Snowmobilers: Brush Up on Rules, Trail Maps Before Snow Arrives
Posted: 12/20/2011

Winter is officially here Wednesday and for the snowmobilers, all that is lacking for them to hit the trails is, well, snow.

Before the inevitable flakes fall, snowmobilers are encouraged to brush up on the rules, have their machines tuned up and to make sure their registrations are current.
 
“One of the most important rules snowmobilers can follow is to stay on marked trails,” said Rhonda Fowler, snowmobile education coordinator for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. “Once they leave the trail, they could be trespassing on private property. With snowmobiles, the evidence is pretty obvious 

Winter is officially here Wednesday and for the snowmobilers, all that is lacking for them to hit the trails is, well, snow.
Before the inevitable flakes fall, snowmobilers are encouraged to brush up on the rules, have their machines tuned up and to make sure their registrations are current.
“One of the most important rules snowmobilers can follow is to stay on marked trails,” said Rhonda Fowler, snowmobile education coordinator for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. “Once they leave the trail, they could be trespassing on private property and with snowmobiles, the evidence is pretty obvious ― they leave tracks everywhere they go. Trespassing on private property is the number one way to lose trails and we want to keep as many trails open as we can.”

Iowa has 5,000 miles of trails, mostly north of Hwy. 20. Fowler said most of the trails are marked and maintained by local clubs.
 
“Local clubs are good resources for trail and local ordinance information and are major sponsors for education courses,” she said.
 
Riders age 12 through 17 are required to successfully complete a certified education course.  Most of the hands-on courses take place in November and December. In cooperation with a certifying vendor, the DNR offers an online course for youth age 12 and older. There is a vendor fee of $34.95 for the six-hour online course that includes the certification and card.
 
Iowa has an agreement with neighboring states that allows recognition of approved safety certification courses.
 
Snowmobilers should check with their city and county for local ordinances for operating a snowmobile in town. One common misconception is that snowmobiles are allowed on any and all public land, which is not the case.
 
“Only a few public areas are open to snowmobiles,” she said. “If snowmobiles are allowed on public land, there will be signs posted.”

One major concern for DNR conservation officers is chasing and harassing wildlife with motorized vehicles, such as a snowmobile. While these may be isolated incidents, the impact is great and the violators are subject to prosecution.

There are 29,000 snowmobiles registered in Iowa.

Safety Check List
• Wear proper gear for the conditions - boots, a snowmobile suit, helmet, gloves and layered clothing
• Don’t ride alone
• Tell someone where you are going and when you will return
• Carry a basic tool kit and know how to use it
• Carry a cell phone
• Do not use alcohol or drugs before or during the ride
• Make sure the sled is in proper working condition
• At night, slow down and do not over-drive your headlights

Riding on Ice
• Ice is not uniform on any body of water. Be sure to have at a minimum at least five inches of good, clear ice before operating a snowmobile [six inches or more if on a river]
• If riding on a lake, be aware if it has an aeration system and plan to avoid riding in the area
• Watch for ice anglers
• River ice is 15 percent weaker than lake ice because the moving water hinders ice growth

Online Resources
http://www.iowadnr.gov/Recreation/Snowmobiles.aspx
Regulations, safety videos, etc.

http://www.iowasnowmobiler.com/
The state snowmobile association website with links to local clubs and to trail maps.

Operator Guidelines
• Under Age 12 must be accompanied by an responsible person who is at least 18 years of age and who possesses a valid driver’s license or a snowmobile education certificate

• Age 12 to 15 must have a valid snowmobile education certificate to operate a snowmobile and must be under the direct supervision of a parent, guardian, or another adult authorized by the parent or guardian who is experienced in snowmobile operation and possesses a valid driver’s license or a snowmobile education certificate

• Age 16 to 17 must have a valid snowmobile education certificate in their possession

• Age 18 and older may operate without an education certificate unless the individual’s privilege to operate a motor vehicle has been suspended, barred or revoked

For more information contact David Downing, Off-highway Vehicle Program Manger, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, 515-238-3564.