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Danger trail

kirsten bey

Musher Kirsten Bey considers herself lucky to escape with only a broken leg after being hit by a snowmachine/Facebook

While Alaska begins the celebration leading up to the weekend kick off of the iconic Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, 64-year-old, musher Kirsten Bey is home recovering from serious injuries suffered after being rundown by a motor vehicle on a remote section of the famed trail along the Yukon River.

Bey said via a Facebook message from the Fairbanks hospital on Tuesday that she doesn’t know what happened, but Alaska State Troopers and the organizer of the 2020 Serum Run Expedition from Nenana to Nome say she was hit from behind by a snowmachine.

Troopers on Tuesday reported Bey was about five miles out of Galena on Monday evening when “she was struck by an unknown snowmachiner.” The agency later updated a public statement to say the driver of the snowmachine had contacted the agency “and is cooperating with the ongoing investigation.”

Troopers have not, however, identified the driver.

Serum Run musher Stephanie Johnson, a friend of Bey’s, told KNOM radio that the driver did stay at the scene after the collision and called Galena Search and Rescue. 

“I don’t remember getting hit by the sno-go,” Bey messaged from her hospital bed. “Last I knew, we were travelling well. It was about 8:30 or so at night.

“The dogs really like going at night. Trail was good. Temperature was pleasant. I was enjoying the last few miles into Galena.”

Exactly what happened next and the moments that followed are a blank. Bey has no memory of being hit or knocked off her sled.

“Next thing I knew, I was getting on a snowmachine to be driven to Galena,” she said. “I have a vague vision of my sled on its side. The medics did a great job on me in Galena and got me flown to Fairbanks.”

Unlucky but lucky

Bey praised the staff of Fairbanks Memorial Hospital for the care she got there.

There were a few ‘brain bleeds,'” she said, “(but) these were rechecked (Tuesday) morning and are stable. So no fear of further brain damage.”

Both of the bones in her lower leg were broken just below the knee, she said, “but X-rays indicate simple breaks that should heal fine with rest and limited movement. There could be ligament issues but we we won’t know that until healing is underway and (the) swelling goes down.

“It appears I was very lucky.”

Or as lucky as a dog musher so unlucky as to be hit be a snowmachine can be. She has no idea where the snowmachine came from, but does wonder how the driver failed to see her.

“I do have reflective tape on the back of my jacket, and my (teams’) gangline, neck and tug lines and the line along my runners all have reflective tape throughout them, and I was wearing my headlight.”

Her dogs were uninjured and other mushers pitched in to see that they got safely home.

The accident was reminiscent of that involving four-time Iditarod champ Jeff King from Denali Park on the trail out of Galena during the 2016 Iditarod. King escaped injury but one of his dogs died.

Hit from behind

He was on his way to the village of Nulato from Galena when a speeding snowmachine headed down river slammed into his team. The driver of the snowmachine kept going after the crash, but the 59-year-old King picked up a piece of the snowmachine cowling torn loose by the impact of the crash.

The cowling was later linked to a snowmachine belonging to 26-year-old Arnold Demoski from Nulato.

Demoski was arrested and taken to jail in Fairbanks. He claimed to have been so drunk he remembered nothing of the incident.

Despite that he eventually entered into a plea agreement that saw him plead guilty to charges of criminal mischief in the third degree, fourth-degree assault, reckless endangerment and drunk driving in connection with the death of King’s dog and the harassment of musher Aily Zirkle from Two Rivers.

Zirkle had been left terrified by the behavior of an unidentified driver on a snowmachine who stalked her on the trail.

Demoski’s guilty plea required him to complete six months and three days in jail, pay more than $35,000 in fines and restitution to the two mushers, and serve five years probation.

The 135 miles of trail along the Yukon from Ruby to Galena – sight of an old air station where during the Cold War U.S. Air Force fighter jets sat ready to intercept bombers from the now defunct Soviet Union when they probed Alaska air space – and on to the villages of Nulato and Kaltag is the busiest stretch of trail on the Yukon.

