Snowmobiling and social distancing: Be smart and safe

How to navigate COVID-19 with a snowmobile

by Kyle Born

A snowmobiler looks out across the mountains in Fernie, B.C.
Snowmobilers have been practising social distancing for years. Photo courtesy Elk Valley Snow Shepherds

With all the talk of social distance, quarantine and self-isolation amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s tricky to know what to do and how to respond. For those fortunate enough to have access to the backcountry and the means to explore it—such as a snowmobile—the call of the wild is too strong to ignore.

While you traverse the wilderness with your sledding buddies, it’s important to play it safe. Now, more than ever, do not take any unnecessary risks. Breaking a leg in the backcountry would be awful at the best of times, but can you imagine the significance of such an injury now when the medical system is being pushed to its limits? It’s a sobering thought, but an important one to think about before attempting any high-risk maneuvers.

To give you some perspective, here’s what the medical professionals at the Fernie and District Search and Rescue said regarding our current situation:

“Fellow backcountry users

“With the unprecedented challenges regarding COVID-19, we wanted to reassure people that Fernie SAR remains fully operational and able to respond.

“We also recognise that with many of our obvious outlets for enjoying the great outdoors being closed or limited, we are likely to see more people heading into the backcountry.

“Having said that, SAR typically acts as the first link in introducing its rescuees into BC’s healthcare system. This is a healthcare system that is already under huge pressure, and a healthcare system where most of us would prefer to avoid spending time as a patient at the moment.

“Furthermore, every rescue we undertake increases the risk of our SAR Technicians being infected, and diminishing our response capability.

“As such, while encouraging people to enjoy everything our mountains have to offer, we would like to suggest that now is a good time to take conservative decisions with regards to terrain, activity and risk-taking.

“We look forward, along with everyone else, to this challenging situation being behind us.

“Play safe.”

Fernie Search + Rescue

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