Safe snowmobiling means not going out until it is safe

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The Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs (OFSC) launched Provincial Snowmobile Safety Week (January 13 – 21) by cautioning snowmobilers to always go online to consult the OFSC Interactive Snowmobile Trail Guide (ITG) before riding. Introduced in 2010, the proprietary ITG is well established as the sole authorized source for the status of 30,000 kilometres of OFSC Snowmobile Trails.

With the unusually late start to this winter, this Safety Week update is especially important because most OFSC Prescribed Snowmobile Trails have been unavailable for recreational riding as of last week. Making trails ready to ride requires prolonged sub-zero temperatures to set a deep frost into the ground and to freeze waterways and swamps solid, along with enough snow so that groomers can pack a durable trail base. This essential and weather-dependent process is only beginning and may take a while to happen, so the OFSC emphasizes that riders must check trail status on the ITG to avoid trails that are not ready for snowmobiling at this time.

“As we await the cooperation of Mother Nature, I urge snowmobilers to make safety their #1 priority,” said Ryan Eickmeier, OFSC CEO. “Our clubs are eagerly awaiting the right conditions to make trails available, and the Interactive Trail Guide (ITG) is the place to go for trail status information.”

The OFSC also urges snowmobilers not to be fooled by an early snowfall or a skim of new ice into placing their lives in peril by travelling on newly formed or untested ice, riding off trail or running on public roads, none of which is a responsible alternative to GREEN or YELLOW trails as indicated on the ITG. The OFSC appeals to every snowmobiler not to head out for that first ride of this season too soon, and even when trails show GREEN or YELLOW on the ITG, always put personal safety first and ride responsibly by not taking unnecessary chances.

In their statement on Snowmobile Safety Week, the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) is reminding snowmobilers to stay off Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs (OFSC) Trails which remain closed at this time. They are also urging snowmobilers to stay off frozen waterways which unseasonably mild temperatures have made particularly unpredictable and unsafe throughout the Province. 

In the past 10 years, 158 snowmobilers did not make it home to their families in what were almost all preventable riding incidents. Common factors included driving too fast for the conditions, alcohol/drugs and riding on unsafe frozen waterways. Forty-one (41) percent of the fatalities were linked to alcohol/drugs and 36 percent of them occurred on frozen lakes and rivers (in OPP jurisdictions).

Rohan Thompson, Deputy Commissioner, OPP Traffic Safety and Operational Support, emphasised the importance of ensuring safe conditions before venturing out: “Safe and responsible snowmobiling means not going out if there is any doubt about whether it is safe to do so. This cannot be overstated where frozen waterways are involved, which are never guaranteed to be 100 percent safe. Making smart decisions before and during your ride, such as always riding sober and drug-free, is what will get you home to your family.”

The OFSC Trail Guides are available at: www.ofsc.on.ca/trail-maps.

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