Snowmobilers deal with difficult conditions, share safety tips as 2 die in crashes

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Two people are dead in two separate snowmobile crashes over five days.

Garrett Macintosh, 20, died Saturday night after a crash on the Great Sacandaga Lake in Saratoga County. He did not go through the ice. The Saratoga County Sheriff’s Office said Macintosh was found on his back next to his snowmobile by a person riding with him.

Todd Wheaton, 42, died on Peck Lake in Fulton County after his snowmobile went into the water. A GoFundMe had already raised more than $60,000 by Monday evening for the wife and baby he left behind.

The Southern Adirondack Snowmobile Association said Monday that it had been a difficult year on the trails so far.

Kyle Kimball was out grooming trails in Mayfield.

“Especially with snow conditions like we’ve been having, typically I look for stumps and rocks in our trails,” Kimball said. “We always have a blast, it’s definitely just something you got to be smart about, take your time, it’s not really a race out here.”

The association maintains trails near Great Sacandaga Lake. They have about 360 members.

“We have some areas of our trail that are about as good as they can be, no matter what year. But we also have areas that really need some cold and some snow cover to make them better. And we have areas where we have trails shut down now, because they’re just not safe to open,” said the president, Dave Jones.  

Jones said some clubs have not been able to open their trails at all — the second year in a row that weather’s made conditions difficult.

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The club said a key to safe riding is to stay on the trails, go out with one or two other people, and know that conditions can change in an hour.

“With low snow conditions, the ground and what’s underneath you and in front of you can change very quickly. So that’s why we recommend slowing down your speed and especially without having a good snow cover, because like I said, any of those hazards can be present that you’re not expecting and haven’t been present in years before,” Jones said.

They also recommend riders use an app called Send It HDR III, created in honor of Henry D. Ross III of Mayfield, a snowmobiler who died in a crash nearby. The app has live trail maps and allows riders to note hazards on the trail.

The Fulton County Sheriff’s Office investigated the crash on Peck Lake that killed Wheaton. Sheriff Richard Giardino said riders should either invest in a coat that becomes a life vest or stay off the ice.

“There’s a lot of risks and there’s a lot of open water still. So we’re encouraging people to stay off the lakes, stay off the rivers,” he said.

Snowmobile season typically ends around March, but the club says they may have to close the trails even sooner because of how difficult the weather has been.

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