Snowmobiling is a thriving winter sport in Maine, a result of what many consider to be the finest trail system in North America. Spanning over 12,000 groomed miles and connecting the most beautiful areas of Maine to New England and Canada, this trail system provides not only incredible scenery, but a dedicated network of communities who support visiting sledders. No gear? No problem.

Trailside outfitters can provide everything from helmets and sleds to parts and fuel. And after exploring pristine places unreachable by foot or wheels, you can enjoy Maine’s legendary hospitality at welcoming restaurants, historic lodges and quaint, snow-dusted inns.Maine snowmobile & trail associations will help you plan the perfect sledding getaway in Maine.

The Maine Office of Tourism joins the Maine Snowmobile Association in encouraging snowmobilers to “ride right in Maine” by following the five simple steps to snowmobile safety: ride sober, ride to the right, ride at a reasonable speed, use hand signals and ride defensively.

For more information on snowmobiling, including sledding basics, outfitters and guides, trail maps, trail conditions and where to dine, shop and stay along the trails, visit the Maine Snowmobile Association, Sled Maine, and Moosehead Lake Region Snowmobile Information Web sites.

Following are safe riding tips from the Maine Snomobile Association.

Maine snowmobilers like to meet friends and neighbors on the trails…. but none of us want to meet anyone head-on.

Ride Right in Maine means please stay to the right hand side of the trail at all times – maintain control of your sled, slow down at the corners and rises where drifting into the left hand side of the trail may result in a serious accident. Riding Right in Maine will allow his family, and all of our Maine snowmobiling families to enjoy hours of safe, fun riding.The MSA encourages every snowmobiler to take a snowmobile safety course, and to remember these FIVE SIMPLE STEPS that can help you and your family to avoid an accident on a snowmobile:

1.) RIDE SOBER: Don’t drink and ride. Don’t let anyone in your group drink and ride. Maine has a tough snowmobile OUI law. If you manage to drink and ride and are caught before you are killed, you will be punished with mandatory jail time and fines. Restaurants, Inns, Lodges and Resorts welcome snowmobilers who want to have a few drinks with their friends, but please do it AFTER you’ve gone sledding, not before. Be a good friend and lift the keys of a fellow rider who thinks he’s OK when he’s not. That trick is working with drunken drivers – it can work with drunken sledders, too.

2.) RIDE TO THE RIGHT: Only makes sense. Odds are good that an automobile traveling in the left hand lane of the road will sooner or later run into another car head on. Same goes for sleds. Stay to the right, even on straightways.

3.) RIDE AT A REASONABLE SPEED: Speed on a Maine snowmobile trail is measured on a standard of reasonable speed for the existing conditions. If you cannot control your sled safely at the speed that you are traveling in the current conditions – you’re speeding. Slow down. Channel your need for speed into organized events: Snowmobile clubs across the state host radar runs, hill climbs and races all season long. If you want to ride hard and fast, do it at one of these events, and take home a trophy to boot!

4.) USE HAND SIGNALS: The consistent use of a simple set of standardized hand signals on the trails keeps movement orderly and predictable. These standardized signals inform other sledders of your actions and allow everyone around you to anticipate the need to slow down. The MSA has distributed thousands of copies of these hand signals over the past five years and reports from the trails are that signal usage is up significantly. This simple skill is one that every snowmobiler can learn and use to increase their safety on the trails.

5.) RIDE DEFENSIVELY: You and your group can do everything right and still encounter a sledder who’s doing everything wrong. Don’t let their poor judgment or illegal behavior injure you. Always expect the unexpected from the sledder coming toward you. If there is a problem, you’ll be prepared to respond and avoid a dangerous situation. Despite concerted efforts by the MSA, the Maine Warden Service, MSA clubs and the media, there are still a small number of people (snowmobiling dinosaurs) out on the trail who think snow trails are made for drinking and racing. Keep an eye out, ride defensively and keep an eye out for four-legged animals as well. Moose and deer live where you’re sledding.

These additional steps will protect you even further:

4 Dress appropriately (layers) and wear a helmet. No one should operate a snowmobile without the protection of a helmet. A life saver in the case of an accident, your helmet will also keep you protected from the occasional tree branch “face slapper” and inclement weather.

4 Carry a map and stay on the trails
. Shortcuts can not only be hazardous if you don’t know the area, sledders can get “turned around” pretty easily out there. Why bother heading out across unmarked open tracts if you have 13,000 miles of signed trails?

4 Carry a basic repair kit. Saves a lot of frustration if you have a spare belt, a couple tools, etc. with you. (An even better idea is to give your sled a good going over before every trip.)

4 Carry a survival kit
, including a pocket knife, flare, flashlight, matches, first aid kit, etc.

4 Check weather reports before heading out. Ever been on a sled in a white out? Enough said.Let someone know where you’re planning to go and when you plan to return. An itinerary left with a friend, the motel staff, etc. is invaluable if you actually run into trouble on the trail. If your return is delayed, contact the person aware of your trip plans if at all possible, to head off an unnecessary search effort.

4 Don’t ever snowmobile alone
. If you run into mechanical trouble, you’ll have someone along who can truck you back home; bury your sled, and there’s extra hands to help dig out; take a wrong turn, and there’s someone else to blame…..

4 Don’t cross frozen bodies of water unless you are absolutely sure of ice thickness. ITS trails don’t cross ponds or lakes unless there is no reasonable alternative. Bridges are provided to cross rivers and streams. You will find some trails that cross water, even marked trails on well frozen lakes – check with the locals for current ice thicknesses.

4 Take care crossing public ways
. On busier roads, have a member of the group check for traffic and direct sledders across.

4 Don’t overdrive your lights. Don’t tangle with a wire, stump or rock on a fast machine in the middle of a cold, dark night.

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