How to Run an ATV in Deep Snow

Sometime soon most deep woods ATV riders in the north country will surrender to plowing or riding packed trails. However, there is a short period when the ice is frozen, and the trails are passable. It may only last two to four weeks, but the marshes become highways, and you can ride to places where days ago you couldn't have reached without a boat. 

Just above the 62nd parallel in Talkeetna, Alaska, the first heavy snow of 2011 fell on November 5th. Here's how we kept riding through the snow. _ Pictured: A stout, Yamaha Grizzly 550 EFI with power steering waiting to get dusted off for an Alaskan winter trek. The temp is 7 degrees, and you can bet there's fuel conditioner in the tank._
In deep snow, dropping your key can mean doom. One wrong boot step is all it would have taken to drive this key deep into the snow. I have since tied a piece of pink trail marker tape to the key.
Once you're dragging the frame on snow, it's time to be concerned. If your bike sinks much below the frame, head to the trailer.
Another sign you may be asking too much from your snow-bound ride is if you feel frequent belt slip or smell rubber.
You may think that it's easy to stay dry below freezing, but as the moisture on this seat shows, your choice of pants at 7 degrees may be more important than you think.
Once you're in below-freezing conditions, if there was any water in your winch from a previous ride, it will probably freeze solid. Before you leave, check to make sure the winch is operational.
Besides a sleeping bag, space blanket, trash bags, a fire starter kit, and some energy bars, make sure you add at the very least a shovel. A small mechanical come-along is also a good choice. Neither requires a battery, and each will work even if caked in ice.
Once it drops down to single digits, your feet need highly-insulated boots that are still flexible enough to feel the brake pedal. These Arctic Pro's by Muck are a great choice.
This photo was taken in late October on a snow machine trail off the Parks Highway in Trapper Creek, Alaska. Check out the red snow depth markers on the poles, they go up to 12 feet!
Even though this Honda had aggressive tires, they still weren't enough to climb out without assistance.
This guy had to dig his bike free, and then use cut limbs from cedar trees to get traction. It took him several hours. His shovel and limb saw saved his bacon.
Where I live in Alaska, locals need about 12 inches of ice before they'll roll a quad or snow machine across a lake. Remember, crossing a four-foot wide creek or ditch with ice is one thing; sinking into a 20-foot lake is entirely more dangerous. Be cautious; think carefully before you cross, and never do it alone.