Snowmobile Ice Safety
Below is a list of basic safety tips to keep in mind before and while operating your snowmobile on frozen lakes and rivers. For more complete information please check out some of these sources:
Basic Ice Safety Tips:
- Before heading out, check ice condition reports and forecasts if available.
- Wear ice escape picks (a small, padded, floating set of ice picks that hang around your neck and can be used to pull yourself out of the water and back on to the ice). A variety of inexpensive and easy to use styles are available.
- If you spend a lot of time snowmobiling on ice consider a floating snowmobile suit.
- Keep distance between each snowmobile, so if an area of ice does give way only one sled will be affected.
- Avoid areas where creeks and rivers enter and exit lakes, and other areas known to have a strong current. Ice can be significantly thinner in areas with flowing water directly underneath.
- Avoid areas known to regularly have thin ice or open water.
- Ice strength varies widely depending on many factors.
– Clear blue ice is generally strong.
– White or opaque ice is weaker, often about half as strong as blue ice.
– Grey ice and slushy ice should be avoided.
- An absolute minimum of 6 inches / 16 cm of good quality ice is required before operating a snowmobile on it, waiting until there is 10 inches / 25 cm or more is highly recommended.
- Frozen lakes may look like a flat open area to go play in, but keep mind they often have many hard to see hazards such as ice stress ridges, hard packed snow drifts, ice fishing holes, ice road windrows, etc.
- Snowmobiles can be difficult to steer and take a long time to stop due to the limited traction on ice, and snowmobile collisions on frozen lakes are surprisingly common.
- If you find yourself on thin ice, open water, or you suspect the ice is giving way, DO NOT STOP…
– A slow moving or stopped snowmobile will sink, while a fast moving snowmobile will skip across the top of water.
– Keep as much speed and momentum as you can and gently steer towards dry land or safer ice.
- If you fall through, don’t panic.
– Get upright and swim to the edge of the ice.
– Leave your clothing on, air trapped in your clothing and between layers will help you float.
– Begin pulling yourself out, and keep your weight as spread out as possible by crawling on your stomach until well away from the open water.
– Once out immediately proceed to a warm place if there is one nearby, and if there isn’t then immediately start a fire to begin warming anyone who got wet and then call for help as soon as possible.
– When immersed in water during a Yukon winter it only takes minutes for hypothermia to set in. Know the symptoms and be prepared to deal with them.
– Common symptoms of hypothermia are often described as similar to being drunk, and usually include slow reaction time, slurred speech, clumsiness, etc.
– To avoid serious long term problems and possibly death, getting out of the water and getting warm and dry again fast is absolutely critical and must happen quickly.