With all the snow that southern Saskatchewan has been getting, it's been a great season for local snowmobile riders.
Over 11,000 kilometres of trails are maintained and groomed by volunteers with 53 clubs across the province.
In observance of International Snowmobile Safety Week, Minister responsible for SGI Don Morgan has proclaimed January 15 – 21, 2023 as Provincial Snowmobile Safety Week in Saskatchewan.
The Saskatchewan Snowmobile Association (SSA) has some tips for staying safe this winter.
"You really should get familiar with your snowmobile," said SSA Executive Director Leah Switzer. "Carry tools for basic repairs. If you're going to head out, make sure you're wearing the proper gear. You've got a helmet, warm clothing...Let someone know where you're going. You should always ride with a buddy, never ride alone and give someone your itinerary. Where you plan on going, when you plan on returning. Make sure your cell phone is fully charged. So if you do have an incident on trail, you have those tools, maybe some emergency gear with you. As well, you can call for help."
It's also important to ride within your own capabilities, operating at safe and appropriate speeds for the terrain and stay within designated riding areas. Take along a spare belt, spark plugs and tools to do basic repairs. You also should carry emergency supplies such as a basic first aid kit and overnight survival gear such as food, matches, flashlight and extra batteries and shelter building materials.
Riders should never operate a snowmobile under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
"Riding a snowmobile is just like driving a car. It comes with those same repercussions. Should you be caught riding impaired, you face the same as if you were driving a car," explained Switzer.
She recommends that people take the Saskatchewan Snowmobile Safety Course, which is required for anyone born after January 1, 1989. SSA offers both an online and a classroom course for $50 per student throughout the month of January. There are five classroom courses scheduled across the province.
Switzer also reminds riders that snowmobiles must be registered with SGI if they are being ridden on public land. The cost is $110, which gets you $200,000 in third-party liability insurance coverage.
There haven't been any snowmobile-related fatalities this year and Switzer wants to keep it that way.
"In the past few years, we've seen a couple fatalities. The majority being ice conditions. That's one of those big pushes we do with people, is make sure you know where you're riding. Check the ice conditions before travelling out on it. If you don't know, don't go."
Trail conditions can be viewed at sasksnow.com