Snowmobiling Safety

Thaidene Nene National Park Reserve

Snowmobiling is a popular activity which allows participants to explore and stay active in the winter. Like all recreational activities, there are inherent risks that require snowmobile riders to act responsibly by being prepared and making good choices. Snowmobiling in Thaidene Nene National Park Reserve requires good planning, knowledge of local ice conditions and careful riding. The following information is a blend of local knowledge as well as tips from AdventureSmart.

Your safety is your own responsibility. Snowmobilers in Thaidene Nene National Park Reserve need to know the risks. The terrain can be challenging, the ice thin and snow deep. Weather conditions can change suddenly and without warning. There is a lot that can happen out there. That is why you need to be completely self-reliant.

Trip Planning. Plan your travel route. Know the terrain and conditions, and check the weather before departure. Always register your trip with Thaidene Nene. Ensure you have an emergency contact aware of your plans, who will contact us in case your party is overdue.

Training. Obtain the knowledge and skills you need before heading out. Know and stay within your limits.

Taking the Essentials. Always carry the essentials, and know how to use them. Add other equipment specific to your chosen activity, season and location.

Be prepared. Ensure that you are properly trained and equipped to survive several nights outside or to help others in need.

Hazards

You should also be aware of the following safety issues associated with snowmobiling:

Open Water and/or Weak Ice. There are several areas that frequently have open water and/or weak ice in the Thaidene Nene region. Local knowledge is extremely important to ensure a safe route. Even armed with knowledge, there may be a new area of open water - always travel with caution. Known areas of open water in the region include, but are not limited to: Utsingi Point, around the southwest of Etthen Island, the narrowing in the middle of Stark Lake, Tochatwi Lake and the gap between Fairchild Point and Maufelly Point in Reliance.

  • Some parts of the ice are prone to thinning earlier than the rest of the ice due to water currents.
  • If one area of snow is darker than the surrounding area, the dark area is typically thin ice. Pass by that area giving it a wide berth.
  • When the snow is soaked through with water, it means that there may be open water beneath. Do not approach these areas.
  • Ice close to river and stream mouths is generally thin.
  • Ice at narrows or gaps is generally thin. Bays and inlets often have strong currents during spring and are prone to thin ice and open water. Avoid travelling through bays and inlets that have narrow channels.

Pressure Ridges. Hitting a pressure ridge at high speed can be dangerous. Also, there can be open water between the sides of the pressure ridge. Ensure you scout your route before driving over a pressure ridge.

Extreme cold. The cold not only stresses the human body, but also equipment. Equipment is more prone to breaking in the cold, and four-stroke engines are hard to start in -40 conditions. Be aware of your limitations, as well as those of your equipment.

Alcohol Use. Many snowmobile crashes occur because of alcohol consumption. Alcohol use is also a leading cause of snowmobiling-related fatalities. Alcohol and drugs negatively affect your body by affecting your vision, equilibrium or balance and coordination, and reaction time.

Speed and Careless Operation. Speed is another major factor in many snowmobile crashes. Always keep the speed of your snowmobile slow enough to ensure you are in control and operating safely. Excessive speed combined with alcohol or drug use is especially dangerous.

Night Riding. Riding at night requires extra precautions. It is important to ride at slower speeds and use caution to not override snowmobiles' headlights. Headlights generally illuminate the path about 60 metres in front of you – so if you’re driving faster than 60 km/h you’re likely exceeding the area illuminated by your headlights before you can react and stop safely.

Youth Riders. Youth are important to the future of snowmobiling, so it is important that extra precautions be taken to ensure they have safe outings that are also enjoyable so they develop a desire to continue snowmobiling as they get older. AdventureSmart offers a snowmobile safety course, Survive Outside—Snowmobiling, for those interested in learning about how to be safe while snowmobiling.

Closed Areas. Respect for closed areas is important since closed areas may contain hazardous conditions for snowmobile operators or are closed for cultural reasons or to benefit wintering wildlife or non-motorized recreation.

Equipment

The Essentials:

  • Flashlight
  • Fire making kit
  • Whistle or mirror
  • Extra food and water
  • Extra clothing
  • Navigational / communication aids
  • First aid kit
  • Emergency shelter
  • Pocket knife and axe
  • Sun protection

Equipment specific to snowmobiling:

  • Full-face helmet and goggles
  • Snowmobile flotation suit
  • Thermal underwear with an extra thermal layer
  • Warm gloves/mitts, boots, socks & hat, with extras of each
  • 50 ft length of rope strong enough to tow a snowmobile
  • Spare gas, belt, plugs and tools
  • Tent with wood stove
  • Ice/picks (to be worn) to assist getting out of water if you fall through ice
  • Generator and/or booster pack to start 4-stroke motors in cold weather

For further information check out the Adventure Smart website.

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