We are deep into snowmobiling season here in North Muskoka, but it’s never too late to talk about those crucial safety tips that could end up saving your life. The danger is out there no matter what stage of the winter it is, so whether you’ve been out fifty times already or you’re planning your first trip of the season, give these tips a read so safety is on the top of your mind the next time you hit the trails.
Mind the Weather
The weather is one of those things that seems to be ever-changing up here in North Muskoka, and that’s precisely why you must check it before you head out for some snowmobiling. It is literally possible to experience double-digit negatives in wind chill one day, and melting patches of ice the next. Keep in mind that winter is winter and it is usually cold enough for winter activities, but the uncertainty is worth noting.
Icy trails, exposed rocks, frigid cold, blizzard conditions, flooding and darkness are all serious issues that threaten your safety when snowmobiling. Imagine flying along on Lake of Bays, Skeleton Lake or Lake Wasoesa one second and breaking through the ice and finding yourself submerged the next. Imagine your skin actually freezing because you didn’t dress appropriately or smashing head on into another snowmobiler or a tree because it’s snowing hard and you can’t see. Also, remember that 90 percent of snowmobiling fatalities happen after dark, so check that forecast and dress properly, with proper lights and reflective wear.
Protect Your Head
While 9 out of 10 snowmobile deaths occur in the dark, the main cause of those deaths is head injury, which is why wearing a proper helmet is so important. It’s also the law and you will be fined for not wearing one, but the safety element is even more important. Wear a helmet as a driver or a passenger at all times and keep your head protected.
Mind Your Speed
There’s no disputing the fact that it is fun to go fast on a snowmobile, or that North Muskoka is full of open spaces to make that happen, but you have to mind your speed. Obey the speed limits and more importantly drive for the conditions, because much of the time they dictate that you go slower than the speed you’re “allowed” to go.
Sometimes, you won’t notice that you’re in trouble until you’re out there and in trouble, so pack the proper equipment just in case. This includes well-insulated gloves, boots, clothing and goggles, brightly-colored antenna flags, a cell phone if there is service and a fully-equipped first aid kit. An emergency tool kit with extra spark plugs and fan belts, an extra key and a full survival kit with flares are also important equipment to carry.
Try to go out in groups whenever possible, and your chances of avoiding a serious mishap will be greatly improved. Snowmobiling is an exciting winter activity, but that excitement isn’t worth a lifelong injury or even death, so keep it safe!