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Old 03-02-2008, 08:35 PM   #1
VitaBene
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Default Snowmobile and Winter Ice Safety

Out of respect for David Fifield, the Moultonborough man who died the other day while snowmobiling on Winnipesaukee in Moultonborough, I have started a separate thread to start a discourse on snowmobiling safety on the lake. None of my comments address this situation- we will not know what happened for quite some time definitively and I won't speculate.

I will preface this by saying that I am by no means an expert and am interested in everyone's opinions. As an aside I heard on WBZ that there were 4 snowmobile deaths in ME this weekend.

What can be done to prevent these tragedies?

Here are my thoughts:
1) Do NOT drink and ride. No need to elaborate here but I need to comment. I enjoy my beer and wine in greater quantities than my doctor likes, but know that the lake is no place to operate a boat or snowmobile when intoxicated. You have to set limits on yourself. I will at time have a beer and maybe two if it a long lunch with a lot of food but I can wait until I am back at the house.

2) Stay off the ice if you have not checked it out thoroughly- watch the ice fishermen- they usually know. For God's sake don't ride at night on the lake unless you know that area like the back of your hand.

3) Stay on your side of the trail. We spend a fair amount of time on the trail and I am amazed that there are not more head on collisions.

4) Don't snowmobile alone at night- the woods can be a lonely place.

5) Be prepared- Do you have emergency food and water supplies' first aid kit, blanket (I usually do not have this and should when doing a long day)?

I am sure many can add their two cents and I welcome it!

John
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Old 03-02-2008, 10:52 PM   #2
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Post More advice

In general, it is much safer to snowmobile with someone else. My rule is not to ride alone. In addition, I carry a set of ice awls (they sell them for $4 on the net) in the unlikely event that I need to pull myself out of the water onto the ice. I find that the safest approach is to follow other snowmobile tracks on the ice and be on the lookout for ice ridges and bubblers.

The final issue, is speed. Generally, most snowmobilers keep to the right and travel at a speed that allows them control. Some travel at speeds too high for the conditions and that is a safety concern.



IMHO, we are responsible for our own safety and others around us. So, we should ride prepared and smart. Most people do.
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Old 03-03-2008, 07:11 AM   #3
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Default A few safety hints

Skimming: The law says don't skim. Obey this one! However, there may be an occasion when you are surprised by open water and have no choice. Condition yourself to quickly assess the situation, and be prepared to "go full throttle" and skim if you can't stop in time. In fact, hit-the-gas will help you in many situations, such as when you are bogging down in slush, when coming to a water bar on the trail and cresting a hill. Its part of learning to ride a snomobile - sometimes safer travel means maintaining or increasing your speed, rather than hitting the brakes.

Emergency Equipment: Keep a tow rope, gas siphon tube and emergency space blanket on board. Cell phone and GPS are nice to have.

On the trails: Imagine a sled coming around every blind corner. When you can't see what might be coming, keep to the right, slow down and mentally look for a ditching path. When seeing other sleds, use the hand-signals to indicate how many are in your party. Getting stuck happens. Learn the tricks to get unstuck (topic for another reply).

On the ice: Wait until you are sure it is safe. Avoid the narrows. Stay away from rocks in the spring. Cross cracks where others have gone before, or very quickly. Put pics on your track to help you stop on ice. Wear a pair of spikes to help you get out. Watch for bubblers, and stay at least 100' away until winter is well set in - then at least 50'. In the spring, the slush under the snow can bog you down and make you stuck, even though the ice is safe. Keep up your speed or avoid the area.