Some years, the route shared by snowmachines, dog mushers, fat-tired cyclists and walkers is a car-lane wide. In years with considerable snow, such as this one, however, it often narrows to the width of a single snowmachine.

Such trails will sometimes become ruts with berms along their sides firm enough to make it difficult for a snowmachine to leave the trail. A driver trying to get out of the rut to pass a dogsled, another snowmachine, or a person can hit the berm at an angle and get bounced right back into the middle of the trail.

What exactly happened in this case, including how fast the snowmachine was going and whether the driver had been drinking, has yet to be determined.

But what has been clear for a long time is that the machines that have made winter travel between Alaska villages so much easier in the past decade do bring with them the same risks to vulnerable trail users that cars and trucks pose to those people elsewhere in Alaska.

A jury in Kotzebue, a regional hub along the northern edge of the Bering Sea, in 2011 found 22-year-old Patrick Tickett guilty of manslaughter after the snowmachine he was driving ran down and killed an Anchorage doctor.

Dr. Roger Gollub, a pediatrician who sometimes journeyed to the community 550 miles northwest of Anchorage to treat children, was on the runners of a dogsled behind a team belonging to Tracey Shaeffer when Tickett hit him from behind at an estimated 60 mph.

Schaeffer who was riding in the basket of the sled when the collision took place was also seriously injured.

The crash broke Gollub’s spine and “tore Schaeffer’s diaprhragm and ripped her spleen apart,” the Arctic Sounder newspaper reported. Tickett was reported to have been drinking heavily and doing drugs before the crash.

 

35 replies »

  1. I wonder if Arnold Demoski ever paid the $35,000. He should be required to be locked in jail in Fairbanks every time the Iditarod goes through Nulato. Worthless pos.

  2. May I suggest that you ramp up your DUI laws to match the unique dangers of travel on the trails. Snowmobiles and sleds do not have the protection that a steel car offers the passengers in a collision. The legal limit for motor vehicles is 0.08g% in the US. However, the clinical impairment begins at 0.03g% including for example: decreased inhibitions, diminution of attention, judgment, and control, beginning of sensory-motor impairment, and slowed information processing, Most Western European countries have 0.05g% as the blood alcohol (BAC) legal limit, with some at 0.03g% for the legal limit. The time factor in reaching the drunk driver on the trail necessitates a blood alcohol being drawn at first arrival of the law enforcement officers or medics. A good toxicologist can back calculate the BAC to the time of the crash using the Widmark equation. I have done this successfully every time. [Of course, drugged driving can be a problem too, so the standard panel of drug testing is also needed with recording of visual signs of impairment (Nystagmus, pin-point, and dilated pupils).] Lowering the BAC will be a deterrent to drinking and driving on the wilderness trails after the first few prosecutions. 0.03g% to 0.04g% in the blood is about 2 beers circulating through the body. In addition, lighting requirements on the snow-gos and sleds is a must. And I think all of you can draft something that works. Cars have requirements and so should the trail vehicles of all kinds. Only legislation can fix this and make the beautiful trails safer. Distractive driving on any trail or road is also a common problem and can be used in prosecutions. So take out the ear phones and consider audible sound speakers that are at certain decibels for travel that allows others to know you are there and assist in safety. All of this can be promulgated through well written laws and a State legislator that understands the unique and growing problems on the trails. I am not an Alaskan, but am a frequent visitor and love Alaska. Always willing to help if needed. But the thrust of this has to come from those of you who really know the problem and live with it. Living with the problem is one thing, dying from it is another. Hope someone agrees with me and takes the lead in this. Sounds like the problem will just get worse as the speed of the snow mobile increases.
    Best to all,
    Pat Williams

    • Pat,

      By this point in ‘intervention’ and ‘self-help’ history, those still ‘exhibiting’ often strike me as actively “protecting” their problem, for reasons carefully kept out of view, or cloaked.

      It’s Ok to have a problem these days; there’s not only relatively little downside in coming-out & fessing-up, there are often real benefits, on multiple levels. So we’re not just looking a hangup, but a hangup wrapped in a hangup.

