The weather in the Swan Hills area has been perfect for getting out on the trails over the past few weeks, although a little more snow would be very welcome. The temperatures have been mild for this time of year and, thankfully, not warm enough to melt the snow that we have. While riding the trails, you may have seen creeks and streams where the ice is melting or showing signs of weakening. Sights like these are an excellent reminder that being aware of the ice conditions is essential before crossing or riding on a frozen body of water.
Here are some essential safety tips for snowmobiling on ice:
• Always check the ice thickness and quality before venturing onto it: Check with local authorities regarding ice conditions before venturing out. The ice thickness determines the general guidelines for whether the ice is safe to walk, ride, or drive on. These are the guidelines from the Alberta Conservation Association:
-2”/5 cm thick or less: Stay off!
-6”/15 cm thick: Foot traffic and ice fishing.
-10”/25 cm thick: Snowmobiles or light ATVs (less than 1,100 lbs/500 kg).
-16”/41 cm thick: Mid-size cars and light trucks (2,200 – 4,400 lbs/1,000 – 2,000 kg),
-18”/46 cm thick: Mid-size trucks (4,400 – 6,600 lbs/2,000 – 3,000 kg).
• Ride with a buddy, and never ride alone: If something happens, you will have someone to help you.
• Always let someone know your planned route and expected return time: This is a crucial step whenever you head out riding. This way, that person will know something may have happened if you don’t get back by your expected return time and have an idea of where to search for you.
• Always carry a cell phone and a fully charged battery in a waterproof bag: The importance of having a means of communication in case of an emergency cannot be overstated (if you’re in an area with cell phone reception).
• Stay on designated trails, if available: Snowmobiling off-trail can cause damage to the ice and increase the risk of falling through.
Have a great time out on the trails, and stay safe!
Dean LaBerge, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Grizzly Gazette