Sledding alone: While its best to not sled alone, that is often impractical advice. Tell someone where you are going and when you will be back, or leave a note. Keep a charged cell phone with you. If its cold, keep the phone off and near your body to save its battery. If you have a GPS, bring that alone, so you can call in your location. Watch your gas supply carefully. Don't go anywhere where you couldn't walk out within a few hours. Keep to the trails that have some activity. Dress as if you may have to spend the night outside.
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Old 03-03-2008, 08:13 AM   #4
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On the trails: Getting stuck happens. Learn the tricks to get unstuck (topic for another reply).
Lakegeezer

You mentioned getting stuck, as this is my first year snowmobiling, I have become stuck a time or two and any advice you can give would be welcomed. I have seen others get stuck and in moments they are gone, when we do it, we seem to make it worse not better.
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Old 03-03-2008, 09:03 AM   #5
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Lakegeezer

You mentioned getting stuck, as this is my first year snowmobiling, I have become stuck a time or two and any advice you can give would be welcomed. I have seen others get stuck and in moments they are gone, when we do it, we seem to make it worse not better.
Don't slow down... I find that on the lake you need to keep your speed up when the conditions or soft or you will get buried. If you start to get stuck and feel that you can't power through it you should stop, swing the tail of the sled sideways onto hopefully more solid snow and try to start slow.

Do you have picks in your track? This will help greatly if not. I also have found that particular brands/models get stuck easier than others.
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Old 03-03-2008, 09:26 AM   #6
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Thanks,

I do have picks, what I don't have is reverse. We bought low mileage older sleds to make sure we liked snowmobiling. We have been fine on the lake, it is in deeper snow where we had some minor issues. We have been able to drive through most issues, it is just when we are turning tightly or going through un-groomed snow.

Most of the mishaps where being a novice to the sport (we have had every other toy, but not snowmobiles). We learn and move on, where we struggle, is that when we do happen upon a learning experience, how do we get it unstuck? I know that comes with experience, but any tips would be welcomed.

And reverse is a must on the next sled!
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Old 03-03-2008, 09:34 AM   #7
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Default ...cross country skiing!

Or, here's a way to get out in the winter woods without needing any of that stuff like a trailer, a towing capable vehicle, high speeds, a helmet, smelly two-stroke or pricey four-stroke oil and $3.10 gasoline, and the snowmobile itself: it called CROSS COUNTRY SKIING. For like ten bucks or less, it is not hard to find a beautifull pair of high quality, all wood, cross country skis at a NH garage sale. You know, the type that requires waxing, and come from Norway, Sweden or Finland.

One small bag of gorp, granola, m&m's, & raisins, plus some water, and you are good to go for half a day. Plus, the Black Snout mountain summit overlook'n Winnipesaukee from the Ossipee Mtns is there for free. Just, steep into those old xc skis and hit the trail, and go where the snowmos can't go!

So, it's time to LOSE the FAT, go cross country skiing, and forgit about snomo's!
......

How can you tell he/she is a snowmobiler?

Thumb twitches when snow is forecast.

Refers to standing around as 'wasting daylight.'

Enjoys the smell of two-cycle exhaust and the sound of revving engines.

Considers his exact sled width when approaching two trees, out of control, and careening downhill.
.........

The best part of growing up .....is getting a faster sled!

When HELL freezes over.......we'll ride there too!


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Last edited by fatlazyless; 03-03-2008 at 10:21 AM.
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Old 03-03-2008, 09:56 AM   #8
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Talking

I have the ski's, but I can also afford a snowmobile. Is there really a need to put a negative spin on this subject too?
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Old 03-03-2008, 11:09 AM   #9
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FLL,

I have in the past, found this forum to be a great resource. But with your latest post (and the hidden edit after I responded), I have finally experienced the downside for myself.
I have reviewed your comments and taken them to heart, but I will continue to head out to the trails to enjoy my ride.
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Old 03-03-2008, 12:18 PM   #10
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Default Inappropriate

Quote:
Originally Posted by fatlazyless View Post
Or, here's a way to get out in the winter woods without needing any of that stuff like a trailer, a towing capable vehicle, high speeds, a helmet, smelly two-stroke or pricey four-stroke oil and $3.10 gasoline, and the snowmobile itself: it called CROSS COUNTRY SKIING. For like ten bucks or less, it is not hard to find a beautifull pair of high quality, all wood, cross country skis at a NH garage sale. You know, the type that requires waxing, and come from Norway, Sweden or Finland.

