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The Island has received a lot of snow so far this year, which is great news for snowmobile enthusiasts, and the P.E.I. Snowmobile Association wants to remind riders to be careful when hitting the trails.
PEISA board member Logan Getson said there are a number of ways for snowmobilers to stay safe.
“The one big thing is having a good, approved helmet,” the Lauretta, P.E.I. resident told The Guardian.
Getson said knowing the proper hand signals is also important.
With more than 15 years of snowmobiling experience under his belt, Getson said hand signals are common practice in popular snowmobiling places like New Brunswick and Quebec but said there a lot of people on the Island who don’t know how to use them properly.
When coming upon a group of snowmobilers, Getson said the first snowmobiler should hold up the number of fingers that corresponds with the number of riders behind him, so they know where the end is.
He also said the person at the back of the line should hold up their fist to show they are the last person in the group.
Gestures like these can help prevent accidents, he said, adding that in the Facebook group “902 Sledheads” the signals are posted for everyone to see.
During winter months, the PEISA has an agreement with the province to have exclusive access to the Confederation Trail, but Getson said they often come across walkers, cross-country skiers and snowshoers also using the trail.
“The people that are walking on them are kind of there at their own risk. I don’t know if they fully realize that or not,” he said.
If a snowmobiler comes across someone on the trail, they should slow down and pull over to avoid any accidents. He said it’s also important to keep to the right of the trail as well.
When it comes to riding over ice, Getson said it’s best to avoid it, but if someone is to go out on the ice, know the conditions and check the ice thickness before heading out – it should be at least six inches thick.
“People end up putting an SUV or a car or a 4-wheeler or a snowmobile through ice, it happens all across Canada every year, there’s always some fatalities around it and a lot of it is people not knowing exactly the conditions,” he said.
Getson said he always tries to avoid ice he’s not familiar with.
“There’s always that risk when you’re travelling on ice that something could happen; the risk is always there (and) if it’s snow-covered, you can’t really tell if the ice is thin or not,” he said. “Personally, I don’t like ice and I feel there’s no safe way to drive ice.”
Getson said it’s good to let others know if a rider plans on going out alone and to bring a few items along with them, including a tow rope, a small first aid kit and a cell phone.
He added that snowmobilers should always ride within their experience and not go too fast.
“You should always ride within your limits.”
For those looking to find out more safety information, the PEISA puts on snowmobile safety courses for youth and adults. For more information, visit Peisa.ca.