Wisconsin has more than 25,000 miles of groomed snowmobile trails for its 200,000–plus registered snowmobilers. But snowmobilers may not be aware that landowners who allow snowmobilers to use their property for recreation do not have to keep the property safe for recreational use. Recreational immunity is defined by Wis. Stats. § 895.52 as “…any outdoor activity undertaken for the purpose of exercise, relaxation or pleasure including practice or instruction in any activity.” And that includes snowmobiling.
This means that the landowner does not have to inspect the property or warn of unsafe conditions on their property and is not liable for recreational accidents that occur on their property. Therefore, caution is recommended when snowmobiling on a person’s property — do not assume that the owner has taken measures to make snowmobile trails on their property safe or that the owner has posted warnings about potential hazards.
If a snowmobiler is injured on another person’s property, the land owner could be liable if the injury or death is caused by a malicious act of the property owner or if the landowner receives more than $2,000 per year for recreational use of their property.
The Wisconsin DNR recommends that all snowmobile operators complete a safety course and all operators born or after January 1, 1985, who are at least 12, must complete a snowmobile safety certification course. Courses such as this are an invaluable resource for snowmobilers and can help clarify safety rules and regulations that keep you and your family safe and informed.