One small bag of gorp, granola, m&m's, & raisins, plus some water, and you are good to go for half a day. Plus, the Black Snout mountain summit overlook'n Winnipesaukee from the Ossipee Mtns is there for free. Just, steep into those old xc skis and hit the trail, and go where the snowmos can't go!

So, it's time to LOSE the FAT, go cross country skiing, and forgit about snomo's!
......

How can you tell he/she is a snowmobiler?

Thumb twitches when snow is forecast.

Refers to standing around as 'wasting daylight.'

Enjoys the smell of two-cycle exhaust and the sound of revving engines.

Considers his exact sled width when approaching two trees, out of control, and careening downhill.
.........

The best part of growing up .....is getting a faster sled!

When HELL freezes over.......we'll ride there too!


This is a thread regarding snowmobile safety. How about keeping your incipid remarks to yourself? You are taking a productive thread off topic.

Jetskier
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Old 03-03-2008, 02:31 PM   #11
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You are taking a productive thread off topic.
That's his hobby. Just ignore him...
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Old 03-03-2008, 03:42 PM   #12
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Are there too many nanny laws causing people to not think about the consequences of their actions?

Why are people unable to do anything without ending their life?!
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Old 03-03-2008, 05:11 PM   #13
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I find this being the most lacking... COMMON SENSE!!

Ride safe and courteous.

Most accidents that occur, alcohol and speed were involved. How many more must get hurt or killed before everyone realizes that a little less of both would be a good idea? Oh that's right it's always the other guy right, it'll never happen to me.

Wondering what to carry on the sled at all times? Think about this, if you had to spend the night out in the woods what would you like to have? Whatever makes your list, carry it.

Please people.... don't ride your machine out of gas. Is it that big a deal to gas up before you hit fumes and are 10 miles out and thought "oh yeah I've got plenty of gas to.... um... crap I'm outta gas! Same goes with oil.

Take care of your machine and before you head out, give it a once over to be sure it's in good working order. If the thing is a basket case, it might be time to retire it for something that is a little more mechanically sound.

Slow down when the trail is narrow and passing oncoming traffic. Also use hand signals to let oncoming traffic know how many are behind you.

If you head out at night, wear clothing with reflective something on it and make sure all your lights work.

Finally, quit gunning your throttle and creating all those moguls on the trails. Is it really necessary to braaap - braaap - braaaaaaaap your sled? It not only wrecks the trails, but spins all the snow off them, especially in the corners. Never mind the fact it's really bad for the track to spin it especially into the dirt or on pavement.
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Old 03-05-2008, 11:55 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jetskier View Post
In general, it is much safer to snowmobile with someone else. My rule is not to ride alone. In addition, I carry a set of ice awls (they sell them for $4 on the net) in the unlikely event that I need to pull myself out of the water onto the ice. I find that the safest approach is to follow other snowmobile tracks on the ice and be on the lookout for ice ridges and bubblers.

The final issue, is speed. Generally, most snowmobilers keep to the right and travel at a speed that allows them control. Some travel at speeds too high for the conditions and that is a safety concern.



IMHO, we are responsible for our own safety and others around us. So, we should ride prepared and smart. Most people do.
Jetskier,

Great suggestions! I will make one comment on your suggestion regarding following other tracks especially at night. My house is in Suissevale in Moultonborough over near Green's Basin. There have been a number of drownings there. the most recent was due to the two snowmobilers following other tracks, unfortunately they were the tracks of open water skimmers. So be careful of whose tracks you follow! Of course, alcohol, speed and lack of common sense were also mitigating factors in this case as well. One guy gunned it and crossed, the other panicked and died.
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Old 03-05-2008, 12:11 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fatlazyless View Post
Or, here's a way to get out in the winter woods without needing any of that stuff like a trailer, a towing capable vehicle, high speeds, a helmet, smelly two-stroke or pricey four-stroke oil and $3.10 gasoline, and the snowmobile itself: it called CROSS COUNTRY SKIING. For like ten bucks or less, it is not hard to find a beautifull pair of high quality, all wood, cross country skis at a NH garage sale. You know, the type that requires waxing, and come from Norway, Sweden or Finland.

