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Hitting the trails ... safely

January 7, 2011
By ANDY NELSON-ZALESKI Journal Staff Writer

MARQUETTE - The winter months in the Upper Peninsula are full of opportunities for outdoor activities such as cross country skiing, snowshoeing, downhill skiing and snowboarding. But if you want to see as much of the wintry U.P. as possible, snowmobiling is another great alternative.

The U.P. contains more than 3,000 miles of groomed snowmobile trails, allowing riders a unique network of paths to travel from one end of the peninsula to the other. Riders are blessed with the more than 200 inches of snow that falls in an average winter season across the region.

Whether you're planning a short day trip or a weeklong oddysey across the U.P., there are a couple of snowmobile information websites that could be of use.

Article Photos

(Journal file photos by Andy Nelson-Zaleski)

The Marquette County Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Upper Peninsula Travel and Recreation Association both offer great sources of information for planning a snowmobile trip across the U.P. Each of the sites gives information on places to stop for food and fuel when you're on the trail. Lodging is also included to make it easier to plan overnights.

One other big thing for riders to keep in mind when planning a day of riding is safety. Riders should always notify someone before they start out. They should let a friend know which trails they plan to ride and what probable stops - such as at restaurants and gas stations - they may make.

With safety in mind, flares, matches, and a simple first aid kit are key things for riders to keep on their machines.

A number of injuries occur each year due to rider carelessness. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment website warns snowmobilers about the first rule of safety - slow down. Speed is cited as a contributing factor in nearly all fatal snowmobile accidents. The DNRE site also emphasizes that mixing drinking and riding is not a wise idea. Alcohol impairs judgment and slows reaction time.

Riders need to be aware of other riders on the trail and be familiar with the layout of the trails. Knowledge of common hand signals used by riders to communicate is also very useful. Some of the most frequently used hand symbols are making a fist for stopping or holding up a number of fingers to indicate the number of riders following behind the leader of a snowmobile group.

A great way to start to plan your next trip is by visiting the UPTRA website. The site offers a breakdown of snowmobiling areas by county. Each county site offers a trail report, a digital map and a listing of lodgings, restaurants and other attractions.

Andy Nelson-Zaleski can be reached at 906-228-2500 ext. 256. His e-mail address is



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