Snowmobile crash, broken arm, prompts calls for ice road marking in N.W.T.

Snowmobile crash, broken arm, prompts calls for ice road marking in N.W.T.

Andrew McBride was ripping along Yellowknife Bay at around 60 kilometres an hour when his snowmobile smashed into a wall of snow.

McBride says he rocketed off the machine and over the metre-high snow berm.

"I flew maybe 40 feet, before I landed," he says. "Eventually I got up and realized my sled was wrecked, and I had a bloody nose and my arm was starting to throb, and that's when I realized I had broken my left arm."

The wall of snow was the shoulder of a newly-plowed ice road.

McBride says he had ridden this part of the bay many times, but wasn't expecting the ice road.

"If people are going to be making these ice roads... just the common courtesy of marking them, a few flags, or even just old tree boughs, it makes a huge difference," he says.

Several crashes a year

Crashes like this happen several time a year, says Bruce Hewlko, president Great Slave Snowmobile Association.

"The snowmobilers are responsible to some extent, they should be driving according to conditions. On the other hand, the person who puts the ice road in is creating a hazard, so they are responsible to some degree as well," says Hewlko.

Hewlko plans to write to City Hall asking council to pass a bylaw making it mandatory to mark ice roads built within municipal limits. He says he's also planning to follow up with the territorial government with a similar request.

There are currently no regulations for the construction or use of recreational ice roads.

According to Department of Transportation spokeswoman Ioana Spiridonica, the territorial department uses "the same signage rules [for ice roads] as we do for our other highways.... This does not apply to private roads.

"We mark ice bridges to help with visibility for motorists and others. We typically would not mark long crossings on lakes except in areas of high potential for conflict," she adds.

'Go out slow'

Of course, Hewlko doesn't think it's reasonable to mark the edges of every single ice road in the territory.

"But when you're crossing a main snowmobile route [with an ice road], if you're going across Back Bay… onto Walsh Lake or going on the Hay Lake trail... that should be marked," says Hewlko.

He says snowmobilers also have responsibility for their own safety.

"Go out slow. If you want to come back fast, at least you know the route that you've been on… [and] some areas that you really have to watch for are where there are cabins."