Growing up in a small northern community, one of my family’s favourite winter activities was snowmobiling. We would load up the truck with our sleds and a big lunch and head up to the local mountain. Halfway up the mountain was a little snowmobile shack where we would sit, roast our hotdogs, and visit. My brother and I would play around in the snow, making snowmen and tobogganing before heading back inside to warm our toes by the fire and drink hot chocolate. Great fun and great memories!
Snowmobiling is a popular winter activity for many up here in the north. It is a great way to get out and enjoy the amazing scenery, mountains, and forests that we are so lucky to have. What many sometimes forget is that snowmobiling can be a dangerous activity, too, and one which requires your full attention at all times. Many of us choose to enjoy this activity as a family, which requires that we remain alert and responsible to ensure our children’s safety as well as our own. It is important to remember that snowmobiles are motorized vehicles that come with the responsibility to ride with our full attention and to ride sober, just like driving a car.
Too often, outdoor activities are combined with alcohol use, increasing the risk factor associated with those activities. Some people try to reason that drinking alcohol is all right in the winter because it warms you up and prevents you from freezing. In reality, alcohol actually increases your risk of hypothermia by dilating your blood vessels, which causes you to cool off faster. In addition, alcohol slows down your reaction time and affects your co-ordination due to its depressing effects on the brain.
This can be disastrous for snowmobilers who enjoy hill climbing and going into the back country as it is very easy to lose track of where you are if you don’t pay attention to your surroundings. When snowmobiling, you need to be able to react to the changing terrain and hazards that come your way, watch out for other sleds, and keep an eye on little ones – and alcohol will inhibit your ability to do these things.
Snowmobiles are heavy machines that can get up to speeds over 120 km/h! Combine that with slower reaction times and decreased co-ordination and the results aren’t pretty. According to the BC Injury and Research Prevention Unit, there are more than 200 snowmobile-related deaths in North America each year! How many of these could have been prevented by riding safely and riding sober? Snowmobiling is a fabulous way to stay active and to spend quality time with family and friends during our beautiful (but long) winters! Just remember to ride safe!
Check out the BC Snowmobile Federation to find out more about how to sled safely.
About Erin Doyle
Erin is a fourth year nursing student at UNBC. She is a wife and mom to two girls aged ten and eight. Erin enjoys spending her weekends with her family at Powder King - skiing in the winter and boating in the summer. Erin is looking forward to graduation and beginning her career as a nurse.