DNR encourages Michiganders to use safety when enjoying winter activities

Published 2:29 pm Monday, December 28, 2020

LANSING — Where there is snow and ice, snowmobilers are on the trails and anglers are on the ice.

It is safe to say that winter has arrived in many parts of Michigan. Winter offers plenty of great opportunities to continue recreating outside, and officials with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources want to remind Michiganders to stay safe.

“This is the time of year when conservation officers see many people eager to kick off the snowmobiling season, ice fishing and other outdoor winter activities,” said Lt. Tom Wanless of the DNR Law Enforcement Division. “These are great activities that encourage social distancing, but please keep safety in mind. Dress for the weather, check the forecast before you go out and, if you’re snowmobiling, please ride sober and at a safe speed.”

Regardless of your favorite winter activity, here are some tips to help prepare for heading outdoors:

  • Wear light layers that can easily be added or removed – it is possible to overheat even during the winter.
  • Carry the appropriate equipment for your activity, such as a flashlight, rope, ice picks or ice claws.
  • Have spare equipment available in case something breaks.
  • Stay hydrated and fueled – bring water and snacks.
  • Recreate with a buddy.
  • Inform others about where you will be and how long you plan to be gone and schedule check-in times.
  • Carry a two-way communication device that receives service in remote areas.
  • Be mindful of your health – if you are not feeling well, don’t go out.

In Michigan, all snowmobile operators between ages 12 and 16 are required to obtain a Michigan-approved snowmobile safety certificate to operate a snowmobile on any trail or public land. Riders can earn a snowmobile safety certificate online at Michigan.gov/Snowmobiling.

The DNR’s Ride Right snowmobile trail safety campaign emphasizes the importance of riding sober, at a safe speed and on the right side of the trail.

If snowmobiling off-trail, stay on public lands, avoiding private property, active logging operations and sensitive areas like forest plantations; use stock exhausts only; and riders should know where they are going before they go.

Snowmobling is a fun activity that can be done safely, however, riders should remember that excessive speed is the main cause of fatal and serious injury snowmobile accidents, officials said.

During winter 2019-20, there were 14 fatal snowmobile accidents in Michigan. One fatality has been recorded so far during the 2020-21 season.

If one plans to head onto the ice to fish or ride, conservation officers warn that there is no reliable inch thickness test to determine if ice is safe. Ice thickness can be checked with a spud or auger.

“Anyone going onto the ice should use extreme caution,” Wanless said. “Avoid ice that is covered by snow. Snow acts as an insulator and may weaken the ice.”

Ice is often unstable at river mouths or other areas where there are currents present or creeks and streams feeding into lakes.

For more ice safety tips including what to do if you fall through the ice, go to Michigan.gov/IceSafety.