CLAREMONT — Inexperience factored heavily into a number of snowmobile crashes that occurred over the three-day weekend in New Hampshire, according to New Hampshire Fish and Game officials.
The New Hampshire Fish and Game Law Enforcement Division reported a total of five snowmobile collisions that stemmed from three separate incidents that occurred between Saturday, Feb. 13, and Monday, Feb. 15, including one in Claremont.
On Saturday, emergency response teams including the Claremont Police Department, ClaremontFire Department, and Golden Cross Ambulance, responded to a single snowmobile crash with injuries sustained on trail 387 located near the Arrowhead Recreation Area. The operator, a minor from Keene, was riding with a group of six when the snowmobile went off the track and struck a tree, according to a report from the New Hampshire Fish and Game Law Enforcement Division. The minor sustained “serious but non-life threatening injuries” and was escorted by Golden Cross Ambulance to Valley Regional Hospital in Claremont for further treatment.
Notably, the minor had successfully completed a state approved off-highway rural vehicle (OHRV) snowmobile safety course and was wearing a safety helmet and proper riding gear, the report stated. Officials attribute the minor’s crash to “difficult terrain and rider fatigue.”
Unlike the minor, other operators reported in collisions this weekend had not taken a safety course and were either inexperienced riders.
On Sunday, emergency teams responded to a collision in Hillsborough where a snowmobiler crashed into a bob-house on Franklin Pierce Lake. The operator, Jennie Larson, a-20 year-old from Biddeford, Maine, was operating an unregistered snowmobile and, according to the report, had “never ridden a snowmobile before and did not know how to operate the snowmobile to include turning or stopping.”
“Larson accelerated south down the lake at a high rate of speed before crashing head-on into a bob-house,” the report stated. “Larson was ejected from the machine into the bob-house.”
Larson, who was not wearing a helmet, sustained “serious but not life-threatening injuries,” officials reported. The snowmobile and bob-house were both heavily damaged.
On Monday, emergency teams responded to a crash in Gorham where a male snowmobile operator and a female passenger collided with a tree when their snowmobile veered off the trail. The operator, Jason Hill, a 43-year-old from Naugatuck, Conn., reportedly had only ridden a snowmobile on two prior occasions, which had been several years earlier. Hill had rented the snowmobile for the day and was 55 miles into his trip when he lost control of the vehicle.
Neither Hill nor the passenger, Kara Aparo, 45, of Bristol, Conn., suffered any serious injuries, according to the report.
Additional crashes over the extended weekend included one in Middleton on Saturday and two in Alexandria and Ellsworth on Sunday.
The New Hampshire Fish and Game has reported 12 snowmobile-related incidents so far this month. Ten of these were snowmobile crashes and two were for snowmobiles falling through ice.
In an interview with The Eagle Times, Lieutenant Jim Kneeland of the New Hampshire Fish and Game Law Enforcement Division said the nature of these collisions is not unusual, as inexperience is a contributing factor in the majority of reported snowmobile collisions.
“We would like to see everyone take an OHRV safety course,” Kneeland said.
It takes years to become an experienced snowmobiler, according to Kneeland. Too many novices mistakenly believe that one or two outings on a snowmobile constitutes sufficient experience.
Kneeland’s advice to learning snowmobilers is to “ride within your means.”
“There are no destinations in this sport,” Kneeland said. “It doesn’t matter if you are going 10 mph or 100 mph.”
In some circumstances a rider must watch for a risk of engine overheat when operating at low speeds, according to Kneeland. Snowmobiles are designed to pick up snow while in motion to cool the engine. If the snow is hard-packed, a warning light will signal the operator, who is advised to rest the machine until the engine cools.
Additionally, most modern snowmobiles are equipped with “scratchers,” a tool the operator can deploy to scrape snow from a packed-trail to cool the engine, according to Kneeland.
Kneeland said he found trail conditions this past weekend to be very good. The snow was fairly loose and granular and picked up easily without the aid of scratchers. On occasion Kneeland came across an exposed rock or an icy corner, which should be anticipated by snowmobile riders.
While the snowmobile collisions are common, Kneeland said there has been a noticeable increase in snowmobile ridership this season.
This increase in outdoor recreational activities has been reported in other areas, such as hiking and biking, according to previous articles by The Eagle Times.
Kneeland, like other outdoor recreationist officials, suspects that the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic might factor into the increase of outdoor activity though he does not have data to confirm the reasons.