Vilas County snowmobile trails become deadliest in state after tragic week

5 people have died on snowmobilers in Vilas Co. already this year
5 people have died on snowmobilers in Vilas Co. already this year
Published: Feb. 3, 2023 at 7:00 PM CST
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EAGLE RIVER, Wis. (WSAW) - The snowmobile capital of the world is struggling with snowmobile-related deaths. Five out of the nine snowmobile deaths in the state have happened in Vilas County. The most recent crash took the lives of two people.

“We’ve been seeing a lot of aggressive driving this year,” said Chief Deputy Patrick Schmidt, of the Vilas County Sheriff’s Office.

The Vilas County Sheriff’s Office said five snowmobile-related deaths are not a good way to start off the year. “If we could just get people to slow down, we’re hoping some of these accidents will not happen,” said Schmidt.

The deputy chief said they’re used to seeing more snowmobile crashes in the evening, but this year they’re seeing earlier in the day. “I mean, we had a double fatality Thursday and already on Friday we’re dealing with another snowmobiler that hit a tree, broke a leg, hurt his neck and back, and it’s not even noon,” said Schmidt.

Schmidt said slowing down and better snowmobile education can help decrease crashes.

Schmidt added that any number of deaths is unacceptable. The sheriff’s office has begun to increase patrolling on the trails due to the significant number of deaths and accidents. “We have two officers actually out there right now on snowmobile patrol,” said Schmidt.

The sheriff’s office’s snowmobile patrol is making sure people are registered, enforcing staying on the trails, and they’re looking for reckless drivers.