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Going snowmobiling? Here are some safety tips

Illinois winters can be downright brutal. But there is still fun to be had out in the white stuff. Snowmobiling is a fun winter outdoor activity for many Illinois residents.

Yet, it is not one without many significant dangers, and those who go snowmobiling should be aware of the hazards that they may encounter on the slopes. With that in mind, let's go over some common-sense snowmobiling safety tips that can keep you and your family safer while enjoying this exhilarating winter activity.

Safer snowmobiling begins with you

If this is your first attempt, it's always prudent to take a snowmobiling safety course before ever setting out. You can learn the rules and regulations and how to responsibly operate your machine.

Pay attention to the weatherEspecially in northern Illinois, wintry weather can turn deadly very quickly. It's vital to check the weather forecast before leaving. But that could still leave you stuck out in the elements unless you also are aware of the trail conditions. A frozen trail, whiteout conditions or too-cold temperatures are all potentially lethal environments for snowmobilers.

Don't head out alone

It's prudent to ride in groups or with at least one other person. That way, if disaster strikes and you get injured, the other person can summon help. Also, prior to leaving, let someone at home know your plans, your snowmobiling route and the length of time you plan to be gone. That way, if you fail to timely return, your contact person can alert authorities to your intended whereabouts.

Only snowmobile sober

This really cannot be stressed enough. Just as you should never drive an automobile when drinking alcohol, never, ever climb aboard a snowmobile after imbibing. You are just as likely to get into a collision or accident on a snowmobile if you are drunk as you are in a car.

Dress for the weather

In addition to protective gear like helmets and goggles, you should don a warm jacket made from polyester to wick wetness away from your body. Underneath, layered clothing is preferable to wearing thick or bulky items that could impede movement. Don't forget to protect vulnerable fingers and toes from the cold.

Stay on the trailsWhile accidents can happen anywhere, there are fewer opportunities for disaster if you stay on marked trails. If your route takes you on private property, make sure that you have the owner's permission.

Stay off of frozen bodies of water

Ice may appear to be much thicker and sturdier than it actually is. Plunging through thin ice to the frigid water below can prove deadly in minutes.Remain alert

Even if you have snowmobiled the trail countless times in the past, the snow can conceal obstacles like downed limbs, newly erected fences or even animal carcasses.

If you wind up injured while snowmobiling due to another person's negligence, it may be possible to recover some of your financial losses by filing a claim for damages.

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