Deadly NH Snowmobile Season Comes To Abrupt Halt

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Paula Tracy photo

File photo of snowmobile.


CONCORD – It looks like the deadliest snowmobile season in recent memory in New Hampshire has come to an abrupt halt.

A lack of snow has closed more than 6,000 miles of trails unless Sunday’s predicted storm somehow re-starts winter.

The abbreviated season was notable in that inexperienced riders on rented sleds were involved in the majority of the at least four fatalities, far more than any other season in recent history, said Lt. Mark Ober, Jr., District One chief of the New Hampshire Fish & Game Department in Lancaster, which covers all of Coos County.

While snow is in the forecast for Sunday, the weekly New Hampshire snowmobile trail conditions report for March 8 showed all trails closed or no club reports, even in the state’s northernmost and highest elevations in the Great North Woods region.

Ober said the season started late and ended early. The season stressed rescue crews and Fish and Game officers responding to several major crashes a day on weekends and holidays.

The short and lethal season is now being examined for potential safety legislation with Executive Councilor Joe Kenney focusing on ways to make snowmobiling safer, particularly as it relates to snowmobile rentals and education.

Kenney said Vermont has some education requirements for snowmobile renters and that it is likely New Hampshire will work not only with the Green Mountain state but neighboring Maine to allow for reciprocity between states and riders.

“Long term, that is where I think this leads,” Kenney said Friday. “We’re looking to come up with some solutions.

“We need some standardization in the rental industry…and to tighten up the state laws,” related to snowmobile rentals, Kenney said.

The issue is like an octopus with many legs and it might be hard to do it all at once but safety is a priority as a good host state for visitors and hopefully return home with a good experience.

The Wakefield Republican, whose district includes the entire North Country, met with department heads in an effort to begin to understand snowmobile safety and why there were so many devastating crashes, particularly among visitors to the state who were unfamiliar with the powerful machines they rented.

Rules for snowmobile renters don’t exist in state law other than requiring they have a valid driver’s license, said Ober. He said he has never before seen anything like this deadly season.

Providing crash data for his area alone in Coos County from 2018 to the present shows no fatal accidents in the winters of 2018, 2019, 2021, and last winter. There was one fatal in 2022 and two in 2020.

The seasons’ lengths vary by weather but the lowest accident winter was in 2021 with 17 accidents and seven on rented sleds and the worst during that period was 2020 when there were a total of 35 accidents in Coos County, 11 on rentals and two deaths, according to Ober’s data. The data does not specify in the past whether or not the fatalities were on rented sleds but this year, three of the four deaths were on rentals.


“As the season has ended in the Colebrook Ski-Bees trail system, THANK YOU for making the best of a difficult season. For those of you that are landowners on our system, again, THANK YOU for allowing us to use your land for our trail system. We couldn’t do this without you. We truly appreciate you sharing it with us!” said the state snowmobile report for Friday.

A lack of natural snow and in some cases, rain and fog have led to a shorter season than usual, particularly as it began later than usual for the same weather reasons.

Usually a winter snowmobile season begins Dec. 15 and extends until the end of March. But not now.

Unless winter returns in a “big way” the Scrub Oak Scramblers snowmobile club in Madison was reporting their groomed trails were closed for the season and all gates shut.

Jefferson Hi-Landers said, “Sadly the warm weather and rain has left us no choice but to close our trails for the season.”

The White Mountain Trail Club in Bartlett including Bear Notch also reported being closed. “If we get snow, we will reopen if possible.  Trail conditions can be found at”

Baker River Valley Snowmobile Club in the Dorchester area said they had not made a determination about this coming weekend but urged riders to check online at

The Lake Sunapee Snowmobile Club said “this marks the end of our season. Please respect our landowners and stay off the trails. Gates will be closed, and signs taken down soon.  Stay OFF any body of water; they are never safe!”

While the Ammonoosuc Recreational Trail remained open there was no reportable riding at this time.

But a new season was beginning on the Rockingham Recreational Trail, Fremont Branch (Windham to Epping) open to ATVs 50 inches or fewer.


Kenney convened a meeting to gather information this week and said he is going to try to find out more information about insurance claims to get a better handle on this issue. He said he was told the crash numbers of Fish and Game are just the tip of the iceberg.

The 45th Parallel Emergency Rescue Service, which often responds to accidents, did not immediately respond to a request for information.

As of Feb. 20, Ober reported 21 crashes the department has responded to including two fatalities on rentals and seven rental crashes overall. 

But those numbers have grown since that date and at least two more fatalities were reported, with one on a rental.

“The latest fatality was a woman from Massachusetts who I believe was her first time ever on a snowmobile,” Ober said.

He said many of the serious crashes have involved women and inexperience.


Krista Bebezas, 48, of Westford, Mass.; Stacey McGarry, 56, of Littleton, Mass., Shawnee Hollis, 39, of North Brookfield, Mass., and the most recent, Mark Lamothe, 64, of Freedom all lost their lives while snowmobiling in New Hampshire this winter.

Investigators believed that Lamothe likely suffered a medical emergency at the time of the incident.


Kenney said he wants to look at a number of issues related to safety on the trails for next season and they include rescue resources and distribution; comprehensive trail mapping; trail capacity; the size, speed and power of the rented snowmobiles; whether there can be modifications to limit speed; and what sort of education is offered or required in other states; as well as some data from the Department of Insurance.

While not snowmobile trails, hiking trails in the Lakes Region are going to be closed for mud season next week.

A list of trails which will stay open for hiking, birding and dog walking through mud season can be found here Mud Season Trail Closures | Welcome to the Squam Lakes Association

Paula Tracy is a senior writer at and has worked as a reporter for 30 years.

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