ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Minn. — "If it ain't groomed, it ain't open yet."
That's the rule first responders are urging snowmobilers in northern Minnesota to follow after a rider got his sled... and himself... stuck in a St. Louis County swamp Saturday.
The St. Louis County Sheriff says a 22-year-old snowmobiler from Champlin was riding in Arrowhead Township, just over 30 miles west of Duluth, when his sled became stuck in a swampy area that hadn't frozen over yet. Rescuers were dispatched after reports of the incident, set up a command post, and eventually found the snowmobiler wet, cold and slightly injured attempting to walk his way back towards Highway 2.
He was treated on scene and released.
The rescue squad then located the snowmobile, put on special dry suits, freed it from the icy swamp and and drove it out "to prevent a future call out" if and when the owner went back and tried to retrieve it.
Conditions were so treacherous that a heavy duty, tracked rescue vehicle also became stuck during the recovery effort.
"Friends, the swamps are NOT frozen yet, and the lakes are covered in slush," the St. Louis County Rescue Squad posted on Facebook. "A good rule to follow on club-maintained trail networks is, 'If it ain't groomed, it ain't open yet.' Be safe out there, eh?"
The St. Louis County Sheriff's Office took the opportunity to remind snowmobilers that while the landscape appears to be in mid-season form, some bodies of water and swamps aren't frozen yet due to the large amount of snowfall. "This particular trail had not been groomed and although it may appear safe, under the snow is slush, and sometimes very little ice," the sheriff reminded. "Taking unnecessary risks only puts you in danger and also places first responders in danger during search and rescue efforts."