December 1998

From: School Library Journal: For Children's, Young Adult & School Librarians, page 64

Subhead: Sports

Gr . 6 Up--Rules of the Snow is a "driver education" lesson for snowmobile users whether novice or expert. By providing awareness of the many hazards associated with the use of these primarily recreational vehicles, it emphasizes their safe use. Filmed in spectacular, snowscaped surroundings in the Greater Yellowstone area, the video essentially is a collection of quotations by more than 30 individuals (snowmobile experts, search and rescue team members, and even an astute bartender) emphasizing the pleasures, responsibilities and risks of snowmobiling.

Journalist and filmmaker Sava Malachowski, who produced the video, states, "The premise of Rules of the Snow is that knowledge, experience, and common sense can prevent the great majority of accidents. That may seem obvious, but it is amazing how many riders forget the obvious when they're on a sled with a lot of horsepower and see a stretch of fresh beautiful snow ahead of them." Dozens of brief statements support Malachowski's premise. This is a must-see presentation for all snowmobile operators, young and old, and as such would be very useful for safety related classes as well as for media centers in areas where snowmobiling is popular.

--By: Burton H. Brooks

Michigan Association for Media in Education,Grand Haven

1998 Library School Journal


December 2, 1997

E-Mail From: Ruby Murphy of the Frosty Riders Snowmobile Club, Worthington, Minnesota

The Frosty Riders Snowmobile Club recently purchased this video. We used it for our youth safety class and thought it was great. We had 58 kids, 12-18 years of age, so it was a large group. I found it amazing that no one seemed uninterested in the video, or was restless, or sleeping(!). Your film held their attention during the entire time it was being shown.

We started our class at 9 am on Saturday and went the full day. We had the best scores that we have had for the last several times we've held the class. Since your video covers so many of the same areas that are contained in the manual, I felt it added visual emphasis to the program. The kids were able to read the material, hear it from the instructors, and also view it on your video. Since we snowmobile in the Rocky Mountains, we also enjoyed the scenery. Great job.

Date: January 29, 1998

E-Mail From: Roger and CeCe Brown

Just finished viewing - EXCELLENT. Guests were great, each seems competent and experienced - easily understood. Video quality is super - professionally done, exceeds expectations, we'll look over your list for other tapes of interest. CeCe is now considering traveling on a sled! Great presentation. Outstanding demonstrations. Exactly what we are looking for. We're considering a snowmobile trip to Colorado or Wyoming in early March. Based on the video, we'll seek a club trip to get into if possible, or hire a guide if available.


December 5, 1997

From: Sublette County Journal, Big Piney, Wyoming

Snowmobiling Safety Video: Rules of the Snow

Rules of the Snow is a new video on snowmobile safety produced by Mr..Sava Malachowski and SavaFilm out of Wilson, Wyoming. Mr. Malachowski reads SCJ and sent us a copy of the video to review last week.

I'll be honest, I've been riding sleds since I was five years old, and expected this video to be one of those really basic level training videos which showed where the throttle was, brake, etc. That was until I took a look at some of the names of the people who participated in making this video - names like Bill Townsend, current President of the Wyoming State Snowmobile Association, and Norris Brown, who I know and respect from hill climbing up in Jackson.

The basic premise of the video was that snowmobiles have come a long way in the past 20-30 years - and even the past 5-10 years. Today, the Ski-Doo, Arctic Cat, Polaris or Yamaha sled you buy off the floor can out climb the modified climbing sleds of just 5-10 years ago, and many can top out at over 100 mph. This is where inexperienced riders get into trouble. They buy machines that can out perform their riding ability.

Bill Townsend narrates the video which covers safety aspects of several areas including: rules of the road, avalanches, wilderness areas, winter survival, ice riding, wintering wildlife, helicopter rescue, and alcohol.

What makes the film unique, and more legitimate, is that it isn't set up like most safety or training film where one instructor lectures the whole time. Rather, the video uses a "documentary style presentation" which touches on a safety issue, but then relies on real world riders, their experiences and their advice concerning these safety issues.

