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Brrr!! Is it FROZEN enough yet?

Photo for Brrr!! Is it FROZEN enough yet?
Happy ALMOST New Years!
 
As we approach the New Year, we must remember to stay safe on the trails as well as off. There are obviously going to be those that tend to sway off in large fields, or on ice. With temps hitting some lows this week, we just might see some bodies of water freezing to safe enough levels to ride on. 

I was reading a feed on www.trailconditions.com when I came across a discussion on whether the ice on Oneida Lake was solid enough to cross. There are plenty of reasons why we love frozen-over lakes as snowmobilers… and the most important one being that it's a wide open space. It's also a great short-cut in many cases.
 
In this discussion, a few people mentioned seeing others riding around the shoreline and staying close to the outside. But others have been seen actually crossing the lake. This is extremely dangerous considering we have yet to see much snow, let alone cold enough temps to freeze more than 5". The photo I've included today depicts what is safe for people and machine. There are certain factors involved in deciding whether or not to cross a lake or any body of water while riding. 
 
To check if the ice is frozen enough to cross, keep in mind these determining factors. The appearance of the ice; its color, texture and features will determine whether it's thick enough, safe enough, and ready for whatever weight you are trying to put on it. Check for discoloration, cracks, holes, and slush. The thickness of the ice must be at least 6" for a snowmobile to cross. Make sure the temperature of the day, or over the period that day, has been at a temperature relatively cold enough to freeze or stay frozen. Do not attempt on a day when the snow or ice appears to be melting. Snow coverage is certainly a factor. Sleds require a certain amount of traction as to not slide out of control over the ice, causing collision with other sleds or other environmental factors off the shoreline. The depth of water under the ice is also a major piece of information to consider. Obviously, larger bodies of water take longer to freeze than smaller ones.
 
Here are some safety tips:

The safest snowmobiling rule is NEVER to cross lakes or rivers. But we all know that we take risks as riders, and we do it anyway. Besides the danger of plunging through the ice, you have less traction for starting, turning and stopping on ice than on snow. Collisions on lakes account for a significant number of safety-related incidents. Don’t hold the attitude that lakes are flat, wide-open areas, free of obstruction. Remember, if you can ride and turn in any direction without boundaries, so can other riders. The threat of collision, then, can come from any direction.
 
If you do snowmobile on ice, make absolutely sure the ice is safely frozen. Don’t trust the judgement of other snowmobile fatalities – consider buying a buoyant snowmobile suit.

If you go through the ice, remember that your snowmobile suit (even a non-buoyant one) and helmet may keep you afloat for several minutes. Slide back onto the ice, using anything sharp to dig in for better pull. Kick your feet to propel you onto the ice, like a seal.

If the ice keep breaking, continue moving toward shore or the direction from which you came. Don’t remove your gloves or mitts. Once onto the ice, roll away from the hole. Don’t stand until well away from the hole. (1)

Until next time…

… aaaand that's a braaaap! 
 
(1) http://nlsf.org/cms/the-weather-network/snowmobile-safety/

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