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December 7, 2010

MADISON - With a recent winter storm sweeping through most of Wisconsin last weekend tempting many snowmobilers to hit the trails, state recreational specialists are urging snowmobilers to get their sleds ready, but to put on the brakes until trails are ready and open.

"Ultimately, the decision to open trails is made at the local level," says Diane Conklin, snowmobile trails grants manager for the state Department of Natural Resources. "While most landowner agreements state that trails can open by Dec. 1, snow, standing crops and weather conditions can dictate the actual opening date, which is announced by county officials."

Factors that help determine trail openings include snow levels, frozen ground, temperature, and landowner agreements. Trail preparation and grooming, which is conducted by volunteers representing the snowmobile clubs across the state, is another important factor.

"Over anxious snowmobilers sometimes create problems by going out on the trails before they have been officially opened," says Gary Eddy, DNR snowmobile administrator. "This is highly irresponsible and illegal; it greatly threatens the landowner agreements that the club members have worked so hard to obtain."

Snowmobile trail information such as conditions and openings can be found through county snowmobile coordinators, park and recreation officials, local snowmobile clubs, local chambers of commerce, and on the Snow Conditions Report on the Wisconsin Department of Tourism Web site TravelWisconsin [exit DNR].

Wisconsin ranks among the top states in providing snowmobile trails. DNR provides $5.8 million in grants annually to maintain more than 18,700 miles of trails in the state, according to Conklin.

"We urge snowmobilers to stay on the trail and ride responsibly," said Eddy. "Snowmobilers may decide to ride on private property with permission -- which is okay, but a high degree of caution is needed as the terrain may be very rough and hazards such as ditches, farm equipment and rocks may be hidden by the snow."

More information on snowmobiling in Wisconsin can be found on the snowmobile safety education pages of the DNR Web site.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Gary Eddy - (608) 267- 7455 or Diane Conklin - (715) 822-8583

Last Revised: Tuesday, December 07, 2010

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