The film invites you to think, participate, and identify with the experts and stories of those giving the presentation. Let me give you an example of this approach. During the video's discussion of avalanche dangers and safety, the story of the death of a rider in a small avalanche was told. A party of seventeen family riders were sledding on a trail somewhere in the Greys River area. One of the riders said that he counted 14 small slides as they were moving along the side hill just up from the creek bottom. Sure enough, another slide was triggered and one of the party was caught. The other members watched him "swim as best he could" but eventually he was tipped over and dumped down into the river.

The rest of the party knew right where he was but had none of the basic avalanche equipment - probes, shovels, avalanche transceiver - or anything. They couldn't find him and called the search and rescue. When the search and rescue arrived and found out the last scene point, it took just 12 minutes to dig the guy out. He was dead.

This approach to safety really makes you think. It's one thing to lecture about the importance of avalanche training and preparation. It's quite another to point out how easily someone can die if you're not prepared. They harped on the point that if you're going to ride in the back county, you need to take an avalanche training/safety course.

Another thing about the video I liked was that it didn't focus on what can happen only in the super-high country. Many of the stories were from people just out for a regular ride. The point was that accidents can happen anytime, anywhere, so don't get complacent. This had an impact on me personally.

The video has a local twist. There was some filming in Sublette County and John Linn of Big Piney talks about the time he fell through the ice on Fremont Lake and offers safety advice on the different types of ice and what to watch for.

One thing the video hits on throughout is alcohol use while riding. Let's face it, a lot of people drink when they're riding, and it makes them stupid, and dangerous to themselves and others. I'm no saint - I've done this in the past myself and it doesn't work. The video addresses this directly - "a clear mind is the best safety device on snowmobiles."

Overall, I was really impressed with this video. The literature that came with it says the premise of the film is "that knowledge , experience, and common sense can prevent a great majority of accidents." This sounds obvious, but you'll be surprised at how many times I've done stupid stuff and have seen other, experienced riders do the same. We've been so lucky around here that we haven't had more accidents.

Finally, what I like best about it is that it has a lot to offer to riders of all levels of experience. A beginner can learn a tremendous amount of common-sense knowledge from this video. For an experienced rider the video offers a great refresher on information you already know, but sometimes take for granted or disregard - and it's presented in a way which doesn't insult your intelligence.

-By Bill Tanner

© 1997 Sublette County Journal

November 1997

From: Wyoming Snowmobile Wrangler: The News Source for People Who Snowmobile in Wyoming

Wyoming Film Company Releases Safety Video

Released in October of 1997, SavaFilm filmmakers, residing in Jackson Hole, released a snowmobile safety video titled "Rules of the Snow." This film came about due to the increasing number of major accidents and deaths related to snowmobiling in Wyoming as well as across the United States and Canada. Initiation of the project started in December of 1995 with the filming taking place over 11 days in March of 1996, mainly in the greater Yellowstone area.

The film is produced by Sava Malachowski, written and directed by Valerie Schramm, and photographed by Sava Malachowski and Tom Christian, narration is provided by Bill Townsend, W.S.S.A. President and professional snowmobile guide.

The style in which the video was produced keeps the viewers interested for the full 50 minutes. Interviews taken from various locations on the snow show personal accounts of snowmobile accidents and incidents, all of which could have been prevented and lives of been saved. These accounts are intermingled with safety messages that point out that the "Rules of the Snow" are the same as the rules of the road set for automobiles. If people would obey these rules, most snowmobile accidents can be avoided. Many other very important points are made that pertain to snowmobiling including, riding on ice safely, winter survival, and avalanche safety.

This film kept my attention through several viewings, this, coming from a person who has seen many snowmobile videos that have not been able to keep my attention and been boring. What really makes this video different is that from the beginning it has high mountain riding shots, an upbeat sound track and documentary style interviews of personal accounts. I feel that this is the best snowmobile safety video on the market and will be of great use to clubs for meetings, safety classes and even to the personal snowmobiler to use to gear up for the upcoming season or for that weekend outing.

