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December 20, 2011

MADISON -- Snowmobilers are urged to use winter's slow start to prep their sleds, take a safety course and stay off the trails until local officials declare the season open.

Conservation wardens in the northern and west central counties report what little snow has fallen so far this early winter is gone. And the early ice cover remains thin and not strong enough to support a human being or a vehicle.

Another good prep move to do now while you wait for the trails is to complete a snowmobile safety class. A list of the upcoming classes can be found on the Department of Natural Resources website.

Conservation Warden Gary Eddy, also the DNR snowmobile administrator, understands the first significant snowfall will be hard to resist for the sport's enthusiasts. However, he says it is important to stay off the trails until the announcement due to land-use agreements between landowners and snowmobile clubs.

"Snowmobilers who ride on trails before they are declared open may unintentionally cause problems," Eddy said. "It could be possible to unknowingly cause some damage or violate the land-use agreements, and that could result in a trail closing for all."

Diane Conklin, DNR snowmobile trails grant manager, says most agreements allow for the trails to open by Dec. 1. However, there are other factors that are used.

"Snow, standing crops and weather conditions can dictate the actual opening date which is announced by county officials," Conklin said.

Other factors used to determine the opening include frozen ground conditions, temperature, trail preparation and grooming by snowmobile club volunteers statewide.

Eddy says snowmobilers must have permission to ride on private property off the trails. "If you get the permission to ride, that's fine. However, you'll need a high degree of caution because the terrain may be rough and hazards such as ditches, farm equipment and rocks may be hidden under the snow."

Snowmobile trail information 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 page, [] (exit DNR).

Wisconsin ranks among the top states in providing snowmobile trails. DNR provides nearly $6 million in grants annually to maintain more than 18,700 miles of trails in the state, Conklin said.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Gary Eddy - (608) 267-7455

Last Revised: Tuesday, December 20, 2011

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