With the recent snow, snowmobiling conditions have been great, for those who enjoy adventuring in the winter chill. Fresh fluffy snow has managed to keep trails in prime condition for traveling the backwoods.

As a kid, back in 1968, my dad purchased our first snowmobile as snowmobiling entered its early days. He went with a 1968 Johnson Skee-Horse with a price tag of $1,087. It was an extremely heavy machine, which made dragging it out of a “stuck” situation difficult, but it did come with “reverse”, which was a rare feature in those days. Two years later, he added a 1970 Skidoo TNT. 

Official snowmobile trails were sparse, back then, but my dad did manage to get permission from area landowners to travel across their property, allowing us to travel from Galesburg to Sherman Lake, cross-country. Those snowy rides were the most memorable times that I spent with my father. As a local businessman, his days were long and Sundays were his only day off. There are few trails, in Southwest Michigan, that do not require a club membership. The Kal-Haven Trail State Park is 33 ½ miles long and will take you from Kalamazoo to South Haven at no charge. 

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If you plan on enjoying the brisk adventure of snowmobiling, there are a few safety tips that you may want to keep in mind. It seems that every snowmobile season, there is a report of a severe injury or death. With common sense and a clear head, you will be able to tackle the trails year after year. Here are a few tips to guide you on a safe journey: 

6 Snowmobile Safety Tips To Bring You Back Home In One Piece 

  • Ride on the right side of the trail or road. 
  • Ride with your machine’s lights on. 
  • Watch for and yield to trail groomers. 
  • Ensure your machine is in good working condition before you ride. 
  • Leave a ride plan, including details about where you’re going and when you’ll return, with someone who is staying home. 
  • Ride at a safe distance behind the person in front of you; snowmobiles may have a delayed stop time due to sliding on ice or snow. This is particularly important for riders operating in low visibility caused by snow. 

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources reminds potential budding snowmobilers that in Michigan, all snowmobile operators who are 12 to 16 years of age are required to take a Michigan-approved snowmobile safety course and obtain a snowmobile safety certificate.

Snowmobile safety education training and online safety courses are recommended for all snowmobile operators.  A recreational safety certificate can be earned online. You can read more about safety, find places to ride, and purchase your DNR trail permit at Michigan.gov/Snowmobiling. 

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The state of Michigan is a winter wonderland. If you want a perfect winter getaway look no further than your very own backyard.

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