Making Good Decisions (Republished)

This article originally appeared in the Colorado Snowmobile Association newspaper, Snowmobile Scoop.

Making Good Decisions
Stan Gale- Safety Team member

Summer has turned quickly into winter and most of us will have been riding our machines by the time this safety article reaches you. This season already looks to be a good one, and our decisions NOW will make this winter’s snowmobiling enjoyable and safe for everyone. Because we never ride alone, our decisions and conduct directly affect the group experience. In a short moment a beautiful day can turn into an upsetting experience. 

That is why our decisions need to be well thought out, and the decision making process should start before we start the engine! Consider for a moment that we would never allow a child or young adolescent to steer and throttle a motorcycle and certainly not carry an extra rider on the back. These modern machines accelerate fast, are weighty, and designed to be ridden by adults who have a driver’s license! 

The same safety principles and considerations should apply to letting a youngster operate a snowmobile, because in essence, it is a powerful “snow motorcycle.” Far too often I have seen youngsters on snowmobiles sitting in front of an adult steering the machine and also operating the throttle. Doing so is a recipe for disaster! Sooner or later something unexpected and regretful is likely happen. 

The consequences of crashing or overturning the snowmobile with two riders or getting pinned underneath and being injured are simply not worth the risk! We adults and parents set the example from the get go, and one option might be to find a youth snowmobile track with a lighter and smaller youth machine designed to be ridden by a youngster. Be safe rather than sorry and think hard on this…

What do you need to be comfortable, safe, and warm, if your snowmobile has a mechanical breakdown far from the trailhead? It is uncomplicated to come up with your own list or talk about this with your buddies or snowmobile club members. My safety “overnight” and bivy pack always gets strapped onto my sled first thing, and it includes a flare. I hope I never need to use it, but just as I have a full tank of gas, I am well prepared. I would no sooner hop into a canoe or boat without a proper life preserver than ride without a back up plan or safety pack.

By making good decisions we set an example for others to follow and prevent accidents and injury from ever happening. It is so easy to do. See you in the snow, somewhere and have safe and great family fun!

Thinking About Safety, Lessons Learned and the 2015 CSA Convention (Republished)

This article originally appeared in the Colorado Snowmobile Association newspaper, Snowmobile Scoop.

Thinking About Safety, Lessons Learned, and 2015 CSA Convention in Rifle

by Stan Gale, Safety Director

This year’s ride in Rifle was well attended and a lot of fun for everyone. A big thank you to the organizers, the hosting clubs, and community volunteers who worked very hard to provide a successful event with plenty of fine food! Riding a snowmobile safely in our dynamic Colorado environment takes knowing the Boy Scout motto- BE PREPARED- always. 

Understanding the snowpack is essential for riding off trail in Colorado. By doing so a rider will be able to generally gauge the local avalanche conditions and avoid being stuck, particularly early season when the snowpack is shallow and bottomless, because the snow hasn’t settled enough yet to provide a firm and supportive base layer. Snow pit analysis to assess the layered snow conditions below the surface is wise. 

Always check your drive belt early season before you ride. Although it can be a pain in the neck to do, it can save a repair on the trail. It is much easier to do in warm conditions before the snow flies than in the cold and snow! Rather than try to get another season of use out of it, I suggest replacing it at least every other year and before it dries out, cracks, and easily breaks in the cold. Never ride alone, because many hands are always helpful and sometimes necessary to change the belt. It’s not something most of us are practiced on.

Another important reason to never ride alone is because snowmobiles can be finicky. During this year’s group ride, a machine unexpectedly would not run properly after the belt was changed so I towed out the snowmobile. Don’t forget to have not only a tow rope, but also a small pack to stay warm with the essentials if you need to spend the night out! If you have never towed a machine or had yours towed, this is something to familiarize yourself with.

Lastly, riding with others is useful and often necessary to have extra help when digging out and lifting a stuck machine. Plenty of hands, moral support, and strong backs make easy this task which can be difficult or impossible by oneself. 

The snow is deep, and the best part of the season is here. Have fun out there. Pay attention to the warm temperatures which will eventually rot out the snow bridges across creeks, become unsupportive of machines off trail, and expect the wet snow avalanche/slide season. 

By continuing to pay attention and think about the big picture, you will be better at understanding and appreciating the small intuitive details which make for safe and trouble free riding. Happy Trails!


Snowmobile Safety (Republished)

This article originally appeared in the Colorado Snowmobile Association newspaper, Snowmobile Scoop. 

Snowmobile Safety by Stan Gale, CSA Safety Director

The snow is falling and most of us have already been out there riding. It’s been a blast after the warm fall. Being mindful of some of the dangers that can occur and remember to never ride alone, because if you do, you’re taking an unnecessary chance. If you’ve ever had a mishap and had to tow your machine back to the trailhead, then you know what I mean! Having the right gear and avi equipment along with training and knowing the forecast is always a must. Paying attention to the big picture, especially visible avalanche activity in your immediate riding zone as well as staying and riding out of harm’s way and in particular terrain traps in narrow V shaped valleys and creek bottoms makes good sense. Even smaller slides or rollovers and tumbles on small slopes can be dangerous. Our machines are generally over 500 pounds! Remember to park your machine and to observe your friends if they are high marking while you are well out of the way of both the bottom of the slope and avalanche run-out zone and you’ll stay safe in case something unexpected happens! 

If you go out riding with anyone who isn’t a CSA club member and who doesn’t subscribe to these essential safety practices, alert them and sign them up! By making these practices part of your usual routine, you can set the example and build club membership value. I always carry small overnight safety pack that will enable me to survive the night or two just in case. I hope to never need it. Snowmobilers tend to ride pretty far from the parking lot, and having a well equipped emergency bivy pack with a couple of signal flares can make a big difference in the outcome of an unforeseen circumstance!

Have fun, be prepared for the unexpected, and be self-reliant. We ride in extraordinary terrain here in Colorado. Keep in mind that you are likely to meet out of state visitors on rental machines, and you can be a helpful and safety minded role model whom they will remember and learn from- just pass it on! 

I’d also welcome anyone to email me any type of “close calls” you’ve had ( I’ll keep the safety “donor” confidential, but I’d like to publish some of these experiences so we can all learn more and stay safe. I’ll start by relating that I had a short lived and “open throttle ride” when a clip on my glove gauntlet got unexpectedly caught and wedged between the finger-throttle housing and the throttle lever- whoa…Ride responsibly and stay safe. I’ll see you somewhere on the trail!

Ski Safety and the Savvy Instructor

This article about ski instructors utilizing Your Responsibility Code in their lessons and teaching it to their students as part of the lesson.

Read about Stan's article published by PSIA.