The weather in the Arctic produces unpredictable and varied snow and visibility conditions. Check with the office for weather report before you leave.
Snow on the North Slope is wind blown and can be rock-hard. To avoid injury to riders and damage to snowmachines, speeds must be kept low and a sharp lookout kept for unusual drifting. This bumpy travel can also lead to repetitive motion injuries by the constant wrist and forearm motions required to wrestle the snowmachine over the snowdrifts. Change your body position frequently and take rest stops often. Give the anti-vibration gloves we have available a try.
Thin Snow Cover
There are times where travel is across areas with very little snow. In these instances extra care must be taken to assure that no damage to the tundra or to the snowmachine occurs. Speeds at these areas must be kept to the bare minimum. Damage that a snowmachine can do to frozen tundra is negligible, but it is nonetheless our responsibility to avoid causing any damage at all.
Ice & Hardpack
Ice can form on trails and roads and can make the snowmachine difficult to operate. When you think you’re riding on ice, be cautious by greatly reducing your speed, taking corners very slowly, and leaving sufficient space to safely stop. Wind scours, areas of ice/lakes where the wind has blown all snow off the ice, can be especially hazardous. You can be riding along on a layer of snow that gives you plenty of control, but you lose the “bite” when the snowmachine skis go from the snow to the ice. Use caution and try to cross any stream, rivers or lakes at a 90 degree angle.
When trails are well used, they can develop areas of snow and dirt mixed together. These areas can be hard on the snowmachine. Take care to not damage the machine when riding over these spots and check the snowmachine often for damage. Try to avoid bare areas of ground since snowmachines may damage tundra. All tundra damage must be reported.
Fresh, powdery snow can be ideal for riding. However, powdery snow can linger in the air after snowmachines pass over it, which can cut down on visibility for other riders following. Your speed may need to be slower to accommodate for the powder, although there are instances where keeping your speed up to “float” on the powder will be necessary. Getting a feel for the snow will come with experience. Unfortunately, optimal snow conditions are seldom found in the Arctic and even when you do have good snow, it can hide rough terrain.
Start out by riding slow – wet snow can make steering your machine more difficult. Wet snow will also accumulate on your clothing. You should be wearing the proper Riding Apparel so the wet snow does not soak into your clothes. If snow and moisture gets into your clothing, you’re going to get cold and that’s the end of you enjoying the day.
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