Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation

Press Release

January 08, 2010

Eileen Larrabee
Dan Keefe

State Parks Marks Snowmobile Safety Week

Riders reminded to avoid alcohol – a factor in over a quarter of snowmobile fatalities

In recognition of Snowmobile Safety Week, Jan. 10-16, 2010, New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Commissioner Carol Ash reminded snowmobilers to exercise caution and refrain from drinking alcohol before and during the ride as they enjoy the state's abundant snowmobiling opportunities.

"Snowmobiles, unsafe speeds and alcohol have proven to be a deadly combination, with alcohol involved in over 25 percent of snowmobile fatalities in recent years," Ash said. "State Parks reminds snowmobilers to travel at a speed that is safe for conditions and avoid alcohol completely until the snowmobile is parked for the day. Zero alcohol is the smart choice to make snowmobiling safer."

"Throughout the season, State Park Police will be vigorously enforcing snowmobile speed limits and operating while intoxicated laws," said State Park Police Chief Richard O'Donnell. "Through law enforcement, education, and coordinated planning with other law enforcement agencies and the snowmobile community, we will make every effort to help keep snowmobiling a safe and enjoyable recreational activity for riders, the landowners who host the snowmobile trail system, and motorists who encounter snowmobiles at road crossings and trailheads."

State Parks officials noted that while the vast majority of operators of nearly 140,000 registered snowmobiles in New York practice safe riding, unsafe speeds are the leading cause of all accidents and alcohol consumption factored in 24 of the 83 snowmobile-related fatalities over the last five years, including seven of 14 fatalities in the 2008-09 season.

Riders can help avoid accidents by:

  • Avoiding all alcohol before and during a ride.
  • Operating at a speed that's safe for conditions.
  • Becoming familiar with your snowmobile and making sure it is properly maintained.
  • Checking on trail conditions with local snowmobile clubs and paying attention to weather forecasts.
  • Staying on trails and areas where snowmobiling is permitted, and becoming familiar with the terrain you will travel on.
  • Avoiding travel on unfamiliar frozen bodies of water.
  • Always wearing a helmet and proper clothing and carrying emergency supplies.
  • Never riding alone, and always letting someone know about your travel plans.

"Good preparation is essential to minimize the risks and maximize the fun of snowmobiling in New York State," Ash said. "We encourage snowmobilers to take a snowmobile safety course, which is the best way to be prepared for an enjoyable season of snowmobiling. If it's been a while since you've taken a safety course, take a refresher course with someone new to the sport."

Information on snowmobile safety courses is available at the or by calling 518.474.0446.

The Office of State Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation oversees 10,500 miles of state-designated snowmobile trails throughout the Empire State. Trails are open from the close of big game hunting season – December 7, 2009 in the Northern Zone and December 23, 2009 in the Southern Zone – until March 31.