      Males in villages have been struggling for a long time. Too long. Most of these trail-incidents, are village-issues.

      Like problems in African American and other minorities, like long-festering issues in cities … in certain quarters these things are opportunities, crises too valuable to fix. Problems are being “protected”.

      • Dear Ted:
        At the risk of being told that outsiders (like me) are always looking for more laws, I will stay the course and respond. I think your description of the problem is universal. Not just Alaska’s problem, but in most places. However, there are unique circumstances with the snowmobiles and sleds traversing the gorgeous but desolate terrain of Alaska. I do believe that the villages have been struggling with alcohol problems for a long time and probably without the help they need to fix the problem. I wonder where all the money goes for the tribes and for the people in general with such a persistent problem. In my position with the Dept of Medicine at LSU Medical Center from 1995-2005, my primary responsibility was community outreach that included drug and alcohol education, awareness, and prevention. I traveled the back roads to little towns (by car, I wish by sled!!!–no snow here) that no one really knows much about and lectured in the schools, provided education booklets and videos that I wrote, and spoke to community and industry groups also. I also traveled to one of our few Native American communities by invitation and translated some of the drug and alcohol materials into their tribal language for the children and elders to enjoy. My many years of community outreach taught me there is always someone who listens and carries the message forward. I have even lectured in jails (by invitation of the Sheriff) and found the most interested and grossly neglected audiences. I never think that people are indifferent, just lost and don’t know how to change. Addiction is difficult to end. Sounds like the politicians are too busy to care and to pour money into solutions for the Native Alaskans.
        My experience in criminal court tells me that if you cannot make the change on the front side, then the end side is the only way. People who face vehicular homicide instead of negligent homicide for Drunk or Drugged driving with deaths, will sober up quick. The penalties are very different. Even the threat of such a charge can get some of the drunk (or drugged) drivers off the roads (trails). A lower legal limit to address the horrific danger in open vehicles like sleds and snowmobiles will be sobering to even the greatest fool. I fear that a similar or worse tragedy than the ones already described in this topic will happen someday. If lowering the legal limit for vehicles such as snowmobiles and sleds and mandating proper safety lighting saves one life, perhaps the Alaska crew participating in these blogs will rethink the addition of a couple of new laws and excuse the outsider from butting in.
        I rode in the ceremonial Iditarod along with three of my grandchildren. I was told that no one in the history of the Iditarod had bid on and won 4 sleds for the same 11 mile Iditarod trail. The reason I funded this experience for myself and my grandchildren was to show them the beauty of Alaska and the history of travel in Alaska, as well as the beautiful huskies. (It was my fourth trip) But hearing these stories and the resistance to finding a solution to the few who can do so much damage to an unsuspecting traveler is scary. I have seen the tears of those left behind in the courtroom after I testify to put the irresponsible ones in jail. It is their only consolation and certainly only a token consolation. So sad. Everyone loses. As for the villages, there must be a program similar to the one that I implemented at one of the universities or State Health Department to help them. If not, there certainly should be.
        At least the conversation has begun. Keep on talking.
        Pat

      • Patricia is a sane and reasonable voice in the room . Very succinct and clear . Thanks for such an excellent outlook. Impressive. I will learn from you .

      • Thank you so much for your very kind words. I was beginning to think that I was intruding because I am not a resident of Alaska, just a great fan of such.
        Best,
        Pat

      • Patricia,
        Alcohol related accidents and Alcoholism is not unique to Alaska.
        Nor do we know for sure at this time if the driver was intoxicated.
        Looking at the National Statistics.
        “An estimated 88,000 people (approximately 62,000 men and 26,000 women) die from alcohol-related causes annually, making alcohol the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States.”
        (Niaa.nih.gov)
        On top of this,
        “In 2016, 10,497 people died in alcohol-impaired driving crashes, accounting for 28% of all traffic-related deaths in the United States.”
        (CDC. org)
        My point is that with a national epidemic that causes nearly 100,000 deaths annually accross America, we should not punish a certain user group (of which the majority of operators are safe and sober).

