Early Winter 2017 | 17 on call for duty. This time, we prepared more aggressively. Now we packed our gear bags and brought them with us. Checking in for messages was a frequent practice. Being somewhat superstitious, we were confident our efforts would be rewarded with some spectacular snowmobiling. What a trip it was! The NEK winter scenery was breathtaking, courtesy of fresh powder. The snowmobiling was world-class touring. But again as we were leaving, our memorable Vermont journey took a hasty retreat when a devastating earthquake hit Haiti on Jan. 12. The State Department authorized a U.S. response. In a span of 48 hours we went from wind chills below zero to sleeping on the U.S. Embassy lawn in Haiti in 90 degree temperatures. We experienced the second earthquake while getting dressed one morning. Our mission assignment eventually led our team to the Petionville Country Club in Port Au Prince, Haiti. We were coupled with the 82nd Airborne Division and would oversee the medical care of 100,000 survivors in the valley below. The task was exhausting. I wondered if I would ever have enough physical and emotional energy to return to a Vermont winter and its endless snowmobile trails. The answer came to me on our way back home. In the unlikeliest of places, Cathy found a patch of snow on a hotel parking lot in Atlanta. After twenty years of disaster response, I decided it was time to retire. Later that year, Cathy and I would build a vacation home in Vermont and celebrate all that snowmobiling has to offer. Looking back at my career, perhaps the years of ‘lessons learned’ kept me wondering what could be applied to snowmobiling. Communication has its place in our frozen wonderland. For the upcoming issues of Snowmobile Vermont magazine, we will take a look at wireless solutions and strategies on the trail. Applications that are typically used in emergency and disaster response have been gradually migrating towards civilian markets. Sharing information is becoming easier and contributes to overall success and safety on the trails. Years ago, I would distribute radio headsets and stealthy earpiece adjuncts when users were subject to consistent noise. Many of us see football sideline staff outfitted with fancy communications, similar to elite NASCAR teams using headsets to talk with their drivers. Today, many snowmobilers enjoy the rewards of these devices, including the cool look of a NASA astronaut. Headset technology means riders can share a need to stop, report oncoming traffic, announce hazards and even engage in pleasant conversation during the ride. Many designs can also be coupled with other devices such as cell phones or music players. As an added feature, some snowmobile headsets receive groomer warning beacons that activate when a groomer is approaching. With advance notification, snowmobilers can find a safe location to park off-trail so the groomer can pass. Manufacturers strive to achieve a balance of affordability and function. Snowmobiler communication systems attach to the helmet and installation usually interacts with the interior padding. Communication is voice-activated using a microphone positioned near the operator’s mouth. Battery packs are typically routed to the user’s pocket to keep it warm. There might be rare instances when outside sources can interfere with function. Electrical engine noise is one example. Manufacturers offer suggestions to reduce interference. A new technology was recently added to the market: Bluetooth capability. Headsets are connected in a group by ‘pairing’ the devices. They also connect to cell phones so you can receive calls while you ride. Snowmobiler headset communication is a major contributor to rider safety and the overall enjoyment of a group winter adventure. Not only will we see you on the trail this season, we might chat about ride in passing! On Trail & In Touch Mike Mutascio has had a lot of experience with communication systems in disaster areas such as in Haiti in 2010. Mike’s headset communicator mounts easily to his helmet. He keeps the battery pack in his pocket to keep it warm.