MARATHON COUNTY (WAOW)-- This is the first weekend snowmobilers can hit the trail in Marathon County, and authorities said safety is ever important.
Allan Zahrt has been riding sleds since the 1970s, but he said this winter has been different.
"When the temperatures are in the 30s, the snow becomes soft and the trails become somewhat rudded," said Zahrt.
Snowmobile trails opened Friday, and officials say they could close soon due to a weather warm-up. Zahrt said that makes safety even more important this weekend.
"There's going to be a lot of guys out there cause it might be our only shot this year," said Zahrt.
More snowmobilers on the trails, and drivers who aren't used to watching for them.
"Other people aren't always aware of snowmobiles especially where we haven't seen any in Marathon County this year," said Wausau Fire Battalion Chief Paul Czarapata.
So far this year, eight people have died in snowmobile crashes in Wisconsin. The DNR says most of those were related to excessive speed with pending results on alcohol use.
"Drinking and driving is not a smart thing with any vehicle whether it's your car or your snowmobile so don't do it," said Zahrt.
Speed and alcohol were also blamed in most of the 17 fatalities reported by the DNR last year throughout the state.
Warm temperatures have also made thin ice a factor this year.
"That extra weight from the rain and the snow turns into slush, it makes those weak spots even more dangerous," said Czarapata.
Wausau Fire Department officials recommend that snowmobilers stay off the ice.
Online Reporter: Bonnie Shelton
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