One small bag of gorp, granola, m&m's, & raisins, plus some water, and you are good to go for half a day. Plus, the Black Snout mountain summit overlook'n Winnipesaukee from the Ossipee Mtns is there for free. Just, steep into those old xc skis and hit the trail, and go where the snowmos can't go!

So, it's time to LOSE the FAT, go cross country skiing, and forgit about snomo's!
......

How can you tell he/she is a snowmobiler?

Thumb twitches when snow is forecast.

Refers to standing around as 'wasting daylight.'

Enjoys the smell of two-cycle exhaust and the sound of revving engines.

Considers his exact sled width when approaching two trees, out of control, and careening downhill.
.........

The best part of growing up .....is getting a faster sled!

When HELL freezes over.......we'll ride there too!


FLL, I spend plenty of time on two boards but enjoy snowmobiling as well. While I love the smell of two-stroke, there are plenty of 4 stroke options available.

You are making an assumtion that snowmobilers need to lose the fat. In some cases that may be so, but certainly not all. Please don't paint with a broad brush.

BTW didn't I read on another thread that you have a skiff with an outboard? If so, maybe you should start using the oars full time! If not, my apologies in advance.
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Old 03-05-2008, 01:42 PM   #16
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Post Good Point

Quote:
Originally Posted by VitaBene View Post
Jetskier,

Great suggestions! I will make one comment on your suggestion regarding following other tracks especially at night. My house is in Suissevale in Moultonborough over near Green's Basin. There have been a number of drownings there. the most recent was due to the two snowmobilers following other tracks, unfortunately they were the tracks of open water skimmers. So be careful of whose tracks you follow! Of course, alcohol, speed and lack of common sense were also mitigating factors in this case as well. One guy gunned it and crossed, the other panicked and died.
Hi VitaBene,

That is a very good point. It is prudent to also look at where the tracks are going. In general, snowmobiliers create track roads on the ice that indicate that the way is/was safe. Of course, that is no substitute for watching where you are going and being aware of the conditions. I find that the greater issue (than open water) is ice ridges. Ice ridges can form quickly and they are essentially a brick wall.

Skimming is just a bad idea. Of course, if you find yourself on soft ice or unexpected open water, then power is your friend.

Unfortunately, I think that most accidents are rooted in drinking and bad judgement...like everything else.

Jetskier
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Old 03-06-2008, 10:33 AM   #17
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Jet skier- great point on the ice ridges.

The drowning I referred to happened at night. I think the main point of both of our suggestions is don't out-run your vision; or especially at night, your headlights!!

Be safe out there this weekend, everyone!!

John
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Old 03-06-2008, 08:00 PM   #18
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BRK-INT I agree with you. I think FLL needs a new hobby - too much time on his hands.

Anyway regarding snowmobiling safety I find one of the biggest problems, especially on lakes is outdriving your headlight(s). Seen too many people killed by head-ons and pressure ridges just because they were going too fast at night. One of the reasons there are a couple nighttime speed limits on NH lakes. Of course the underlying cause is still alcohol in many of these.
I refuse to ride lakes at night, even my own. I've seen open water where there was 34" of ice the year before with the same temps.
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Old 04-08-2008, 06:12 AM   #19
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Still some snowmobiles out on the frozen lake....saw two yesterday April 7 speeding past Mark Island...all the ice is still very solid looking(?) with no openings....w-i-n-t-e-r...means....f-u-r-e-v-e-r ....around here(?).
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