-By: Brion Peterson

© 1997 Wyoming Snowmobile Wrangler

The Wyoming State Snowmobile Home Page


December 3, 1997

From: Jackson Hole Guide

Sled Video Revs Up Safety Message

Production aims to educate increasing number of snowmobile enthusiasts.

Each year, thousands of snowmobile accidents occur across the United States, some resulting in injury and even death.

With more people entering the sport, and snow machines getting faster and more powerful, the accident rate is expected to increase.

Two local filmmakers concerned with that trend have produced a safety video aimed at addressing the issue.

Rules of the Snow, produced by Sava Malachowski and Valerie Schramm for SavaFilm, is a 50-minute video that features numerous action scenes interspersed with interviews with snowmobile experts and law enforcement representatives.

The film recounts several accidents in the Jackson Hole area, told by people involved. The film also includes one simulated helicopter rescue scene, which involves members of the Teton County Search and Rescue, coordinated by county undersheriff Alan Merrell.

The filmmakers, experts and participants in the film hope it will prevent some of the accidents that commonly occur every year.

"It pretty much points out all of the fundamental rules of safety on a snowmobile," Merrell said. "Anyone who watches it will see the right way" to operate a snow machine.

The number of people operating snow machines has climbed steadily according to Wyoming's trails program manager Kim Rapp.

Nationwide, sled sales have nearly tripled in the last 10 years. By the end of this year, the industry expects to sell 170,000 snow machines. In 1987 only 61,000 machines were sold.

Many of those setting out on their machines in this part of the country head to the popular trails in Yellowstone National Park. Park officials reported 40 accidents last year including 25 involving injuries. The winter before, 25 people were injured in 56 accidents in the park.

Valley sled enthusiasts worry that, with the potential for a section of the popular loop trail in the park closed this year, snowmobilers will move from the park to other prime snow machine areas, such as Togwotee Pass. Concentrating more people on sleds with greater speed and distance capabilities in specific areas pushes up the potential for accidents they say.

"Those people are going to take tours and end up on the (Bridger-Teton National) forest," said Norris Brown, president of the Jackson Hole Snow Devils snowmobile club. Brown, who participated in the safety film, stressed the need to be aware of other snowmobilers in crowded situations.

"I think the biggest thing is you have to be defensive when you're in a concentrated area," Brown said.

With proper instruction and the rider knowing the limits of his or her skill, snowmobiling can be safe, Brown said. Even children can be taught to ride safely, he added.

"You just have to know the kids' ability," Brown said.

Merrell said most of the rescues his group is called out on involved the uninitiated.

"Whenever we do have to do a rescue, it's because somebody wasn't paying attention to basic safety rules," Merrell said. "Very seldom do we have to rescue well prepared, safety-conscious snowmobilers."

Of increasing concern for rescue crews is avalanche hazards, Merrell said.

We are seeing more avalanches (in rescues) and avalanche-related injuries happening with snowmobilers," Merrell said.

The safety film covers avalanches and discusses way to avoid them and what to do if trapped in one. Merrell said snowmobilers generally lack the knowledge and skills necessary to avoid and survive avalanches.

"Backcountry skiers are generally more aware," Merrell said." It doesn't seem to have been stressed as much with snowmobiling."

A small percentage of local snowmobile rescues involve alcohol, Merrell said; although Malachowski noted that it plays a role in as much as 70 percent of the accidents in the Midwest, where snowmobiling is a popular sport.

Staying safe while snowmobiling remains largely the responsibility of those who engage in the sport, experts say. Law enforcement officers cannot patrol the many miles of national forest trails, Merrell said.

"As with any sport that involves high-speed machinery, a moment of carelessness can lead to tragedy," Merrell said. "What can't be regulated is safety consciousness."

-By Roger Hayden

© 1997 Jackson Hole Guide

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