Parkland Ambulance has dealt with a few snowmobile related incidents this year, but there have luckily been no major accidents.
© Herald photo by Perry Bergson
Snowmobilers are reminded to stay safe out on the trails this winter by Parkland Ambulance.
During Snowmobile Safety Week in Saskatchewan (Jan.18-24), Parkland Ambulance’s Lyle Karasiuk shared some safety tips with the public.
“The few that we have dealt with, fortunately, have not been too significant for the occupants of the snowmobile,” Karasiuk said “There are those types of injuries that can be quite dangerous and I think … in almost all of the incidences it has been related to the terrain.”
He said some of the incidents in the province have been due to the operators of the machines driving too fast. When going too fast, hazards can come up quickly or they can run into areas that are not safe.
When choosing to go out on the trail, Karasiuk said people should make sure they are on a machine that is appropriate for them.
“I don’t operate a snow machine and I don’t own one, but if I went out snowmobiling with some friends, I’d probably want a machine I can operate safely and I wouldn’t feel safe on something that is overpowering me,” he said.
“Now having said that, I do realize when you go to buy a machine for a younger person who is going to operate it on private property, these machines out of the box can go quite fast and quite quickly,” he added. “I’d make sure at first that I’ve got one I can operate safely -- not too big, not too fast, something I can handle and control.”
In addition to a proper snowmobile, Karasiuk said to also have proper gear, including a properly rated helmet, good boots, gloves, as well as dress in layers, have a buddy along and safety gear.
“The basic safety gear we look for, of course, is if you are travelling over ice, such as a river or lake, you’ve got something that will get you out of water, such as some picks, maybe a tow rope so if you do get stuck somewhere and someone has to pull you out,” Karasiuk said.
He also suggests bringing a GPS, cell phone, matches and a small axe.
Before heading out, Karasiuk asks people to make a trip plan to leave with a friend or loved one, in case something happens.
“Often people don’t think of a trip plan as being something essential but if you ever break down or something goes haywire that you end up being injured, we want you to stay where you are rather than going walking down the trail or walking off the trail -- it is the some thing as if your vehicle breaks down,” Karasiuk said. “We want you to literally hug a tree, build a fire and stay where you are at because if you have a trip plan, folks know where to find you. At least they have a starting point.”
Those not riding on groomed trails should be the most aware of hazards.
“If you are doing the roadside thing, and we see lots of people that zoom alongside the road and through the ditches, remember that those ditches become uneven, there are culverts, there are rocks, there are all kinds of hazards you want to be very visible of,” Karasiuk said. “We never encourage anyone to travel at night on a snow machine, even if you’ve got a light on your snow machine and things like that, especially when you are off a groomed trail.”
Since it is dark, people have no idea what is in front of them, he explained.
“Tragically running into a barbed wire fence with a snow machine is not going to be a good outcome for the rider of that machine,” Karasiuk said. “We have heard about it happening and we certainly don’t wish that tragedy on anyone.
“We want people to have fun, but do so smartly and do so safely. That is why there is a groomed trail system in our province so we can protect the land and be respectful of those folks who are out there.”
Regulations for snowmobiling
There are some regulations for snowmobilers to follow when they are out on the trails.
Anyone born after January 1, 1989, is required to obtain a Snowmobile Safety Course, which can e found online at www.snowmobilecourse.com. You have to be at least 12 years old to enroll.
“The snowmobile course is a great way too -- maybe we know someone who is taking snowmobiling up as a wonderful winter past time,” Lyle Karasiuk said. “Maybe it is a great idea that you visit the Saskatchewan Snowmobile Association website and get some safety tips.”
Those under 16 years old or those without a valid driver’s license can only ride a snowmobile with someone who has a valid driver’s license.
Drinking alcohol and riding a snowmobile is also prohibited and those caught will face the same penalties as people who drink and drive.