U.S. Forest Service encourages snowmobile travelers to exercise caution

RUTLAND, Vt. – With additional snow expected in the coming weeks, the U.S. Forest Service is looking forward to a successful snowmobile season and wants to encourage all riders to put safety first by practicing safe snowmobile practices and observing Covid-19 precautions.

Green Mountain National Forest officials are advising snowmobilers to exercise caution when operating on the National Forest, and all lands, in Vermont this winter. GMNF officials remind snowmobile enthusiasts to heed to all gates and signs and to stay off roads and trails that are closed. Forest Service employees and several snowmobile clubs throughout Vermont have been working to clear trees and other debris from trails. However, trail users should continue to use extra caution early in the season as some trees may be weak due to snow accumulation and downed tree hazards are likely. Snowmobilers are also asked to adhere to Covid-19 precautions recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention along with local and state health and safety guidance.

Weather permitting, snowmobile use is allowed on designated trails within the GMNF for four months beginning Thursday, Dec. 16, 2021, and ending Friday, April 15, 2022. “We are concerned about user safety. Patrols which are aimed at enforcing rules and regulations, monitoring trail conditions, and providing visitor information will occur throughout the forest,” said John Sinclair, forest supervisor for the Green Mountain and Finger Lakes National Forests. The GMNF will continue to work closely with state and local law enforcement agencies, as well as the Vermont Association of Snow Travelers to make sure that users of the trail system are respectful, responsible, law abiding, and safe.

The GMNF and VAST cooperate to maintain more than 470 miles of National Forest System trails that are part of the larger statewide snowmobile network. VAST is one of several snowmobile associations in the United States that has a cooperative partnership agreement with the U.S. Forest Service. “All of these trails allow mixed uses, so people are snowshoeing, hiking, and cross-country skiing, as well as using snowmobiles. Snowmobilers should travel responsibly and yield to other users,” said Sinclair. The maximum speed is 35 miles per hour on state and federal land and Vermont has a tough Snowmobiling While Intoxicated Law that covers alcohol, as well as drugs.

The U.S. Forest Service is also warning the public of the dangers associated with riding, hiking, and skiing on frozen water bodies. Trail users are encouraged to be mindful of fallen trees and other hazards they may encounter. Operators must maintain control of their snowmobile while riding; keep to the right at all times, wear helmets, and stay on designated trails only. All snowmobiles must be legally registered, have liability insurance, and operators must purchase a VAST Trails Maintenance Assessment decal. Officials also encourage winter trail users to pack a flashlight, cell phone, food, and extra warm clothing in case of an emergency.

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