It only takes a moment for fun to turn into disaster. This was the case recently when Meadow Lake resident Corey Sergeew – while returning from a snowmobiling ride with friends near Beauval – encountered an intense winter storm.

With visibility reduced as a result of the pelting rain and snow, Sergeew lost control of his snowmobile when it flipped several times before crashing down upon his prone body and leaving him with a crushed sternum, a cracked neck, three broken vertebrae and four fractured ribs. He was taken to the hospital in Meadow Lake before being airlifted to Saskatoon. He returned home late last week and, as a number of Sergeew’s friends and family have already suggested, he’s lucky to be alive.

Sadly, there are many others who aren’t as fortunate. Although the Saskatchewan Snowmobile Association reports the number of snowmobile-related deaths in the province has decreased significantly from just a few short years ago, one fatality is still one too many. And, while drivers who take the time to better educate themselves about snowmobile safety are the ones being credited with these improved statistics, there’s always a lesson to be learned – especially when it comes to life and death.

Never travel alone. The SSA suggests to always ride with a buddy, a guideline that certainly worked in Sergeew’s favour when his fellow riders were able to load him into a truck and race him to the hospital for medical assistance. Meanwhile, other tips include: always let someone know where you are going and when you will return; use check-in/check-out stations if they are provided; ride on the right-hand side of the trail; be prepared for the unexpected; carry basic emergency and survival equipment, a tool kit, spare parts and extra gas; familiarize yourself with your snowmobile before going on extended trips and make sure it is in good operating condition; always wear adequate winter clothing, protective goggles and even sunscreen; wear a helmet; never cross frozen lakes and streams without checking the ice thickness first; watch the weather and never drink and ride.
This final tip is one of, if not the, most important. Just as it is when climbing behind the wheel of a car while under the influence, it’s against the law to drive a snowmobile when impaired by alcohol or drugs. Consuming any amount of alcohol before you ride affects your ability to make good decisions and also increases fatigue, slows reaction time and increases a person’s risk of hypothermia.

If riders are able to keep these safety measures in mind, follow the rules and respect the law, their time on the trails is sure to be remembered for all the right reasons instead of all the wrong ones.