Recklessness and speed apparently killed nine snowmobilers last winter in areas surrounding Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks. In all of the past four years, only 10 people died. The recent deaths occurred when riders collided with other snowmobiles or with trees.
"Anyone who is able to simply sit on a snowmobile and press the throttle, can go zooming through the forest at incredibly high speeds' says Teton County Undersheriff Lindsey Moss.
There are currently no restrictions on who can rent a snowmobile and how fast they can go; all that's needed is a driver's license. Although snowmobile rental shops are required to administer a rudimentary safety lesson, Moss says, "Snowmobiles have such strong engines that you might think you're not going too fast, but actually you're cruising at over 100 mph."
As the number of snowmobile rentals increases every year, it is now common to see up to 1,600 a day on park roads, say Yellowstone Park officials (HCN, 4/26/96). Although no one died inside the park last winter, rangers in Yellowstone investigated more than 40 snowmobile-related injuries.
* Bill Taylor