Despite frigid temperatures, the Upper Peninsula was the place to be this past weekend for snowmobile enthusiasts, with the International 500 Snowmobile Race in Chippewa County and plenty of good snow elsewhere for riding.
Michigan Department of Natural Resources conservation officers teamed up with U.S. Forest Service officers, Michigan State Police and local sheriff’s office deputies to conduct “Ride Right” snowmobile safety patrols, which in total contacted more than 700 snowmobilers.
The Ride Right campaign emphasizes the importance of riding sober, at a safe speed and on the right side of the trail.
The patrols will continue for another anticipated busy weekend ahead.
I-500 race patrols
Conservation officers patrolled over 300 miles of trails Friday and Saturday during the 53rd annual International 500 snowmobile race weekend in Sault Ste. Marie.
“Our main focus was to ensure the safety of everyone who was out enjoying the trails by enforcing the Ride Right snowmobile safety campaign,” said Lt. Skip Hagy, DNR Law Enforcement supervisor in Newberry. “The trails are always busy during the weekend of the race. People travel from all over to watch the race and enjoy some riding themselves. We like to remind people that we have zero tolerance for careless snowmobile operation on the trails – the cause of most accidents.”
Officers contacted more than 200 snowmobilers and reported that no major incidents occurred on the trail systems.
“Much of our effort focused on portions of the trail that go through private land where we’ve recently received complaints regarding snowmobilers leaving the designated trail,” Hagy said. “Riders who operate off the trail on private property risk those portions of the trail shutting down, which will disrupt the continuity of the trail system we all enjoy.”
In total, officers issued 12 tickets and 30 verbal warnings for various violations, including unregistered snowmobiles, no trail permits and careless operation of a snowmobile.
Officers encountered many out-of-state riders who traveled to the Upper Peninsula from Wisconsin, Ohio, Illinois, and Indiana to enjoy the event and snowmobile trails. Officers reported many positive comments and interactions.
Alger County Trail patrols
Michigan DNR conservation officers conducted countywide joint snowmobile patrols with Alger County Sheriff’s Office deputies, Michigan State Police troopers and U.S. Forest Service officers on Saturday.
Officers on snowmobiles logged several hundred miles of patrol on the trails. Troopers monitored trail and road intersections, working from patrol vehicles.
Trail safety was the top priority for officers, who combined, contacted 530 snowmobilers, and responded to two non-snowmobile personal injury incidents at the Eben Ice Caves, located north of Chatham.
The patrol effort was aimed at helping reduce snowmobile accidents, reminding riders to “Ride Right” – particularly with the blowing snow and reduced visibility.
“Officers were pleased with the positive support they received from snowmobile operators who were legally enjoying the trail system,” Hagy said. “Most people want a safe riding experience and appreciate officer presence to help keep people a little more conscious of how they are riding.”
Officers responded to one snowmobile fire and provided traffic control for a disabled trail groomer. In addition to 34 verbal warnings for various violations, 11 tickets were issued for careless operation of a snowmobile, unregistered snowmobiles and trail permit violations.
One snowmobiler was ticketed early in the day for passing through a stop sign at an excessive rate of speed. Later that night, the same operator was observed on the other side of Alger County, running another stop sign. The rider was issued a second ticket for careless snowmobile operation, along with being reminded that operating a snowmobile in this manner is how accidents occur.
“When operators blow through an intersection without being able to see what’s coming, you’re risking your life and others as well,” Hagy said.
As was the case in Chippewa County, officers noted many out-of-state snowmobilers enjoying the trails, including visitors from Ohio, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and Iowa.
With the upcoming weekend’s annual Ice Climbing Fest in Munising, officers will continue to have an increased snowmobile patrol presence.
Michigan conservation officers are fully commissioned law enforcement officers who provide natural resources protection, ensure recreational safety, and protect citizens through general law enforcement and conducting lifesaving operations in the communities they serve.
The Michigan DNR is currently hiring conservation officer recruits for a 2022 academy. The application deadline is Feb. 28. Learn more at Michigan.gov/ConservationOfficers.