Press Release –
Recent Tragedies Highlight Risks of Random Ice Travel
After several off-trail drowning tragedies last weekend, the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs (OFSC) questions what else can possibly be said or done to prevent more such incidents from occurring.
Since the first snow in November, the OFSC has continually issued strong cautions that ice conditions are poor and unpredictable this winter. The federation has also issued many warnings for everyone to stay off Ontario’s waterways, unless and until a trail is open and staked by the local snowmobile club.
“We have been especially diligent in making continuously updated information available on our website and working locally through our clubs and volunteers, with police agencies, and with the media, to get the ice safety message out,” said OFSC Manager of Safety and Public Education, Bill Harrison. “Unfortunately some people still persist in making the personal choice to put their lives at risk by riding off of open and staked OFSC trails.”
Ice safety at the OFSC starts with operating land-based trails to avoid water crossings wherever possible. OFSC clubs have built thousands of bridges to make water crossings safer. Where a land trail or bridge is not possible, clubs choose the best possible crossing route; water trails are not opened until sufficient ice has formed and the proper thickness confirmed.
In many areas, mild weather plus heavy snow have combined with the absence of deep freeze temperatures to prevent good ice from forming this winter. Thus, many traditional water crossings remain closed as of last week.
OFSC clubs report trail conditions a minimum of twice a week, including ice crossings, and these updates are always available to the public at www.ofsc.on.ca. Recent statements on the website about ice include: “Ice is never safe! Stay off All Bodies of water until the local clubs have staked the water crossings!” and “Unstaked Lake Trails Remain Closed And Are Unsafe!”
“The bottom line is that no ice is 100% safe,” says Harrison, “but your crossing risk can be greatly reduced by using only open and staked OFSC trails, by riding in good visibility conditions, and by avoiding excessive speed and alcohol consumption.”
For many years, the OFSC has recommended that anyone traveling on ice should wear a buoyant suit and carry self-rescue ice picks. By following these few simple precautions, most ice tragedies are preventable. So once again, the OFSC urges snowmobilers to STAY OFF ICE AND WATERWAYS unless riding on an open and staked OFSC trail.