Ice on Manitoba waterways dangerously thin, snowmobile club warns

A series of snowmobiling incidents this month has the Snowmobilers of Manitoba (also known as Snoman) warning people to be careful around recently-frozen Manitoba waterways.

“Waterways haven’t frozen under the snow in many cases, or if there is ice, it’s very thin ice,” Snoman president Alan Butler said Wednesday.

A wet, mild fall led to higher-than-normal soil moisture levels in the west and northwest areas of the province and parts of the Red River Valley, according to the province’s fall conditions outlook released Tuesday.

Those conditions have contributed to poor ice conditions that have already resulted in at least one death in December.

A 51-year-old Nelson House teacher went missing Dec. 1 and was found dead days later after his snowmobile went through the ice near the northern community.

RCMP say two men, age 29 and 42, had to be rescued early Sunday morning when they got lost snowmobiling in Spruce Woods Provincial Park. They spent about six hours in –35 C conditions before they were located, RCMP said.

This past weekend, a 62-year-old St. Francois Xavier snowmobiler went missing. RCMP later found a hole in the ice on the Assiniboine River north of St. Eustache.

A dive team was unable to locate the man and RCMP called off the search due to dangerous ice conditions and strong river currents.

Butler said ice on lakes, rivers and streams in Manitoba isn’t yet solid enough to safely cross on snowmobiles.

Ice should be at very least six inches thick before it’s safe to snowmobile on, Butler said.

“Especially rivers where it’s flowing underneath the ice, there just won’t be enough ice at this point in time. So the best approach: just stay off it,” Butler said.

There are a few limited snowmobile trails open in the province right now, but many remain under development. Butler said he expects more trails will open by the beginning of next week if the current cold snap holds.

“I think conditions are going to be very guarded over Christmas,” he said. “Only go on groomed trails that are open and stay off waterways.”

RCMP recommend against snowmobiling alone and encourage riders to bring spare fuel as well as appropriate winter and survival gear. Riders should be especially careful in areas they aren’t familiar with, RCMP say, and always carry a cellphone and GPS.


Article Source: CBC

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