        Treating Alcoholism is much more difficult.
        You must address the root problems like cultural inequality, poor wages, PTSD from combat, mental health, domestic violence and the biggest concern of a culture that pumps Alcohol into a majority of public and social events.
        Without a change in culture, no matter how many laws are on the books, we will still suffer from the epidemic caused by Alcohol Dependency.
        We saw this first hand during the Prohibition period in the U.S.
        Young Americans need more social options that do not involve “going to the bar”.
        Capitalism Marketing and media advertising many times support the very activities that we are trying to encourage people to avoid…
        Very difficult problem to solve.

      • Dear Steve:
        You are correct in all that you say. But the types of vehicles are so different and the dark isolated trails are too. Visual acuity is important as well as proper lighting to identify the location of the vehicles. This is universal. But the darkness of the landscape and the lack of designated “roads” leaves a free range for accidents and a unique setting that even the lower levels of impairment could cause catastrophic accidents. Also none of these vehicles would match the safety standards of those (motocycles included) that travel the regular roads. I do believe that sleds with huskies and no protection for the musher along with snow mobiles that have no speed limits, put this in a totally different and unique category. But I am not from Alaska, so I am only making a suggestion. I don’t mean to intrude. It will only take one horror story to put a negative face on the beautiful Alaskan wilderness. Tourism is a major industry. I was considering a photo expedition with Jeff Schultz or viewing the Northern Lights for my next Alaskan adventure, but this situation worries me. I am not as physically tough as all of you (I make up for it with mental toughness), so perhaps my perspective is not as valid as yours.
        Best,
        Pat

  3. I find the element of thought running in this thread with Jim and Steve to be very immature. They are alledging motor vehicles have the right of way an incorrect pretense on a public trail and even roads that would send them to prison . I’ve been driving a snowmobile for over 40 years happily statewide without ever a close call . I have close freinds who tank tops in snowcoss and iron dog . I’ve found that iron dog racers tend to be courteous and extra careful professionals with a pristine driving etiquette that makes jim and Steve look like hicks . Real Homesteaders tend to be ultra responsible and drive carefully as their lives depend on their machines being treated with respect and staying mechanicaly sound. Steve and Jim promote a mindset of discourtesy. As unslaskan as it gets . Throughout my lifetime I’ve been shocked how courteous and careful Alaskans are . Steve a.k.a self described throttle junkie represents a mentally ill segment coming to Alaska that pollutes our culture of kindness . Others be damned mindset . Steve and Jim you give us snowmobilers a bad name . Professionals drive with courtesy be it on a trail or a real race track .

    • I thought the ‘unpopular opinion’ guys were trying to show that lack of safety equipment and a lackadaisical attitude on the part of some mushers, contributes its part to unfortunate encounters on the trail.

      I didn’t get the impression these guys are advocating for machine-hooliganism.

      Jason is wrong imo, that the speed limit should be or realistically could be, 25 mph. Whatever the right number should be, before you get there the speed is sufficient to sometimes pose problems, because it’s a trail, out in the bushes, on natural topography.

      But goes with the territory. Like the airplane, the snowmachine is changing Alaska, and the north. What is excessive speed in rugged terrain, is inadequate on the tundra or Canadian Shield.

      Tiny turbos will get cheap and common, and multi-grand intelligent track systems will revolutionize snowmachines on challenging surfaces, again.

      It’s not unlike the recent-times conflict in South Central between cross-country skiers, hikers, snow-shoe users, and the various machines to which they object. Dog-activities are likewise relatively slow, sprawled-out, and teams are susceptible to unfortunate reactions when approached by machines … or by anything!

      Making dogs the Deva, the queen-thing to which everyone & everything else must bow & scrape, is just about the surest way I can imagine them becoming yesterday’s lost part of Alaska life.

