What’s that lurking under the snow?

Many people woke up to yet more white stuff on the ground over the weekend. What a great time to get out on the snowmachine, right?
Well, maybe not if you’re hauling heavy supplies or fishing gear on the lake.
Unbelievably, even with all the bitterly cold weather of late, something watery still is rearing its ugly head.
Many of you already know what this “something” is, but if you’re not sure, think about the following dramatic analogy before you guess. . . .
You’re innocently riding along until you start to feel a pull. It’s like the slime creature from “Ghost Busters” hungrily is taking swipes at your snow flaps.
So you punch the throttle to get away. But the beast is wrapping your haul in ice—and it’s completely weighing you down.
Now you know the problem, right? The ghoul hidden under the snow-top is slush!
Slush is what happens when snow (which we’ve had a bit of this winter) pushes down on the ice, causing water to come up through the cracks. And often the slush hides, so you don’t know you’re about to go for a jet ski until you start to fishtail or bob.
If you’re not used to this, it can be frightening.
My husband tells the story of the first time snowmobiling on a lake. We had just started dating and my oldest brother (who drives like a maniac) invited him to go for a ride.
There wasn’t room on the machine, however, so my then-boyfriend was pulled behind in a toboggan with specific instructions: “If you start to get wet, jump out.”
Now I’m not sure why more information wasn’t given, or why my rather detail-oriented husband didn’t ask questions. After all, the instructions were about avoiding getting stuck, not about safety.
But of course, they did “hit a wake as hard as the gush of Niagara Falls” (my husband’s words), and if my brother thought anyone was going to “jump out” of that toboggan, he could forget about it.
My husband was hanging on for dear life.
While drying off, there was some explanation, however. The ship was not about to sink because under the water there is ice (although it took drilling a hole with the auger before my husband would believe there was more than a foot).
And since that defining time, my husband has learned much more. For example, it’s a good idea to set up tree bows along where you tend to ride so you can find the trail once it’s blown over with snow (it stays slush-free where it’s packed down).
Also, avoid swampy and heavily spring-fed areas, or at least maintain speed through these areas.
And, of course, pick the seat on the machine instead of in the toboggan.
We’ve also had practice getting our machines out of slush. It’s best to lift the sled out onto fresh snow if possible (which it usually isn’t), then sway the machine while applying gas and walk (or run) alongside.
Once the thing starts moving, then it’s time to hop on, hang on, and hit it!
Oh, and once you’re through, pick up the rear of your machine and spin the ice out of your track (we have a lifter to help us do this). We’ve learned the hard way that an iced-up track gets you nowhere fast.
Well, these are just a few things to keep in mind about slush. And looking on the bright side, our recent cold snap did combat some of the messy stuff and the top layers are melding together.
Conditions definitely are improving.
In the meantime, stay safe—and happy throttling.

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