Nearly 100 people participated in the Saskatoon Snowmobile Club's (SSC) annual Poker Ralley in Warman on Saturday.

Eric Foster, a volunteer firefighter from Colonsay and snowmobile enthusiast, was there. 

He says when it comes to staying safe on snowmobiles, many people in Saskatchewan are not doing enough.

Foster broke three ribs while riding his snowmobile when its handle bars turned too sharply and hit the left side of his abdomen.

'We have a couple injuries this year already' - Eric Foster

The accident pushed Foster to start wearing a chest protector. He says his injuries could have been avoided had he been wearing the protective gear. 

Foster says he is not the only one who could have benefited from the extra padding.

"Right now we have a couple injuries this year already," Foster says. "I know of one lady, who at five miles an hour, her sled tipped over, her handle bar went into her ribs. She had four broken ribs, a punctured lung and a ripped spleen."

Foster, who sells snowmobiles for a living, says chest protectors are more important for riders now than ever before because of the design of many new sleds.

"Snowmobiles have changed in the last few years...there are risers on the snowmobiles now. So when an accident happens, automatically your chest goes into the risers," Foster explained.

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The chest protector Foster wears covers his front, back and sides. (Madeline Kotzer/CBC)

He says not everyone walks away with several broken ribs or a even a couple weeks in the hospital.

"We have had a death. A [man's] chest hit the riser and a carotid artery...he bled out and he passed on," Foster says. 

Foster's wife and two children are also avid snowmobilers, who now wear chest protectors.

"What a lot of parents do with young children is ride with the children in front of them…what I call those children when parents do that is 'airbags', because if anything were to happen, that parent would push that child into the handlebars and cause severe injury to that child," Foster says

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Eric Foster wears a chest protector under his jacket when he rides his snowmobile. (Madeline Kotzer/CBC)

Organizers say safety is top of mind at the Poke Ralley, a the long-held tradition for sledders in the Saskatoon area.

Second to safety is the chance at a lucky 'poker hand.'  But this year the SSC planned the contest differently.

It sold outlines of human hands as ticket participants used as submissions into a draw for the grand prize at the end of the gathering's evening cabaret

It's a big change from what the event usually entails.

Typically in poker rallies, getting a good hand comes into play during the various check-stops riders make along the designated trail. Each stop garners a card and at the end the person with the best poker hand wins a prize.

SSC says this year it changed things up to free up volunteers.