HOUGHTON, Mich. -- Michigan Technological University's Emergency Medical Services (EMS) team is excited about a new snowmobile-pulled sled, with good reason.
"It means no more carrying someone out from the trails on the backboard," says Dustin Gaberdiel on this winter afternoon. "There's a hypothermia issue, too, " added the second-year computer networking and systems administration major from Newberry, extolling the time saved with the snowmobile and sled.
"We couldn't get out there to them very well either," said Nick Zochowski, second-year biomedical and mechanical engineering major from Newport, Mich.
The new setup is the latest equipment addition for the EMS group. With a highly equipped van, they now are capable of prepping anyone for an ambulance. They haven't had to use the snowmobile and sled yet, but they are trained in its use, and they've been at four ski meets so far this winter.
"It's a workhorse," says Jon Stone, of the snow machine that seats two riders and pulls the sled with a third volunteer standing behind the victim.
Stone is the University's emergency medical services director and has advised the group since its founding four years ago. Its members now include more than 30 students and several faculty and staff members. Volunteers are on call and cover all the hours the Tech Trails are in use.
The snowmobile/sled combo is part of a plan to get skiers to help quickly when they need it. Stone said he would like to get plastic skis for it in the future, to lighten the load.
The sled was a donation from Calumet Township, which replaced theirs. Similar rigs now exist in Bootjack, Adams Township, and Copper Harbor.
It's part of a coordinated effort with local emergency responders. "We've got a map with a grid for the whole trail system," Stone says. "That way, we can then get the patient to the closest spot for an ambulance."
Stone would like to use the sled beyond the snow season, too. He hopes to replace the skis with wheels and the snowmobile with an ATV to get to those joggers and bikers.
"We have training for fractures and spinal immobilization," he said, hoping he won't have to use that training with an ATV, either.
As for the current setup, the students sing its praises.
"It's well designed," said Danielle Boettger, a third-year economics major from Dearborn. "And it beats walking them out! They get heavy!"