After a deadly weekend on Maine's snowmobile trails, the Maine Warden Service is urging riders to use caution.

It's been such a weird winter, with a seemingly revolving cycle of snow and ice interrupted with stretches of unusually warm weather. And it's all combined to make conditions on the state's snowmobile trails unpredictable. A trail that may have been perfect a day or two ago could turn icy very quickly. So Wardens are encouraging riders to take it easy and stay in control of their sleds.

It was a sad weekend for the sport, as three snowmobile riders were killed in two accidents on Saturday. A 53-year-old Smithfield man was killed when his sled hit a tree on a club trail in that town. Officials say he was wearing a helmet but speed appeared to have been a factor in the crash.  And in Hermon, a man and his 10-year-old son died when their sled hit a tree at the end of a field. In that accident, the boy was wearing a helmet while his father was not. Wardens say it appears alcohol and speed contributed to the accident.

It's been a good year for riding, with lots of snow, which Wardens say has made some riders too confident about trail conditions. That's why it's important to always be in control of the sled and that means watching that you're not traveling too fast. Bob Meyers of the Maine Snowmobile Association says if you're traveling so fast that the sled is skidding around corners, then you're not in control of your sled. That kind of speed can turn deadly quickly if you suddenly hit some ice.

In addition, there are some basics that Wardens hope folks will remember, like keeping to the right of the trail, slowing down on hills and corners, and never drinking while riding. The proper gear is key, including a helmet, but also clothes warm enough to sustain the rider for a period of time if they get stranded.

It's always a good idea to ride with others, so they can go for help in the event of an accident. Keep a charged cellphone handy and let others know, before you leave, where you plan to go and when you intend to return. Precious time can be wasted looking in the wrong place if a rider gets lost and wardens don't have a general idea of where to look for them. In addition, riders are reminded to keep track of changing ice conditions before heading out onto waterways.

Find more information on snowmobile safety at the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife's website.

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