Trails Open

By: Justin Ware
By: Justin Ware

In Oneida County the trails were for the most part quiet, but for those who were out taking advantage of the first weekend of snowmobiling that just meant more room for them to ride.

"It's a little rough in some places," said snowmobiler Jeremy Jenkins, "it's a little sandy, it's not bad. There's not a whole lot of people. I like that."

"They're alright, but when you're going up the hills and all that," said Oneida County snowmobiler Ray Kurilla, "they're worn down to the ground already, otherwise, O.K."

Oneida is one of five counties that opened their trails to snowmobilers this weekend, but thin ice conditions further south mean snowmobilers there will have to wait or take up a different sport.

"Conditions are great right now," said Cross-Country Skier Peter Freitag. "So, it's just the first time out and it's just getting the balance and getting the ski legs underneath you."

The nine-mile cross country ski trails outside of Wausau also opened this weekend.

"They're good, good to excellent," said Nine Mile Employee Peter Gebhardt. "With 8 inches of snowfall, we've heard it's really great skiing."

Gebhardt says this is the first time in three years that the ski trails have been open before Christmas. That's a good thing for Wausau restaurants and hotels, since the trails bring in many out-of-towners.

"I love it here. I lived in Chicago for 12 years," said Skier Barbara Drake, "although I was born in Wausau. I came back partly because of Nine mile. I love to cross country ski."

And if the weather continues to stay cold and snow keeps falling she'll have plenty of opportunities to do that. Along with Oneida Vilas, Price, Forest and Iron Counties have opened their snowmobile trails.

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Snowmobiling Safety Tips

Defensive Driving
Always be alert of potential danger. Your helmet and engine noise can impair your hearing. Visability is also reduced in conditions of snowfall, blowing snow and night driving. Never assume what another snowmobiler will do. Do all that you can to ensure your safety and that of other riders. Expect the unexpected!

Watch out for:

  • Thin ice and open water
  • Grooming equipment
  • Oncoming snowmobiles
  • Unforeseen obstacles beneath snow
  • Unexpected corners, intersections and stops
  • Road and railway crossings
  • Logging/Forestry operations
  • Snow banks and drifting snow
  • Trees and branches on the trail
  • Bridges and approaches
  • Wildlife and domestic animals
  • Other trail users ( skiers, hikers )

DON'T DRINK AND RIDE
1. Snowmobiling requires alertness, caution and attention. Your reaction time and ability to control your sled can be drastically affected after consuming even small amounts of alcohol. Alcohol can affect perception, reaction time, and response to unexpected situations. Alcohol is involved in over 70% of snowmobiling fatalities.
2. Alcohol increases your susceptibility to cold and hypothermia. Snowmobilers often have access to remote locations miles away from help. If a situation should occur where help is needed, your chances of survival and treatment of injury can be greatly affected. Don't let alcohol be a contributing factor to your fate.
3. Operating your sled under the influence of alcohol is punishable under the Criminal Code of Canada. The Off-Road Vehicle (ORV) Act now mirrors the Highway Traffic Act. If convicted of driving a snowmobile while impaired, you will lose all driving privileges (car, truck, motorcycle, off-road vehicles and snowmobiles). Therefore if you drink and ride both your driver's licence and insurability are at risk.
4. COPs On Snow is a non-confrontational patrol of volunteers acting as the eyes and ears of the law. They are on the trail to offer assistance to the snowmobiling public by distributing maps and brochures. They will also document any infractions they may witness to raise awareness to the need for increased enforcement upon our trails. In the event they see a situation potentially dangerous to other trail users they will alert the local police agency to request apprehension. This program will continue to expand into more communities throughout Manitoba.

Night Riding
A disproportionate number of snowmobiling incidents, including nine out of ten fatalities, occur after dark.
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. Ride with individuals familiar with the area.
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.
Be certain that all lights are operational and keep in mind that hand signals become increasingly more difficult to see as darkness sets in.

Ice Riding
Drowning is one of the leading causes of snowmobile fatalities. Wherever possible, avoid riding on frozen lakes and rivers because ice conditions are never guaranteed. 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 which will assist you to reach the closest ice surface. Also consider carrying a set of picks which 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 204-956-2124 and ask for a copy of their ice manual.

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, goggles or visor 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 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.

Dressing Properly
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 may lead to hypothermia.
Good snowmobile wear contains materials that retain heat, release moisture and resist both water and wind. Even better, try to find suits that are water and wind proof. Consider wearing a buoyant snowmobile suit if you plan on traveling across ice as it will assist in keeping you afloat but most of all help to protect you against hypothermia. Snowmobile suits should have reflective trim for increased visibility during night riding. Carry extra clothing, socks 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.

Snowmobile Repair Kit

You can easily snowmobile beyond immediate help so basic repair kits are essential.

The 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
  • jack-knife

A cellular phone can be a terrific asset if trouble arises, but bear in mind that cell phones have limited service range.

Source: http://www.snoman.mb.ca/safety.htm


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