With more than 80,000 snowmobile riders set to take to the trails this winter in Maine, officials kick-started their annual safety campaign Thursday.

"The trails are phenomenal,” Al Swett said. “They're smooth, wide, and people like to giddy up and go.” 

Swett, a chairperson on the Maine Snowmobile Association said that freedom and speed often comes with danger.

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There were six snowmobile-related deaths last winter, according to the Maine Warden Service.

Most of the accidents were due to riders operating too fast, driving beyond effectiveness of headlights and drinking while driving.

"It shouldn't have happened. It's just horrible,” Swett said.

The Maine Snowmobile Association is partnering with the Maine Warden Service and the Department of Agriculture, Conversation and Forestry again this year to urged riders to always be responsible and prepared.

"Snowmobile season is always very important here in Maine, not only in Maine but New England,” Cpl. John MacDonald with the Maine Warden Service said. “It's everybody's responsibility.”

That responsibility starts before people take to the state’s 14,000 miles of trails, McDonald said.

Officials are reminding riders to do keep the following in mind:

  • Provide trip plans to family members and let them know if those plans change
  • Carry essential items with you
  • Carry a phone or other communication device when possible
  • Have emergency and essential supplies like means to make a fire, extra gas, hand warmers and food 
  • Always wear a helmet

"Use your head when you ride. Be careful. Ride right. Ride smart,” Swett said.

For more information on trails and networks in your area, you can find your local snowmobile club on the Maine Snowmobile Association website.