      • Ted , legal precedent? Check it out . Simple terms just because I have a snow cat doesn’t give me the right to run over your broke down snowmobile stuck in the trail/ river or run you over head on . Shall I say , what’s your problem? Your headlight wasn’t bright enough or you should have hung a glo stick next to your dim tail light , I raced my engine before I ran over you , it’s your fault you didn’t hear me and get outa my prima Donna way . It’s a common courtesy and law issue, nothing to do with snowmobiles or dog teams , could be a mother and child walking on the trail, does not give machine right to run them over , same goes for cars ect . Study up on law and precedent ted before you kindly white knight the situation. The world is not mad max yet . Just because I can doesn’t mean I should. When your in the wrong admit it . Ahh where’s my tank ! I’m gonna upgrade! Hah hah hah

      • Ted,
        Well said:
        “I thought the ‘unpopular opinion’ guys were trying to show that lack of safety equipment and a lackadaisical attitude on the part of some mushers, contributes its part to unfortunate encounters on the trail.”

      • Dread,

        A car has a tire blow-out at normal highway speed, flips several times, kills the occupants, maybe involves other vehicles, additional fatalities.

        Since we know these blow-outs can happen, and that they often lead to loss of vehicle control, why hasn’t the speed limit been reduced so that cars don’t flip when a tire inevitably blows?

        So too, the mere fact that snowmobile speed is implicated in certain kinds of accidents, doesn’t necessarily tell us the speed needs to be set lower.

        The attention here is on incidents & conflicts between snowmachines and mushing teams. No doubt we will see incidents also with pedestrians, skiers, moose, loose pet dogs darting out, and so on. But the arm-gnawer here is with the harnessed team, sled & musher.

        On most roads you still have the right to walk, ride a bicycle or even a horse. Cars of course carry on, at normal car-speed. If your manner of walking, or your 4-span deep-wheel-plow ox-team (which approximates a full dog-team, 8 feet wide) begins to interfere with car-traffic, then that will attract attention. Cops.

        About 60 years back, it was still not hard to find a horse that you could trust to walk next to a lane of traffic, and not startle when suddenly overtaken from behind, or when seemingly confronted by a (predatory) car rushing toward it. Today, most horse will get you killed, in these circumstances.

        This is a big part of the reality of dog-teams on trails that are shared with ORVs. Dogs too have an innate set of natural reactions that can lead to nasty problems, when vehicles ‘sneak up behind them’, or ‘charge them’. Or when they’re just distracted.

        Could be there is going to have to be some separation. Dogs are not a bad match for other engineless trail-recreations … although those other users may object. (They’re too icky.)

        Increasingly though, some trails are made for machines, by machines, with money from machine owners. Some of the burden in the solutions is undoubtedly going to fall to mushers. But since their speeds are so much lower, it takes a lot less to punch good dedicated sled-trail.

  4. As Jason notes below, speed limits could help. Probably not the 19th C warning-crier on foot carrying the red flag & lantern preceding each vehicle that was really aimed at banning the contraptions … but yeah, official limits could help.

    But neither setting nor enforcing speeds is cheap or easy. In fact, there aren’t enough officers to go around, as it is. You can’t wave a hand in the air, and have speed limits. Not even intellectually.

    Still, snowmachines do partly carry that nasty old dirt-bike torch. Ie, if you’re not on the verge of death & mutilation, then it’s just not any fun. It’s not easy to gain access for your bike or 4×4 … and yeah-huh, that’s why.

    Snowmachines are now the new Super Cub … for the rest of us. Tap-tap – No take-backs! But for them to do that job – yeah – they are going to be ‘flying low’, across largely minimally-improved, narrow tracks.

    Eh, Monk?

    Martin Buser has the right idea. Dog teams (cyclists, pedestrians) should be lit up like a Christmas tree. ‘Reflective tape’? That’s not even funny. And now with LEDs, hiding behind the heavy-battery excuse is right up there with “I was blacked out drunk”.

    Here out west of Seattle, in the biggest & fastest-growing forests in the country, there’s a solid maze of logging roads across hills & dale. Only a few Mainlines paved, or two-lane. Otherwise, it’s all single-track gravel … loaded trucks crawling downhill, empties barrelling up … and public usage too.

