Snowmobilers, rejoice! Conditions are as good as they have been in many parts of Minnesota in a long, long time. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources encourages all enthusiasts to hit the trails but reminds riders to leave the booze behind.

In a news release this week, the DNR says conservation officers report, "the biggest number of riders in years to hit the state's 22,000 miles of snowmobile trails." But with the positive news comes a cautionary note, "Enforcement officials remind riders to leave the booze on the shelf or in the refrigerator until after they're done riding."

The department reports, "Alcohol is a factor in more than 70 percent of snowmobile-related fatalities in Minnesota." A new law went into enforcement last August 1, called "Little Alan's Law," it forces people convicted of driving while intoxicated, no matter what kind of vehicle, to lose their license to operate any motorized vehicle.

The law honors eight-year-old Alan Geisenkoetter Jr who was struck by a drunk snowmobile driver last year. Eric Coleman received a 12-and-a-half year sentence in that case. The news release says he was drunk at the time and had multiple DWI violations.

DNR Regional Training Officer Jen Mueller says, "We hope the increased penalties for people convicted of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence will cause them to think twice before drinking and riding." She added, "There's never an excuse to drink and drive and we have no tolerance for people who do it."

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