Late in the snowmobiling season, warmer weather can make ice a treacherous place to ride. Whenever riding onto a frozen body of water, you should always take proper precautions. Even though ice may appear safe, some areas can be thinner than others. When in doubt, stay on dry land!
If you do happen to go through the ice, the United States Swim School Association
offers the following survival steps:
- Brace Yourself. Due to the sudden change in body temperature and shock, the body’s immediate reaction is to gasp for air and hyperventilate.
- Keep Calm. Do not flail your arms, as this will release more body heat. The body loses 32 times more heat in cold water than in cold air. Keep your head above the water, and grab onto the ice in the direction you came from. This ice should be strong enough to help you out of the water.
- Don’t Undress. Keep winter clothing on while in the water. It won’t drag you down. Instead, it will actually help hold in body heat, and any air inside the clothing will help you float.
- Get Horizontal. Once you’ve gotten most of your upper body out of the water, kick your legs in an effort to get yourself out of the water and onto the ice.
- Roll Onto the Ice. Don’t stand up. Roll across the ice to help prevent more cracks and falling in again.
- Retrace Your Tracks. Once you’re far enough away from where you broke through, start walking back on your original sled path. Go slowly, because your body is still dealing with the affects of the freezing water.
- Get Warm. Seek medical attention immediately to bring your body temperature back to normal.
If your riding buddy goes through the ice, remember: “Throw, Don’t Go.” Never enter the water to rescue someone. It’s safer for you to throw a lifesaving device, branch, coat, or rope into the water, and then tow your friend to safety. Otherwise, you both could end up in a life-threatening situation.