With snow coming early this year a number of winter outdoor sport seasons are now open. One of the most popular in our region of New York is snowmobiling. Along with providing outdoor fun and excitement, snowmobiling also helps stimulate our state’s economy with many small businesses depending on a steady stream of sledding enthusiasts.
According to a study conducted by the New York State Snowmobile Association, snowmobiling generates $868 million in annual economic activity in New York – with much of that business taking place in the upstate region. This information showcases just how critical outdoor sportsmen are to hotels, gas stations, restaurants, and other tourism related businesses.
According to the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP), there are over 10,500 miles in the Statewide Snowmobile Trail System traversing 45 counties, maintained by over 200 clubs, and funded through 51 municipal sponsors.
It is important to keep in mind that the local clubs, in concert with the land owners, decide the date trails open. In many cases, clubs wait until the end of big game hunting season to officially open trails, so it is important that you check with your local club before hitting the trails.
The vast trail network is comprised of lands under the jurisdiction of OPRHP, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), NYS Canal Corporation, national forest land, local governments and many private landowners who have increasingly opened their property to snowmobiling with insurance coverage provided by the state snowmobile program.
The state snowmobile program was created by the legislature to fulfill several objectives:
Promote the proper and safe use and operation of snowmobiles;
Provide an adequate safety education program for young operators;
Encourage the sport of snowmobiling as a family activity;
Limit the operation of snowmobiles upon public highways and private property without the consent of the owner;
Protect and preserve the state's natural resources, including its wildlife, wild forests, waters and scenic and wilderness character;
Reduce the effect on the environment of excess noise;
Insure privacy of remote areas;
Afford opportunity for compatible enjoyment of various recreational activities on the state's lands and open spaces.
New York is a leader in snowmobile education and offers safety training for snowmobilers of all ages beginning at age 10. Courses are taught by experienced snowmobilers who volunteer their time to make the sport safer. While you don’t need a driver’s license to operate a snowmobile, there are restrictions for drivers under 18 years of age.
A snowmobile driver and all passengers are required to wear approved safety helmets. This applies except when operation is on private property owned by the driver or passenger. If a snowmobile is driven anywhere other than on the owner’s property, it must be registered with the DMV. Also, all snowmobiles operated on any part of a roadway or shoulder of a highway in New York State must be covered by minimum liability insurance.
It is crucial to always keep safety in mind when snowmobiling. Earlier this month, a tragic accident occurred in Saranac Lake claiming the life of a young girl and leaving another hospitalized with serious injuries. As of this writing, the accident remains under investigation; however, initial reports from the deputy county coroner indicate that neither girl was wearing a helmet. My thoughts and prayers are with the families and the entire community.
As I mentioned earlier, snowmobile safety courses are being taught throughout the state with a number taking place in our area in the coming weeks. Successful completion results in the award of a New York State Snowmobile Safety Certificate. A complete list of upcoming classes can be found online at www.nysparks.com. The website also includes a downloadable handbook for snowmobilers, links to the DMV to help with registration, and trail maps.
Another terrific resource is the New York State Snowmobile Association. You can read more about their activities online at www.nysnowmobiler.com.