Clubs offer lessons for safe ridingThe day Superior snowmobiler Craig Friebe went missing in subzero temperatures, Sue Smedegard was teaching students how to prepare for such situations.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
The day Superior snowmobiler Craig Friebe went missing in subzero temperatures, Sue Smedegard was teaching students how to prepare for such situations.
“It is almost all common-sense stuff,” said Smedegard, a member of the Cozy Corner Trails Inc. snowmobile club and secretary for the Association of Wisconsin Snowmobile Clubs. With fellow instructors Greg Giese and Jim Smedegard, she has been teaching Wisconsin DNR-sponsored snowmobile and ATV safety courses for nearly a decade. The Cozy Corner crew gave a combined course Friday and Saturday in Danbury. What was the number one piece of advice they gave?
“I can’t tell you how many times over the nine hours I tell kids ‘Never ride alone,’” Smedegard said. Another key point is to leave a riding plan with someone detailing where you’re riding, who you’re with and an estimated time of return.
“We talk extensively about the pre-ride snowmobile inspection — the importance of checking the machine itself and specifically fuel, oil and coolants,” Smedegard said.
Other tips include dressing in layers and carrying a first aid kit, waterproof matches and a cell phone.
“Down here you don’t always get a signal,” Smedegard said, but if you leave the phone on people can find you.
Extra gas, tow straps and parts like spark plugs can come in handy if something goes wrong on the trail. In a survival situation, Smedegard said, people should stay calm, seek shelter, build a fire and signal for help. Any series of three signals — three fires in a row, three flashes from a flashlight, three X’s in the snow, three toots on a whistle — is a universal distress call.
Students learn what to do if their sled falls through the ice, how to treat frostbite and hypothermia, and the rules of the trail — stay to the right, stay on the trail, fan out on ice, etc. And they are asked to check the weather forecast for wind chill factors, snow conditions and severe cold before they ride.
“When in doubt, don’t go out,” Smedegard said. You are not only putting yourself in danger, she said, but could endanger others who may be called up to search for you.
People have called Friebe’s survival after two days in the brutal weather miraculous.
“This poor guy, I can’t believe he’s alive as cold as it was,” Smedegard said. “He’s one lucky guy.”
Trouble can crop up on the trail. That’s why Alisha Moran, 17, is a junior instructor with the Cozy Corner club.
“I know a lot of kids who have been in big accidents,” said the town of Hawthorne teen, and she wants to help keep them safe. Kids who take the course know right from wrong and they can tell their friends and parents how to ride safer, she said.
“Kids are kids; adults are adults, we all make mistakes,” Smedegard said. “We have to do the best we can.”
The DNR offers a list of safety tips on its website, dnr.wi.gov. They include driving sober and slowing down on the trails.
DNR safety classes are required for operators who were born on or after Jan. 1, 1985, and are at least 12 years old. The certification is accepted across the borders in Minnesota and Michigan, Smedegard said. People should carry the certification, which is like a driver’s license, with them when they ride.
For more information about classes, look them, go to http://dnr.wi.gov under education or contact a local snowmobile clubs.