A national destination

Senator Wayne Schmidt

Senator Wayne Schmidt

The winter season in Michigan provides unlimited opportunities for the entire family. One specific pastime, though, is a favorite in my district and throughout northern Michigan.

It is no secret that Michigan ranks among the best states in the nation for snowmobiling. Our rugged landscape and consistent snowfall draw riders from all over the country. In fact, the annual snowmobiling season provides a seasonal boom for local economies throughout my district.

I personally recommend exploring the Pure Michigan wilderness via our state’s extensive snowmobile trail system. Michigan boasts 6,400 miles of designated snowmobile trails. The groomed, interconnected trail network conquers a variety of terrains as it winds through our state forests and is sure to provide fun for the whole family.

If you’re looking to plan a snowmobile trip, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) provides maps in a variety of formats for the state’s designated snowmobile trails. Find information on trail maps and permits, regulations, registration and more at www.michigan.gov/snowmobiling.

While enjoying the outdoors, it is important to do so legally and remember to always put safety first. Not all roads or road shoulders have been opened to snowmobile travel, so it is best to be safe and stick to the trails and designated snowmobile routes. Be sure to dress in layers to stay warm, never ride alone and avoid crossing bodies of water. Most importantly, riders must remember that alcohol and motor vehicles never mix.

In addition to the cold weather and snow, this time of year brings another popular pastime and tradition — the Sault Ste. Marie International I-500 snowmobile race.

For decades, tens of thousands of diehard fans and enthusiasts have come to enjoy the festivities and the main event the I-500 brings. The idea was originally thought up by Sault Ste. Marie residents and would eventually take shape in the late 1960s as land was acquired and designers began creating the oval, one-mile track. This year’s race marks the event’s 50th anniversary of the 500-mile challenge.

I hope you and your family are able to get out and enjoy the Pure Michigan winter season or are able to attend this year’s I-500 festivities. This year’s I-500 celebrations begin on Monday, Jan. 29 and close with the final race on Feb. 3. For more information, please visit www.I-500.com.

Sen. Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City, represents the 37th state Senate District, which includes Antrim, Charlevoix, Cheboygan, Chippewa, Emmet, Grand Traverse, Luce and Mackinac counties.