ORRINGTON, Maine — A New Hampshire man died this past Sunday after breaking through thin ice on his snowmobile on a treacherous area of Moosehead Lake.
The snowmobiler had not stayed within the marked trail, and the Maine game warden service says that in places where there is no traffic or no marked trail, people have to check before driving through the ice.
"The ice is always very treacherous right there, very thin, and he put his snowmobile through and Rockwood rescue recovered him within an hour, but it was too late," the Maine Game Warden Sargeant, Alan Gillis said.
You should always avoid places where there is any kind of running water, inlets, outlets, and known spring holes.
"Where this accident occurred, the Moose River dumps into Moose head like and so there is quite a lot of current right there and the ice never gets very good," said Gillis.
"Ice conditions can vary greatly, even in the same body of water, and they can change quickly with the weather," said Gillis.
Snowmobiling is a popular sport but it can be dangerous too. Ice conditions always change and according to the game warden service, there is no way to check what "good ice" conditions are, just by looking at it. That is why you should always use a shizzle or using an auger.
"Stay in a place where other people have already gone, whether it will be a marked trail or where you could see tracks but don't venture out on your own," Gillis said.
The most important safety tips include to always stay on trails:
- Watch your speed to maintain control
- Don't go to unfamiliar areas
- Never drink and drive
- Follow the rules of the signs and stay within the trails
- Remain alert with other snowmobilers or objects in front of you
- Be very careful when driving on the ice
- Don't cross unauthorized properties
All of these are smart and safe measures snowmobilers should use this and every winter.
"We highly recommend that you stay on marked trails wherever you are throughout the state, 94% of the state is privately owned so most all snowmobile trails are on someones private property and it's through their goodwill and good grace that we are allowed to have these snowmobile trails so that people can go out and recreate and enjoy the snowmobiling," said Gillis.
It's your own responsibility to check how much ice you have under you, and the conditions of that ice.
"The landowner by working with the local snowmobile clubs will let the club know where they want the traffic to be across their land," said Gillis.
Orrington Trail Riders is one of the many snowmobile clubs that help keep the sport safe.
"When we don't have a lot of snow the trails are rough," Nino Chiappone, the assistant trail master with the Orrington Trail Riders said.
Nino Chiaponne has been a snowmobile rider for 35 years and he's the assistant trail master of the club for five years now.
"We are a volunteer organization that helps keep the trail system safe and we outreach to the landowners," Chiappone said.
Working together to put up signs and maintain trails to keep snowmobilers safe.
But in the end, it's Mother Nature who lays down the last law of safety.
"To make good solid ice you need long periods of very cold temperatures, and we haven't really had that this year," Gillis said.
And you need to follow the most basic rule of the road.
"Do not drink and drive...if you want to have a beer keep the snowmobile at home," Gillis said.
Remember that not all of the ice is the same.
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