    We can only do this, and not kill people left & right, with radios. Anyone not radio-equipped & squawk-box On, is a menace.

    At each road intersection (trailhead) is a slab of plywood tied to a tree (pls don’t nail anymore) saying “CH 9” or etc, telling which channel to be on … and on which you announce your presence & intentions.

    It could be a headset for a cellphone, or other modes, but it has to be agreed … and when you meet someone unexpectedly who doesn’t respond when haled, you turn him in. If he can’t clue-up with a hint or two, he becomes Charlie Vandergaw.

    It’s probably ‘The Cathedral’, that’s holding Alaska back here. Folks want their very own vast Wilderness Cathedral, and they head out on the trail (in the dark) like that’s what they really got. Both under power, and unpowered alike. Yeah well … [cartoon of guy with head between legs, up arse].

  5. Jim makes several good points down below…
    Remember this happened during the dark of night in the wilderness (possibly with snow blowing and decreased visibility conditions).
    When I travel any trails at night be it with motorized vehicles or with my bike, I have tail-lights.
    A small flashing red light on her back may have prevented this…also a safety yellow vest covered in reflective material would have helped (not just a strip of reflective).
    These trails are put in with snowmachines and traveled with snowmachines…that is the village lifeline into the bush.
    It is too bad that this happened, but hopefully all mushers can learn from this accident.
    Look at Irondog riders at night…
    Bright LED headlights, bright LED taillights and a highly visible safety orange helmet.
    I personally have reflective material on my helmet and incorporated into the whole design of my outerwear.
    Lastly,
    Many mushers listen to music while out on the trail and this also prevents hearing a machine approaching which can be very dangerous for situational awareness.

  6. Monk has a point. 25 years ago the machines had 1-2″ paddles and top speed was slow. Look at the paddles now! These machines will climb a tree and the top speeds are unimaginable. So while the dogs and mushers are locked in an evolutionary freeze, the machines just keep getting “better”. Like mopeds sharing the track with Indy cars. Not a situation with great outcomes.

  7. Obviously there are no consequences for running someone over and killing them drunk. So, why change? But do agree with Jim to a large degree, several chem sticks might have prevented this whole thing. Providing douche wasn’t drunk off his ass.

  8. The Tickett kid and his girlfriend refused to help Tracey and the doctor. They refused to go for help. Tickett should have gotten 20 years.

  9. This won’t be a popular opinion but I have come damn close to hitting dog teams many times and it ain’t my fault. During the ’97 Iron Dog, my partners and I came around a bend in the Yukon between Galena and Koyukuk and then found two teams and their mushers camped ON THE TRAIL. Not close to it, not next to it, right on the most heavily traveled track in the middle of the river. I later found it was a husband and wife pair from the states who were running their own Iditarod on the cheap. This was not the only occurrence. I’ve come close on the Yentna and up near Petersville.

    You’ll notice Bey talks about running her headlight and reflective tape – that ain’t enough. Mushers that run trails closer to civilization have all kinds of lights; I’ve encountered Martin Buser many times near Big Lake and he’s lit up like New Year’s Eve, always has a smile and a wave. Out in the boondocks, though, it is blackout stealth mode.

    • Please allow me to counter your unpopular opinion with one of my own: that snowmachiners should be lawfully only able to drive their machines at the same speeds and with the same prudence as they would a car on a windy country road with extremely limited visibility: 25 mph.

      Mushers could always use more safety equipment, but the above rule being observed would automatically make the back country a safer place for everybody.

      • Jason,
        Mile wide frozen rivers in Alaska are not like “country roads” down in the lower 48…but with an opinion like the one you have on snowmachines, I can see why you decided to leave the last frontier behind you.

