner, so yeah, you definitely want to take an easy when you first start riding," says Hensley.

But with a recreational sport that involves speed, ice, and snow without a whole lot of protection, Department of Natural Resources Conservation Officers want you to take an easy and take care of yourself.

"Speed, number one, operating on frozen surfaces or water, number two, there are a lot of other reasons for bad snowmobile accidents, but if you take speed and ice conditions out, it leaves a very narrow band," says Sgt. Michael Borkovich of the DNR.

Sergeant Borkovich says lay off the throttle, don't drink and drive, and pack for the worst case scenarios.

â??If you put a little thought into a survival gear, if you put a little thought into how, when, and where you operate, you're going to have a lot safer season," says Borkovich.

Include a survival blanket, matches, life jacket, a 100-foot rope, and even a pick of life to pull yourself out of the water if you drop in what right now is unsafe ice.

"They basically have a very, very heavy spring loaded front end, and these are worn around a snowmobiler's neck like this," explains Borkovich while holding the ice pick.

"The bumps are like this, we take them all down, we straighten them up, if there's an accident, we're equipped," says Jordan Valley Trail Council Vice President Dale DeClark.

New this year, snow mobile licenses cost $45, an extra $10 from last year. That money goes toward grooming safe routes.

"Just watch the speed, use hand signals, and keep an eye on the people behind you, whoever's in front, pay attention," says David Maison, a rider from Cleveland.

Because it's these simple steps and awareness that will keep you safe.

DNR Conservation Officers say that snowmobile safety may seem trivial, but every year, it's important reminder to both the beginner and advanced riders because it could save lives.

DNR officers say it's also important to obey signage listed on the trails and have an awareness to where you are riding.

If you blow through a stop sign, you're taking a risk that could kill you.

To read more snowmobile riding safety tips the DNR has to offer, CLICK HERE.

To see local Northern Michigan trail conditions, CLICK HERE.