Be Prepared and Remain Calm! What to Do When Adventures Turn into Rescue Missions

Editor's Note: This week is the OPP and OFSC's Snowmobile Safety Week. Too often, alcohol and excessive speed can be contributing factors to accidents out on the trails. However, sometimes even the most experienced and responsible of snowmobilers can encounter unforeseen issues, and when mishaps occur, it's important to stay calm, take your time, and come up with a plan of action. Below, Shelby Mahon shares her recent Ontario snowmobiling experience. In the process, she reminds us that sometimes, the most fun and interesting stories begin when things don't go as planned.


The Best Laid Plans

Sometimes we make plans, and sometimes those plans don’t go quite the way that we planned.

My plans for the weekend were simple. I was to bring my boyfriend Rob Gavel on his first ever trail ride. Now Rob isn’t an inexperienced newbie, he comes to us with over 20 years of experience with snowmobiles. The only difference is that he spent his time racing snowcross. Rob competed in the Ultimate Canadian Motorsports Association (UCMA) as a Pro rider and upon moving to Barrie in 2010, he began racing in the Pro-Lite class of the Canadian Snowcross Racing Association (CSRA).

My Blazer stuck in the driveway with 2 feet of snow.
Getting ready in the rain.

Back to my plans. I had it all figured out. I was going to take Rob on my favourite local trails and to two of my favourite restaurants! I spent weeks getting excited for this little expedition, as my racing career has severely limited my trail riding time. First up was to be a ride to Blakes Memories of Muskoka, off of Lake Joseph Road just south of Parry Sound. Saturday morning we woke up to rain—yes, rain in January. The week before our planned ride, the Parry Sound district and particularly my parents driveway, where I had buried my Trail Blazer the day before, had received almost 2 feet of snow in four days. 

All is going well at this point!

So, I made a quick switch and decided that our Sunday trip to Whitestone Lake Resort would take place Saturday instead. I was thrilled to get out and refused to let the constant drizzle bring us down. We would be taking the Lake Manitouwabing lake trail up to McKellar and then hopping on the 805 all the way to the resort. The lakes were covered in slush, I felt like I was sea-dooing more then I was ski-dooing! I’m sure Rob thought I was crazy for taking us out, but I knew these trails and lakes like the back of my hand. I was not concerned at all. 

My dad's sled sitting like a limp dog on the side of the trail. :(

The ride was going great when all of a sudden… there was no one behind me. I didn’t panic as we were on a trail, and I just figured Rob had stopped to relieve himself or worst-case scenario, a belt was wet and slipping. So I turned around and went to investigate. What I found would occupy the rest of our weekend. 

Here was my Dad’s 2007 800 MXZ Blizzard sitting like a limp dog on the side of the trail. With Rob standing next to it I knew, thankfully, that he was ok. Apparently during the ice storm that had hit the area, two weeks before, a tree had gone down across the trail. Well some nice folks, and I mean that sincerely, had cleared the log from the trail. However, because of its size it had only made it to the side of the trail. With the 2 feet of fresh snow covering the landscape the log was completely camouflaged. Well, Rob managed to hit it (I’ve been informed he has a history of wrestling with trees, needless to say he did not win this match). 

Here is the culprit that broke the sled. Doesn't look like much, right?

With a shock completely ripped in half and missing its spring along with a bent tie-rod, absolutely mangled ski and potentially demo'ed bulkhead, we could only fear the worst for the fixing fees. But that was not our first dilemma. After the engine seized (the electric start jammed on) we literally had no way of hauling this beast out of the bush. My mom's 2007 600 GSX sadly did not have the power nor the traction to pull the beast out of the bush in the wet and sloppy conditions. We decided our only solution was to burn it to the ground and never look back. JUST KIDDING! Although it would have been easier, that’s for sure. After making several phone calls to see if anyone had a solution to our problem we came up with our rescue plan. We pulled the machine off the trail as best we could, took the key out and all our valuables, and left the poor baby where it laid. 

CLICK HERE to read Part 2 of the article - RESCUE MISSION!

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About Shelby Mahon

Growing up snowmobiling in Northern Ontario has been a defining aspect of Shelby's life. She is now the owner of Backcountry Motorsports Media and travels across North America photographing and documenting motorsports events and tourism destinations. Check out her Facebook, Instagram and website for more info.

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