      • The vast majority of snow-machiners obey no laws (since there don’t appear to be any) or even reasonable self imposed speed limits and regularly travel at speeds through all different types of terrain that you would never do in a car. I get that that is never going to change, but felt that the line coming from Jim (and apparently you, too) is pretty absurd given that you’re essentially a pretty lawless bunch who think that because your machine has a bazzilion horse power and paddles that allow you to practically climb a vertical cliff you’re entitled to travel at speeds far in excess of any other motor vehicle in our country.

        I’ve been wiped out by snow machines at night even with the front six dogs literally wearing LED headlamps around their necks; in 99.99% of any given situation you care to name, snow machiners travel beyond safe speed limits.

      • Jason,

        First of all, getting dissed by this or that Alaskan is a badge of honor. Wut, we’d rather be the duty sweetie-cakes? If you go back some day, it’ll be all the better … including the you-factor. This isn’t an Alaska thing, it’s a Life thing.

        Think about this off-hand speed limit suggestion some more. Specifically, ‘country roads’, even winding ones, are not generally set at 25. Nooo. That’s *streets in town* speed, and it’s because of the close-spaced intersections, not because of either curvature, or visibility. Low speeds are more about *traffic control*, than about route-conditions. Lots of driveways, alleys, and parking.

        A dog team is an awfully ungainly mess out on any road or trail, Jason. It’s as long as a semi-tractor trailer rig, with 17 brains and 66 feet, all of them fairly independent and somewhat unpredictable.

        Imagine Anchorage with no cars. No snowmachines. Now start adding dog-teams and sleds. Image commutes and intersections, mushing-style. BWUH-HarHar-hoohoohehehe.

        Total population of maybe a hundred and eleven?

        Hey – love your dogs, love your sled, love the trail. But don’t be a ding-dong and imagine that a pack of dogs strung together in harness is any kind of practical or even considerate mode of transportation. It’s a *stunt*, Jason.

        I favor it’s preservation in Alaska, and elsewhere in low-density ‘wide open’ snow-country. I buck the I-Rod haters, the PETA-sniveling. I’ve thought about approaching Alaska, through mushing. Lots of factors in the Negatives column … but I do like it, relate to it … it’s just not a great hand to draw to, practically speaking.

        Although I have the deep-rural, deep-country background, with animals, I’m an advanced machines & equipment, tools & engineering guy. And snowmachines are made for Consumers, so nobody needs Tech Cred to have & use them.

        So you got dissed by riders while mushing. Don’t let it get to ya.

      • Ted, not sure why you’re acting like I’m making this an “Alaskan thing” if I’m reading you correctly. That bit was all Steve. My own mushing/snowmobile perspective is based on trail observations from Montana/Maine/Wisconsin/Michigan/Minnesota/Oregon/Alberta/Yukon Territory/Montana/Quebec/Ontario and Alaska; I don’t discriminate haha.

        Acting like it’s just an issue in AK, or just “on mile wide rivers” is certainly not something I agree with. You might not see eye to eye with me on the speed limit issue, but I’d like you or or anyone else to tell me where else it’s ok to travel at the limits of your motorized vehicle’s ability with no restrictions from a rules standpoint. The bottom line is that machines routinely travel at far greater speeds than you or I would drive a car on a road with winding curves or poor visibility, and in a car you’re expected to rigidly stay in your own lane without fail, not a restriction snowmachiners feel obliged to place themselves under with any regularity.

      • Jason,
        I am not advocating for anarchy on the trails as I can say that I have logged over 10,000 miles up here on the frozen rivers…without an incident.
        But like Jim, there have been some close calls (and not at high speeds either).
        Saying that snowmachines should be limited to 25 mph across Alaska is like saying dog teams should not run on the weekends.
        The speed is just one factor in the equation.
        The big problem is no taillights on mushers.
        Many times the headlights on sno gos are covered in snow and do not shine as far as possible.
        Even when both trail users are trying their best, accidents do happen.
        This is why most operators wear helmets…and the absence of a helmet is another factor in the above equation.
        Basically, safety gear saves lives for all trail users!

        P.S.
        If there are no speed limit laws in the wilderness, then no one is “lawless” when driving on the rivers…although some many be more reckless than others.

