Saskatchewan RCMP have been hitting the snowmobile trails this winter performing check stops across the province, usually on weekends.

The number one safety concern is impaired driving.

"A lot of the snowmobiles that are out there, they're high performance, they're very fast. If you start combining that with alcohol, the consequences could be disastrous," said Sergeant Jeremy Knodel of Combined Traffic Services Saskatchewan. "Quite often, the other thing we're looking at, if an operator is impaired on a snowmobile, at the end of the day they may be getting into a vehicle and driving back home again on our highways. That is where we're trying to intercept them and catch them before they get on the Highways and pose a greater risk to the public."

Operating a snowmobile while impaired carries the same penalty as driving a vehicle while impaired. Knodel notes that consuming alcohol or drugs in warm-up shelters is also not permitted and someone violating this could be issued a $250 ticket.

He also reminds riders to register their vehicles, noting a ticket will cost them $175. A portion of the registration money is used to help pay for trail grooming and other services provided by Saskatchewan Snowmobile Association member clubs. You can register your snowmobile at any motor license issuer in Saskatchewan. Riders must have their snowmobile registered before they ride it on public roads (where allowed), ditches, other highway rights of way, provincial parks, Crown land, designated snowmobile trails or on rivers or lakes.

Fifty per cent of snowmobiles (six out of a dozen) stopped by RCMP officers were not registered during a December 30, 2022 patrol in the Prince Albert, Duck Lake and Rosthern, SK areas. Identification determined the snowmobile operators whom police officers encountered were not just from the immediate area, but Saskatoon and beyond. During most weekend trail patrols, police officers typically encounter around 75 snowmobiles, depending on the location.

“RCMP snowmobiles are equipped with flashing lights,” added Knodel. “If you see us out on the trails and our emergency lights are activated, slow down and pull to the side, just as you would while operating a vehicle on a road. We also stop at warm-up shelters and may ask you to present your snowmobile registration.”

Knodel says all snowmobile operators and riders they’ve encountered so far this winter were wearing a helmet.

He reminds riders to be prepared before hitting the trails.

"We do see on occasion where we have to go out and rescue people and quite often it's because they're not prepared for the elements. Maybe their snowmobile is not functioning properly. They don't have fire starter, they don't have the proper gear. If you're going to be out riding, just plan properly, take the right gear, take some water and food and fire starter and just make sure you're prepared for the elements."

January 15-21, 2023 marks Snowmobile Safety Week in Saskatchewan.