STARS Air Ambulance and the Saskatchewan Snowmobile Association (SaskSnow) are teaming up in an effort to reduce snowmobile-related accidents and fatalities through outreach and proactive planning. They have a unique plan encompassing many aspects of outreach and preparation.
STARS—which stands for Shock Trauma Air Rescue Service—is a non-profit helicopter air ambulance organization that dates to 1985.
Media outreach focused on safety is a top priority. Speed and riding sober are primary focuses of this joint campaign. Saskatchewan Snowmobile Association president Chris Brewer believes this will be an effective way to reach the masses. “Snowmobilers quite often choose to drink and ride simply because they can,” he said. “They feel like they are getting away with something because there is very little enforcement. Our advertising campaign encompasses social media, radio and television broadcasting to reach the masses.” Another outreach component focuses on the stewardship aspect of snowmobiling. The “quiet in, quiet out” approach encourages riders to use respect and courtesy at all times on the trail, especially when riding near or through residential homes.
Along with media outreach, STARS and SaskSnow have another component of this unique partnering of efforts. Throughout the province of Saskatchewan there are 125 warm-up cabins, which play a vital role in not only the social aspect of snowmobiling but the safety aspect as well. STARS and SaskSnow are working together to register and log co-ordinates of each of the cabins and prepare them for helicopter access. Some of these warm-up cabins are in heavily wooded areas requiring provincial permission to clear brush, and man hours to create the thirty-metre by thirty-metre helicopter landing pad which STARS Air Ambulance needs in order to land in the event of an emergency.
In the event that STARS helicopter pilots encounter dangerous weather or mechanical failure, they will have access to cabins around the province where they can land safely and spend the night if need be. Each of these cabins is prepared with the standard essentials STARS requires for the cabins to receive the stamp of approval.
Some of these essentials include firewood, solar lights and other supplies to ensure the team’s survival overnight should they be forced to land. SaskSnow president Brewer truly believes that safety is the cornerstone for promoting and protecting the sport of snowmobiling.
Prior to 1971 snowmobiling was disorganized and chaotic. There were no clubs, rules or trail systems for riders to enjoy. It was somewhat of a free-for-all. Once the Saskatchewan Snowmobile Association was created and trail networks began to be developed, snowmobile-related accidents were reduced by 66 per cent.
The tradition continues, with safety being the No.1 focus for the Saskatchewan Snowmobile Association. With the help of STARS Air Ambulance, these trail systems have become even safer places for generations of families to enjoy.