      • “If there are no speed limit laws in the wilderness, then no one is “lawless” when driving on the rivers…although some many be more reckless than others.”

        Having no laws is quite literally the definition of lawless, as in no laws…just saying.

      • Steve O,
        But there are other laws which apply when operating a machine like “driving under the influence” and registering your snowmachine with the state, just not speed limits (which would be nearly impossible to enforce).
        Overall, Alaska is not “lawless” although there are plenty of folks who think we need more laws…ironically, most of these people live in the lower 48.

    • Jim , not your fault eh , Tell It To The Judge When He Throws Away The Key . Driving recklessly in poor visibility or high speed will get you a manslaughter Conviction probable wrongful death and major civil lawsuit ,if you kill someone. If you came close it’s because you drive recklessly period . Or were you driving without a head light ? Probably you were under the influence. If you came close to hitting anyone on yentna you just admitted guilt . It’s a very wide river and only possible way to nearly hit someone is through reckless driving. You deserve prison and will find good freinds there .

    • So when you’re flying around a corner and a moose is in the trail is it the mooses fault that you are flying around the corner? Obviously camping in the middle of the trail is an idiotic move.

      On pretty much any and every mode of transportation it is incumbent on the person doing the passing to take the appropriate caution so as not to hit the person they are passing. If you are driving faster than your light can illuminate the path you are traveling too fast for the conditions, whether in a race or not, and no matter what mode of transportation you are using. If a car is hit from behind it is the person that drove into the rear end of the other cars fault, not the person who was hit. The same is true for boats, horses, planes, bicycles, and everyother mode of transportation.

      • Steve O,
        What if one car hit another at night and the car that was rear-ended had NO taillights working at night?
        Who would be at fault then?

      • Steve,

        In that instance, on a road governed by laws, the vehicle that was breaking the law by not having any tail lights would likely be at fault. Congratulations on finding the one instance that proves me wrong but also doesn’t prove your point at all, there is no law requiring trail users to have tail lights the way there is with cars on a road. But who cares, let’s just rev up the snowmachines and haul ass across the dark night at full speed and headlights obscured by snow, what’s the worst that could happen? As long as you have your helmet on you’ll be alright!

        While we’re playing the what ifs game, what if while riding your snowmachine at full speed on a dark night with a snow covered headlight and a tree falls in your path, would it be the trees fault for falling in your way or your fault for riding like an idiot?

      • Well,
        Since you bring it up:
        “there is no law requiring trail users to have tail lights the way there is with cars on a road”
        Maybe that is a simple start…to require all trail users to have a tail light at night?
        There is a reason vehicle code throughout the U.S. moved in this direction and it is my personal experience that LED taillights (on the trail) can prevent accidents (just like they do on cars in the night).
        You do not have to go fast to lose visibility in a white out…especially not in the dark!

      • Steve,

        Somebody recently told me “there are plenty of folks who think we need more laws…ironically, most of these people live in the lower 48.” I thought you lived up here Steve? Now you want more laws 10 minutes after blaming outsiders for doing the same?

        Losing visibility in whiteout conditions is not what is being talking about here by any means. If you are riding your sled during whiteout conditions at speeds that cause the damage described in this article then that moves beyond reckless into suicidal and/or homicidal.

        All that being said, and knowing that there are apparently so many idiots riding around in whiteout conditions or even normal conditions who don’t even care about their own lives let alone anyone else’s life I would recommend anyone even those same non-caring idiots completely cover themselves in yellow reflective clothing with flashing lights and sirens sounding, it would also probably help to bring something to mark your trail so that idiots can tell where you have been and might be, perhaps a marching band with a laser light show would be enough to make these idiots aware that there might be other people on the trail ahead?

        I have a better idea than adding more laws that can’t be enforced, don’t be an idiot.

  10. Sno-gos (pardon me showing my age) are wonderful and awful at the same time. Used to be that they were so slow that nothing like this could happen. Made to just wander, pack the kids and firewood. Yeah, I know, shut up grandpappy…

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