Hot time for a cold sport

Nearly 1,000 people take part in the Annual Fun Run, which takes place next Saturday in the Tower, Babbitt and Ely area. Funds raised from the event go to support grooming and maintenance efforts on the snowmobile trails in that area.

The snowmobile season is in full swing in northern Minnesota and that means riders from all over the state will be hitting the trails hard over the next two months.

It also means several annual events are on the way including the Annual Fun Run set to take place next Saturday in the Tower, Babbitt and Ely area.

Nearly 1,000 people take part in this event every year and money raised from it goes to support grooming and maintenance efforts on the snowmobile trails that run through and around those three cities.

Participants start (and register) at one of three locations: Benchwarmers Bar in Tower, the Grand Ely Lodge in Ely or Tank’s Bar in Babbitt. At that point they get one drawing ticket. From there they travel to the other two destinations to collect bonus drawing tickets – two at the first stop and three more at the final stop – for a total of six.

You don’t have to ride a snowmobile to take part in the Fun Run – which starts at 8 a.m. and ends at 4 p.m. – organizers say a high percentage of those who join in actually use their cars or trucks.

But being on a sled makes it a little more fun.

The entry fee is $25 and participants have a chance to win over 500 prizes. Prize drawings will be held at Fortune Bay Resort and Casino at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday.

The $25 pre-registration will automatically be entered for the Fun Run Grand Prizes and you don’t need to be present to win.

Bonus Prize Tickets are handed out on the day of the Fun Run. According to Fun Run literature, when you register at one of the three check in points participants receive a trail map and a bonus ticket, at the next check-in there are two bonus tickets and at the third check-in there are three bonus tickets.

Advance registration is available until Jan. 17 after that the ticket price is $30 and can be purchased on the day of the event.

More information and a link to register can be found at www.snowmobilefunrun.com.

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New drinking and driving laws

Government doesn’t always get it right but in the case of new DWI law on the books, I think they nailed it.

On Aug. 1, 2018, the Little Alan Law went into effect which means people convicted of driving while intoxicated – regardless of the vehicle they’re driving – will lose their driver’s license and be prohibited from operating motor vehicles, including all-terrain vehicles, motorboats and snowmobiles.

The law was passed following the tragic death of 8-year-old Alan Geisenkoetter Jr., who died last January after being struck by a snowmobile driven by a man whose driver’s license was revoked after multiple DWI offenses.

According to the Department of Natural Resources, before the law change, people convicted of DWI in a highway-licensed vehicle still could legally operate ATVs, motorboats and snowmobiles.

Under the new law a person convicted of DWI on a snowmobile or motorboat or ATV, or who refuses testing for a DWI, would have their driver’s license suspended and be prohibited from operating ATVs, motorboats and snowmobiles for one year.

Additionally, first-time DWI offenders operating off-road recreational vehicles or motorboats also will be subject to chemical use assessments, conditional release and plate impoundment – the same as a DWI in a highway-licensed vehicle.

The Minnesota DNR and other law enforcement agencies in the state, along with ATV and snowmobile groups, supported the law change, which passed the Legislature with bipartisan support and was signed into law in May by Gov. Mark Dayton.

Hopefully this law curbs the excessive drinking that sometimes occurs when some snowmobilers spend more time in the bars than on the trails.

I’ve seen this type of behavior first-hand and it is unsettling to watch a group of obviously intoxicated individuals stumble out of a bar, jump on sleds that can hit speeds in excess of 70 or 80 mph (and higher in some cases) and take off like maniacs down trails that in some spots barely fit two machines side by side.

According to the DNR, alcohol is a factor in over 70 percent of all fatal accidents in Minnesota, as well as many non-deadly snowmobile accidents.

Alcohol and drugs have a negative effect on the driver’s vision, balance, coordination, and reaction time.

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