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Snowmobile Water Crossing - Sport or Insanity?

Updated on August 30, 2016
Polaris 600 XC Photo used with permission.
Polaris 600 XC Photo used with permission. | Source


Definition of Hypothermia from the Mayo Clinic states the following:

"Hypothermia is a medical emergency that occurs when your body loses heat faster than it can produce heat, causing a dangerously low body temperature. Normal body temperature is around 98.6 F (37 C). Hypothermia (hi-po-THUR-me-uh) occurs as your body temperature passes below 95 F (35 C)."

In water that is 40 degrees Fahrenheit a person can survive for approximately ten to twenty minutes. After this time has elapsed your muscles weaken causing you to lose your strength and coordination.

Once hypothermia sets in your organs stop working properly along with your nervous system, which can lead to total heart and respiratory failure, then death if not treated right away..

The first time I saw a snowmobile doing what is called water-crossing I couldn't believe my eyes. Are these guys insane or what? My husband works with a few younger guys that are right into doing this. Talk about pushing it to the edge!

Whatever happened to driving on narrow groomed trails at 60 mph plus?

After speaking with these young men they said there wasn't enough excitement left in trail riding so they took it to the next level, which to them was water crossing. Let me point out that they are not wearing any flotation equipment, and they are on top of water that is so cold that you freeze in a matter of minutes.

There's a big difference between dipping your toe in ice cold water and having your entire body submerged.

There has to be safer ways to get an adrenalin rush.


Snowmobiling Over Ice

Is ice safe?

  • Ice that is closer to the shoreline is normally not as safe as ice that is farther out on a lake or river.
  • One can never really tell where ice is the thickest as it can be a foot thick in one spot, and then a few feet away, it may only be a few inches thick.
  • When snowmobiling over water on a lake or river the ice should be at least 5" thick.
  • When ice is snow covered it will usually be weaker and warmer as the snow works as an insulator.
  • Outdoor temperature, how old the ice is as well as the water depth and water currents should all be taken into account when sledding over ice.

Watercrossing Gone Wrong

This snowmobile guy was lucky!

Crazy Canadian loses machine in water. I apologize for the swearing in this video.

When water-crossing, paddle tracks are usually used.

This is what could happen to a sled driving on any lake or river

This sled likely had a fair bit of damage done to it.

To retrieve his snowmobile the owner had to cut a large hole in the ice, then dive down into the icy cold water to retrieve it. I hope that he was wearing a dry suit to do this.

Snowmobiling Safety

  • Whenever snowmobiling, you should always have a safety/survival kit with you along with a first aid kit. This kit should include matches or a lighter; flashlight, knife; saw or an ax; food such as an energy or granola bar; rope, tools for the sled (wrench, screwdriver, and hammer), spark plug and a drive belt.
  • If you are unsure of the trails bring along a map of the area you will be.
  • Always be sure to let someone know where you are going and how long you expect to be gone.
  • Check the weather conditions and dress appropriately.
  • Travel with others and try not to ever go out alone.
  • Never drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The penalties can be severe and one may also lose driving privileges of any motor vehicle.
  • Always obey the speed limits on trails and roads.
  • Remember to always wear a helmet.

Water-crossing on a snowmobile

Is water-crossing something you'd like to do?

See results

Thank you for reading, and if you'd like to read more articles by Just Ask Susan please visit my profile page. Have a great day!


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