Our opinion: Ride, but ride safely

There is hardly a better place to ride a snowmobile than this part of Penn’s Woods.

The Allegheny National Forest, a half-million acres of eastern woodland tucked conveniently between Buffalo, N.Y., and Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Ohio, and Harrisburg, can be traversed easily by snowmobile, giving the rider a unique perspective on nature in winter.

The key, however, is to stay safe.

And, like the advice given to motor vehicle drivers, most of it boils down to common sense.

– Don’t drink and ride. Impairment will injure or kill you just as easily on a snowmobile as it will behind the wheel of a Buick. And, in snowmobiling, there is another hazard as well. Although that cocktail may make you briefly feel a bit warm, alcohol actually robs your body of heat.

– Dress for safety and survival. Always wear a helmet and layers of clothing to keep you warm and dry. Snowmobile suits, bibs, jackets, gloves and mittens should cut the wind, repel water and keep you ventilated.

-Slow down. Speed is a major factor in many accidents, especially at night.

– Stay on the trail or stay home. One major complaint about snowmobilers is that they ignore private property rights. Only ride on private property when you have permission from the owner.

– Always stay to the right when approaching riders from the opposite direction.

And, of course, just as with motorcycling and four-wheel driving, take a snowmobile safety course. Believe it or not they make your riding experience more enjoyable and may just save you from a serious injury or death.

The snow is out there. Enjoy it.