The potential for a big snowmobiling weekend following Monday’s snowstorm should spark some safety warnings after what we’ve witnessed so far this winter.

There have been numerous incidents this season where snowmobilers and ATV operators have gone through the ice because they didn’t stay on marked lake trails, instead forging off on their own through hazardous lake channels and other areas impacted by current or springs.

Visitors and residents alike should know that this hasn’t been a normal year for freezing things up, as December’s weather was extremely mild and January is pretty much following the same trend thus far.

Unlike many mid-January weekends, we’ve got open water under bridges, over sand bars, in tight corners and just about anywhere that lake-system currents are moving. Taking shortcuts way from established trails marked by local snowmobile clubs and grooming organizations could lead to injury, property damage or even death.

While we are on the subject, the grooming organizations in Vilas and Oneida counties maintain some of the most well-marked, best-groomed trails you’ll find anywhere in Wisconsin. Whether criss-crossing private lands or public forests in national, state and county ownership, these trail systems are second to none.

But the efforts of snowmobile trail officials can be thwarted by snowmobilers who don’t follow the rules. Sledders have proven in some cases to be their own worst enemy, veering off trails, damaging property and downright annoying the very landowners who have generously provided easements that allow trails across their private lands.

The sign we’d like to see erected on every trail is one that reminds snowmobilers that the trail on which they are riding represents a privilege, not a right. It’s a privilege that requires respect for private property, public resources, the rights of others and those volunteer trail officials who give their all for the sport.

Because riders should be supporting a local snowmobile club, we encourage them to join clubs where they ride. They can also support the various fundraisers that help fund groomers, buy gas and maintain equipment. There’s the Ride with Pride raffle sponsored by the Sno-Eagles of Eagle River, the Northern Lights of Three Lakes and the Sno-Buddies of Conover. Three Lakes Trails has its own gun raffle featuring 15 guns.

Lest anyone forget, it is the snowmobiling industry that fuels a year-around economy in a land that was once a ghost town in winter.

Correction

We erred in a Nov. 28 editorial that gave former Northland Pines School District Administrator Mike Richie a vast share of the credit for passage of the $28.5 million high school and field house referendum.

The truth is that Richie’s predecessor, Linda Kunelius, and a talented staff that included Principal Pat Sullivan, did much of the administrative work that led to a successful referendum. Richie did not assume his duties until three months after the vote.

Behind the editorial ‘we’

   Members of the Vilas County News-Review editorial board include Publisher Kurt Krueger, Editor Gary Ridderbusch and Assistant Editor Doug Etten.