During Snowmobile Safety Week -_Jan. 17_23-_ snowmobliers across Montana are being asked to become aware of their safety and legal responsibilities.
Here are some rules, suggestions and tips to make your snowmobiling experiences safer and more enjoyable.
* Snowmobile operators who do not have a driver's license must complete a Montana_approved snowmobile safety education course before operating on plowed streets or roads this winter. Young snowmobilers also must be in the physical presence and under the supervision of an adult 18 years of age or older. Many snowmobile clubs offer certification courses, and a snowmobile home_study course is offered by Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks.
* All snowmobiles must display a 1998_1999 decal as visual proof of registration. All registrations and decals expire on June 30 of each year. The decal fee is $5. Snowmobilers who travel on public lands also must register their snowmobile with their County Treasurer and pay a fee in lieu of tax. The fee in lieu of tax assessed on snowmobiles less than four years old is $22. The fee in lieu of tax is $15 for all other snowmobiles.
* Snowmobile Safety begins before you leave home. It is very important tell someone you trust where you plan on snowmobiling and when you plan to return. You also should prepare an emergency survival kit that contains:
1.) High energy food
2.) Medicine and medical information about yourself
3.) Signal devices such as flares, mirror or whistle
4.) Matches and fire starter
6.) Compass and map
8.) Paper and pencil
9.) First Aid supplies (Band_Aids, bandages, 4 inch compress)
* The selection of the proper clothing can often make or break a trip. Your outside layer should be windproof and waterproof. The layer next to the skin should wick away the moisture, which helps prevent you from getting cold. Your clothing should be snug so it doesn't get caught in the snowmobile, but it should be loose enough to permit easy movement and permit good blood circulation. An approved helmet helps prevent heat loss, but also is the most important piece of safety equipment you can wear.
* Since 1990, avalanches have been the most frequent cause of snowmobile accidents and fatalities in Montana. If you get caught in an avalanche while snowmobiling you may be able to stay on top of the snow and ride the slide out. If your sled begins to roll, you should get away from it and begin a swimming motion with all your strength, trying to stay on top of the snow. Everyone traveling in avalanche country should carry__and know how to use_avalanche_rescue equipment including transceivers, probe poles and shovels. If you must travel in an avalanche prone area, expose only one person to the areas of possible risk. The rest of the group should watch and wait in a safe area.
With some advance training, planning and preparation you can enjoy Montana's winters on your snowmobile for many years to come.