Algoma Sno-Plan Affiliation
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SAFETY

Night Riding

A disproportionate number of snowmobiling incidents, including nine out of ten fatalities, occur after dark. Most often night riding also includes alcohol consumption and excessive speed.

Forward visibility is reduced by darkness and it is much more difficult to spot and identify potential hazards in time. Overdriving headlights can also be a serious problem so slow down when snowmobiling after dark. Becoming disoriented or lost is much more likely at night.

Always wear outer clothing with reflective trim on the arms, back and helmet. Never ride alone at night. Always dress in your full snowmobiling outfit even if your intended destination is just next door.

Ice and Snowmobiles

Drowning is one of the leading causes of snowmobile fatalities. Wherever possible, avoid riding on frozen lakes and rivers because ice conditions are never a safe bet. Ice conditions can change in a period of several hours. If you must cross ice, ask first, then stay on the packed or marked trail. Don't stop until you reach shore. If you hit slush, don't let off the throttle. If you are following someone who hits slush, veer off to make your own path. If you must travel over lakes and rivers then consider using a buoyant snowmobile suit that will assist you to reach the closest ice surface. Also consider carrying a set of picks that will help you grip the edge of the ice more easily. As a rule of thumb, "If you don't know, don't go." If you do break through the ice, don't panic. Follow these self rescue tips:

Kick vigorously into a horizontal position and swim
to the nearest ice edge.

Place hands/arms on unbroken ice while kicking hard
to propel your body onto the ice like a seal.

Once clear, stay flat and roll away to stronger ice.

Stand, keep moving and find shelter fast.

For more information on ice safety and rescue, contact the Lifesaving Society at (613) 746-5694 and ask for a copy of their ice manual.

Cold Facts of Winter

Hypothermia
This is the lowering of the body's core temperature. It can happen in water or on land. Hypothermia does not require extreme cold and accelerates with wind and wetness. Dressing warmly in water resistant layers helps, but if immersed, quickly replace wet clothes, keep moving to generate body heat and find immediate shelter and warmth.

Snow Blindness
This occurs when direct and reflecting sun glare are too bright for the eyes. Riding without good quality, UV protected sunglasses can cause permanent damage.

Frostbite
Frostbite results from freezing temperatures and poor circulation. Most common on extremities and exposed skin, it can be identified by unnaturally white and numb skin surrounded by harsh red colouring. Cover up and layer well, making sure that socks fit loosely within your boots and remember that mitts with liners are warmer than gloves.

Wind Chill
Wind chill is lower temperature caused by wind and/or the forward momentum of a fast moving sled. Wind chill exposes you to severe cold which in turn can cause hypothermia. Wind-proof outer garments, extra layers and a balaclava will offer some protection, but keep your face shield down to prevent wind burn and to protect your skin and eyes.

Survival Kits

You can easily snowmobile beyond immediate help. Basic repair and survival kits, expandable for longer tours, are essential.

The Repair Kit should contain:

  • Spare belt;
  • Spare spark plugs;
  • Manufacturer's tool kit;
  • Extra wrenches;
  • Nuts & bolts sized for your sled;
  • Tow rope;
  • Pry bar;
  • Duct tape;
  • Wire;
  • Extra ignition key; and
  • Work gloves.

Dressing Right

With high tech winter wear and proper layering, winter comfort is easy. Start with polypropylene and thermal under layers that releases moisture while retaining heat. Add other heat retentive layers depending on the temperature. Also consider the fact that your forward motion will add to the wind-chill factor. Avoid cottons and sweat shirts which retain moisture, making you cold and clammy which leads to hypothermia.

Good snowmobile wear contains materials that retain heat, release moisture and resist both water and wind. Even better are suits that are water and wind proof. Consider wearing a buoyant snowmobile suit if you plan on traveling across ice as it will assist to keep you afloat and will help to protect you against hypothermia. Snowmobile suits should have reflective trim for night visibility. Carry extra clothing, socks, boot liners and mitts for layering. A helmet and face shield combat cold and hazards, while waterproof, insulated boots and leather snowmobile mitts provide warmth and protection.

Defensive Snowmobiling

Engine noise and your helmet may impair your hearing, so be extra alert for danger. Never assume what another snowmobiler will do.

Your safety is in your hands, so watch out for:

  • Obstacles hidden by the snow;
  • Trees and branches on the trail;
  • Slow grooming equipment;
  • Oncoming sleds;
  • Other trail users ( skiers, walkers, );
  • Wildlife;
  • Trail wash outs and flooding;
  • Snow banks and moguls;
  • Road and railway crossings;
  • Unexpected corners, intersections and stops;
  • Bridges, open water and unsafe ice; and
  • Logging operations.

Don't Drink and Ride

Snowmobiling requires constant care, caution and attention. Don't drink and ride. Even small amounts of alcohol can impair your perception, slow your reaction time and limit your ability to control your sled at that critical moment when your life is in the balance. Alcohol is involved in over 70% of snowmobiling fatalities.

Moreover, snowmobiling often takes you to remote areas that are miles from help, increasing your risk of permanent injury or death after an accident. Contrary to popular opinion, alcohol increases your susceptibility to cold & hypothermia. This will decrease your chances of survival if you have to wait long for help to arrive.

Finally, operating your sled under the influence of alcohol is punishable under the Criminal Code of Canada. If convicted of driving a snowmobile while impaired, you will lose all driving privileges (car, truck, motorcycle, off-road vehicles and snowmobile). Therefore, if you drink and ride, both your driver's license and insurability are at risk.

The Snowmobile Trail Officer Patrol (S.T.O.P.) officers are trained volunteers empowered to enforce the Motorized Snow Vehicles Act. This OFSC program is continuing to expand into many communities in Ontario.

Keep your wits about you. Don't Drink and Ride!