Speed, sometimes mixed with riding in the dark, is a major factor in most accidents. Riders must always, day or night, be aware of their riding speed, maintaining a speed slow enough to ensure they are in control of the snowmachine. On the North Slope, we maintain a maximum speed of 15 mph while working, and 25 mph while traveling to and from work sites. Helmets absolutely must be worn while traveling to work sites, and when a speed limit of 25 is being observed. Make sure you do not exceed the safe speed for snow, terrain and weather conditions.

In darkness, the headlights illuminate your path out to a maximum of 200 feet in front of the snowmachine. Be careful not to over-ride the headlights. Always watch your speed where other motor vehicles operate such as at road crossings, on open roadways and road right-of-ways. Motor vehicles must always be given plenty of space for the safety of you, your crew and other motor vehicles.

Riding too Close

Following too close is another contributing factor to accidents. Many happen when the lead rider has applied the brake and the person behind could not react fast enough to stop. A good rule to follow is the 3-second rule.

When the person in front of you passes an object, note where it is and start counting. By the time you arrive at that same object, you should have counted no less than three seconds. If you counted to less than three, you need to slow down and allow more space between the riders in front of you so you’ll have time and space to stop safely.

Crashes between snowmachines can be deadly. Always allow extra distance between riders when riding in reduced visibility conditions from snow dust, fog, wind, and snowstorms or when night-riding.


Do not venture out onto lakes or rivers unless you are absolutely certain that it is safe. “When in doubt, drill it out.”

See the Ice Safety section on the Safety page for more information.


It’s easy to fall into the mind-set that the terrain is flat in the Arctic but that’s not the case. While riding a snowmachine, keep your eyes open for streams with cut-banks, for tussocks that will catch your skis, and for the polygonal troughs that cover the tundra. Running off a 10′-high cut-bank at 25 mph will certainly damage your snowmachine, but more importantly could cause serious injury to riders.

Checking your topographic maps before you start out will assist you in avoiding problems, but don’t depend on the maps for your safety.

Pipelines run cross-country here and are varying heights above tundra level. Slow WAY down when crossing under a pipeline and watch out for the Pipeline Vibration Dampeners (PVDs), hanging under the pipelines like iron footballs.


There will be times when you have to cross roads. Check for vehicles and be sure not to surprise drivers. A snowmachine popping up onto a road unexpectedly can cause a driver to swerve off the road or into another driver. Reconnoiter the crossing on foot before using it. If possible, a rider should stand up on the crossing while the other riders cross, then change places to get the last rider across.


The Arctic is subject to severe winter weather and ground blizzards. Kuparuk’s SOP for Phase 1, Phase 2 and Phase 3 foul weather will be followed.

Phase 1 Visibility is less than 500 feet (10 road markers). Lounsbury continues to work from snowmachines in Phase 1 weather.

Phase 2 Visibility is less than 250 feet (5 road markers). Lounsbury will continue to work from snowmachines in Phase 2 weather on a case by case basis. Weather must be subsiding, not building. Work areas must be close to facilities, pads, camps or existing marked ice roads.

Additional precautions to be taken during Phase 1 or 2 include:

  • When traveling to the work area, slow down and maintain visual contact with all crew members.
  • Keep track of crew members, check in on radios more often.
  • Watch for frostbite. Check to be sure your clothing is keeping the wind out.

Phase 3 Visibility is less than 100 feet (less than 2 road markers). Lounsbury does not work from snowmachines in Phase 3 conditions.


Caribou, fox, brown bear, polar bear and occasionally musk ox can be encountered on the slope. All wildlife is to be given a wide buffer while traveling. If wildlife is encountered unexpectedly you should stop and allow the animal to escape and get well away from you before proceeding. Any interaction with wildlife while working should be avoided.