Issue: 2016-03-17, Photo: kozzi.com
All the safety rules in the world have no effect if they aren’t followed. Too many people just think, “It can’t happen to me,” and off they go, oblivious to possible danger.
In recent years with our now super-powerful snow-machines, more and more people are getting into avalanche situations and many are not returning from their afternoons on the slopes. In addition to that situation, every winter we have snow machines going through the ice and the heavily clad riders end up drowning.
A warm winter like the current one gets more people out on the land, but the river and lake ice is thinner and the avalanche danger is higher. People don’t need to stay safely at home, but we all should accept that there are some risks out there and plan to avoid them.
The most obvious – and often overlooked – step is to let someone know where you are going and when you plan to be back. That saves a lot of wasted time if you don’t get back on time as the searchers can start looking in the right places.
High quality clothing is next on your list and price often, but not always, infers quality. Avoid buying into trends or labels without doing some research into quality. Many outdoor/snowmobile clothing is designed down south for use down south and really doesn’t measure up to our northern severe weather requirements. Always carry some spare clothing including mitts and gloves so you can change if wet or just add more layers to suit conditions. Wet feet are common due to the very common overflow situations on both lakes and rivers.
Travelling with a mechanic is always a good idea, but learning some of the basic repairs such as a spark-plug or belt change is a necessity. Modern machines, like our vehicles, have so much electronics that repairs often cannot be made except by an expert in a heated shop back home.
You should always carry first-aid, some snacks and a survival kit with fire starter, shelter building material and a pot to melt snow for tea. Air activated hand and foot-warmers are life savers.
Save the booze until after you’re back home or in camp. Being under the influence certainly puts you at risk, but it always makes the situation more unpredictable and perhaps dangerous for the others who are with you.
Stay alert as you travel, overflow can be deep enough to bog down your machine and not visible at all as you approach it. Open water, pressure ridges or thin ice situations can be anywhere and may not be apparent due to atmospheric conditions such as fog or blowing snow. Ice thickness must be adequate to support the weight of you and your group.
Be sensible and remember that your super-fast machine doesn’t need to be going top-speed all the time and others with you may not be experienced enough to avoid problems at high-speed. Accidents caused by following too closely or hitting fixed objects such as docks, trees or pressure ridges are common in the snowmobile world.