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As snowmobile season enters full swing, some helpful safety tips

Here are some reminders if you're hitting the trails, in light of recent incidents involving snowmobiles in Minnesota.

MAPLE PLAIN, Minn. — So far this winter, several tragic incidents involving snowmobiles have been reported across the state of Minnesota, including the death of two teens in Aitkin County after a crash this weekend.

With a few more months of winter still left on the calendar, KARE 11 met with Department of Natural Resources (DNR) conservation officer Alexandar Birdsall at the Luce Line State Trail in Maple Plain on Wednesday to discuss best practices and safety tips for snowmobilers.

Here are a few of the big takeaways:

Always stay on the trail: “Especially in the metro here,” Birdsall said, “trespassing is very prevalent. If it’s not a marked trail, or a state trail, stay off of it.”

Don’t ride alone: “As a solo rider, it can be very difficult to get a snowmobile out of the deep snow,” Birdsall said. “Cell phone batteries die really quick in extreme cold weather. So, it’s always good to have a partner there, that can help you out if you get stuck or break down.”

Never drink before riding: Birdsall says 60 percent of all snowmobile fatalities involve alcohol. “Alcohol and snowmobiles don’t mix,” he said.

Parent should keep an eye on young riders: “It’s good to accompany them,” Birdsall suggested, “especially if they’re new riders. If they’re younger teens, they definitely need some supervision.”

Remember that kids 16 and older need adult snowmobile safety certification: “Modern snowmobiles can go extremely fast – speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour,” Birdsall said. “These are very powerful machines. And you have to respect the capabilities.”

Anyone born after Dec. 31, 1976, is required by state law to complete safety certification. There are also courses for youth certification, ages 11 to 15.

For more information on obtaining those necessary certifications, click here.

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