There's no safety like snow safety

With planning, snowmobilers can minimize risks

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There are two rules to follow when snowmobiling.

Never ride alone, and always tell someone where your group is headed.

At the Northwest Colorado Snowmobile Club, safety comes first. That's why the group follows those rules and implements a number of other safety practices during regular outings.

Joe Tonso of Craig is a member of the club, and he grooms trails in the Black Mountain area of the Routt National Forest.

Before heading into the backcountry, Tonso always packs several items for safety purposes.

Being prepared to spend the night outside is important, Tonso said. To help endure the low temperatures that could come with a night outside, Tonso carries a space blanket, candles and fire starter.

"If you break down or have an accident and have got to stay out all night, fire's the main thing," Tonso said.

Candles work well to light a fire, he said. Slipping a rag or toilet paper into the tank can access gas in the machine's tank.

Carry a plastic bag to wear over winter clothes when the fire is lit. If snow melts on winter clothes, the clothing will start to conduct cold regardless of what type of coat the person is wearing, Tonso said. The bag allows clothing to stay dry.

Tonso also advises snowmobilers, skiers and other outdoor enthusiasts to dress for the worst possible weather, and then shed layers as necessary.

Most snowmobile club members carry a towrope to tow broken machines out of the backcountry and a can of gas in case a trip takes longer than expected.

Although Moffat County is not known as avalanche country, avalanches are possible even on gradual slopes. Most snowmobile club members wear avalanche beacons, shovels and poles at all times.

If riders are caught in an avalanche, their beacons will transmit a location signal to others with a beacon. If only one person in the group is wearing a beacon, the beacon is useless.

Carry a cell phone if possible. Although it may not work in all locations, it may work well enough for callers to tell someone they are in trouble and give an indication of their locations.

Tonso encouraged snowmobilers to eat a nourishing lunch that would provide the calories needed for the human body to keep warm.

The club discourages riders from drinking alcohol while riding, not only because of the dangers of drinking and driving a snowmobile, but also because alcohol limits the body's ability to warm itself.

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