The safest snowmobiling rule is to never cross lakes or rivers since it can never be guaranteed that ice of any thickness will support a snowmobile. Ice is always dangerous. Do not venture out onto lakes or rivers unless you are absolutely certain that it is safe.
This season, water levels are low, potentially exposing rocks and submerged trees that you might not expect when crossing the ice.
Besides the dangers of hidden obstacles, or plunging through the ice, you have far less traction for starting, turning, and stopping on ice than on snow. Always use extreme caution when riding on ice. Always travel at low speeds. The machine is hard to control on ice, so fast stops are impossible and spins are far too common. To stop, let up on the throttle slowly allowing the machine to coast to a stop. Controlling your machine is best when seated.
Collisions on lakes account for a significant number of accidents because riders too often believe that lakes are flat, wide open areas, free of obstructions. Remember, if you can ride and turn in any direction while operating on a lake, so can other riders. Therefore, the threat of a collision can come from any direction.
If you choose to snowmobile on the ice, be absolutely certain that the ice is safely frozen. Don’t trust the judgment of other snowmobilers. You are responsible for your own safe snowmobiling.
Drowning is a leading cause of snowmobile fatalities. If you ride on ice often, consider wearing a buoyant flotation snowmobile suit. It is also a good idea to have a set of commercial ice picks, with spring-loaded sleeves that cover the points, attached to a cord so they can be threaded through the sleeves of your snowmobile suit.
If you go through the ice, stay calm. Remember that your snowmobile suit (even a non-buoyant one) and helmet may keep you afloat for several minutes. Extend your arms out forward in front of you on the unbroken ice surface to catch yourself. Kick your feet to propel you onto the ice, like a seal. If the ice keeps breaking, continue moving toward shore or the direction from which you came. Use anything sharp, like ice picks, keys or a knife to dig into the ice to help pull you forward. Don’t remove your gloves or mitts. Once you are on the ice, crawl or roll away from the hole. Don’t stand up until you are well away from the hole.