Archive for the ‘General’ Category

MichCanSka Safety Review

Having been the MichCanSka safety coordinator and one of the trail bosses for the past 12 years, I decided to share my thoughts on safety and group dynamics after our recent successful “2022 MichCanSka Northern Minnesota Adventure”.

My approach and recommendations on safety has evolved over the years. It’s easy to get stuck in using past methods and complacent in our approach to safety on our adventures. My focus has been to find and implement improved safety measures incorporating new/evolving technologies and lessons learned to minimize and balance the high-risk nature while maintaining enjoyment in our snowmobile cross-country adventures . Here is my current thoughts:

  1. What is too big a group? Having been trail boss in the past, leading just a few riders to over 35, the key to a low stress and positive group dynamics is for everyone being on the same page and agreeing to a common set of rules and protocols. If two of us don’t agree, then 2 is too big a group! All it takes is one individual to be out of sync with the rest of the group and stress levels and frustration levels impact the whole group’s enjoyment and ultimately a successful adventure. It could be as simple as not in agreement on start times, breaks, speed, self-discipline on keeping the group together or just injecting risk a few of the group are not comfortable with. It’s not that we all have to be perfect all the time, but consistently placing the group needs over individual riding styles or preferences is the key to everyone’s enjoyment.
  2. Group structure – We originally learned back in 2010 on our first adventure to Alaska, the importance of responsibilities and specific roles of having Navigator/Scouts , Pacer, Crossing Guards and an Anchor/Sweep. The larger the group, coupled with unfamiliar trails the more critical we don’t fore-go or become complacent. (click here)
  3. Flags – Originally there was a lot of push back on utilizing flags, their benefit has gone beyond visibility safety. It’s become almost critical to keeping track of the group for the leaders and even a dialog starter to share MichCanSka’s charity goals and potential membership with others we meet along the trail.
  4. Being prepared – Back on our first trip to Alaska, there was a lot of effort put into our ability to self-rescue and being ready for almost any difficulties? I fear we’re becoming nonchalant with whats really needed and important. The original group and personal lists needs to be updated for our future adventures.
  5. No one left behind? – In the past 25 years of riding long distance adventures, including with MichCanSka, I have taken the approach as both a Trail Boss and Safety Officer, that no one gets left behind! My number one priority has been to get everyone in the group safely to our destinations each day. This has included coordinating extractions due to breakdowns, accidents, trail conditions and even chasing down ad-hoc guides who we agreed to use. I was challenged on this years adventure to reconsider this protocol? From a safety perspective, it depends on the level of risk we are comfortable with. Even though leaving an individual with a satellite transponder and navigation ability has inherently less risk, there is still the potential of having to back-track hours to extract or assist someone stuck, broke down or worse. This may generate a great story to tell, but is it worth the additional risk?
  6. Communications? – Almost all of us have grew up riding with no voices in our helmets, using hand signals and riding defensibly! Historically, I have personally struggled with the potential distraction/negatives vs positives of having reliable real-time communications. Looking back over the years, real-time communications could have minimized or eliminated accidents or close calls. Specifically, road crossings with blind curves/hills, hazards, A moose standing in the trail, that caused an accident back in the group in Quebec and lost hours spend trying to get a group back together in Manitoba. With this years adventure fresh in my mind, I am convinced the positives clearly outweigh the perceived negatives. As humans, real-time communications is our best defense on leveraging our safety as a group. Having used the UClear’s in 2020 and again this year, they are by far the best solution to date. With some configuration and modifications to how to best utilize them, we had up to (12) of them the first week and all riders but one the second. Key advantages:
    1. The ability to communicate hazards in real-time is important, especially in narrow and winding trails, incoming traffic, crossing roads with blind curves/hills
    2. Keeping the group together, the lead riders know if the back of the group is still attached, (i.e. difficult road crossings, breakdowns, personal breaks/gear issues, missed turns, etc…)
    3. Leading a group of people, “Just follow tail-lights” versus understanding where we are going.
    4. The biggest perceived disadvantage is the riders in the group will turn this into a social chat line or use to complain, challenge. This was not a problem this year, or in 2020. Its about the group understanding and agreeing to its use as a safety and not a distraction!
    5. Going forward, my recommendation to the MichCanSka board is to require UClear’s for the 1st three lead riders and last two. Additional riders in the group in between can just have them on and paired (no headset required) to extend the range to the back of group.
  7. Real-time GPS navigation – It became very clear on this past adventure the benefit of real-time availability (GPS mounted on dash/handlebars) and zoomed in/out is critical to navigating in unfamiliar / poorly marked trails. Even the best memory or paper map, can quickly get confusing and result in wrong turns.
  8. Bottom line -I realize we can’t put a bubble around everyone and force them to change or do it a certain way, but at the end of the day, we need to be able to agree on rules and protocols effecting safety, because there is no doubt we are safer if we can approach these snowmobile adventures as an organized/informed group.

I welcome dialog and further discussion….

Pete Pattullo, MichCanSka Safety Coordinator / Trail Boss

Flags, Flags, Flags ….

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This will be the 5th annual adventure ride for the MichCanSka extreme snowmobile club. This years ride across the northern Canadian province of Quebec will include the last leg to complete the over 6,000 miles from the Atlantic Ocean to Tok, Alaska. Effectively riding across the North American continent. Check back for further updates as the adventure begins on Feb 15th, 2014.

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Welcome to our 2011 MichCanSka adventure! Over 30 riders will cover 2,000+ miles in 14 days, traveling from Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, heading north across circumnavigating the Canadian province of Ontario (clockwise)  finally arriving back in Searchmont, Ont.

On this Blog you will be able to see our route and hear about our days on the trail. Each day we plan on writing a description of memorable events along with photo’s and video along the trail.

We also want to remind everyone what significant cause this adventure is benefiting. The Diabetes Research Institute is a world-recognized research facility located on the campus of the University of Miami, where great strides have been made by the medical staff and researchers to defeat this deadly disease. Through the MichCanSka adventures we hope to raise awareness and the necessary funds to help them reach their goals. Together WE are the hope for a diabetes free tomorrow! We hope you are inspired to click on this link and give today!

Send the link to this site to Friends, Family and others interesting in following the Groups, Teams or individual participants taking part in this trip.  You will even be able to click on the Satellite Tracking link to see where everyone is in real-time. This site will also be updated directly from the satellite phones being taken on the trip, along with any notifications from the Spot Messengers being carried by individuals and teams..

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Want to follow this Trip?

Subscribe today at the link on the right… so you automatically get email updates as they happen!

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