The first thing you should learn, even before you sit on a snowmobile, is how to ride one safely. It doesn’t matter if you’re an absolute beginner or an experienced pro – it’s never too late to learn these tips and etiquette. From dressing appropriately to knowing how and where you should drive your sled, we have all the best snowmobiling safety tips and hints for you right here so you’re never left in the dark. Let’s get started!
Before anything else, you need to make sure you’re dressed appropriately. If you’re cold and wet, then it’s not only uncomfortable enough to ruin the experience for you, but can put you at serious risk of frostbite and hypothermia. Needless to say, you cannot take this aspect lightly. It’s always better to overdress than underdress.
- Dress in layers. Layers are the most effective way to keep warm, and you can always add or remove some to suit how you feel and outside weather conditions. However, we always recommend an exterior layer that’s both wind-resistant and waterproof. This includes gloves and boots, along with pants and a jacket.
- Your gloves should allow you to keep a tight and secure grip on the handlebars, so you can maneuver with safety and precision.
- Your boots should offer excellent traction so that you never lose your footing, even in particularly icy or snowy conditions.
- Make sure your helmet is certified to be safe from a reputable entity. Not only that, is it should be brand-new to ensure it’s never been damaged from an accident, left in the heat for long periods of time, etc. Lastly, the helmet must fit you properly. It should be snug but not so tight that you feel uncomfortable or like you’re losing circulation.
- While many people recommend wearing sunglasses, we highly advise against it. You should be wearing goggles and nothing less. Snowmobiling goggles will keep your vision perfectly clear, no matter if you’re in a snowstorm or in the path of direct sunlight.
Never Take Mind-Altering Substances
You should never be operating a motor vehicle – this includes snowmobiles – under the influence of any drugs. Yes, this includes prescription medication and alcohol. Your prescription will indicate if you can use it while driving, but oftentimes this is a “no”.
You should never mix alcohol and snowmobiling. For one, alcohol can make you feel much warmer than you actually are, placing you at an increased risk of hypothermia and lowering your body’s temperature to seriously cold levels. We always advise against drinking alcohol in cold environments, so just don’t do it.
Moreover, alcohol can make you have less control over your body and judgement. You may think it’s fine to take your sled dangerously close to the edge of a cliff, or on a jump you’re simply not skilled enough to take on. Perhaps you stay out later than you’d want to, or you get lost. There are just way too many risks to justify drinking alcohol while riding.
Know Your Limits and Skills
That brings us right into our next point, which is being realistic and knowing your limits. If you’re a beginner, then recognize that. There’s no shame in being a newbie, but you must know your abilities to be able to ride safely. Do not go beyond them. In addition, you need to know the machine’s limits and what it can withstand. You can seriously injure yourself, others, and your sled by riding it inappropriately or too aggressively.
Maintain Your Snowmobile
It’s not enough to just know what your machine can handle and the types of conditions it was made to be ridden in. You need to also regularly maintain your snowmobile, both before the season starts and throughout the season. Make sure that you’ve changed the oil, that everything is well-lubricated, the lights are working properly, nothing is worn out, etc. You can easily check how to go about doing this by grabbing your owner’s manual. If you don’t have it, the manufacturer’s site will usually have an online copy for you to refer back to.
Always Keep a Buddy With You
You should never be out there snowmobiling alone. Sure, you may feel confident with your abilities and know your way around the trails you’re riding on but that’s not enough. Not only is this smart from a safety aspect, but let’s be real – snowmobiling is always more fun with some family and friends riding alongside us!
Always be aware of your surroundings and the trail you’re on. If you’re looking at your smartphone or paying attention to making your friend laugh, you’re not likely going to notice an obstacle in your path, a turn on the trail to avoid a collision with another rider, etc. After riding for long periods of time, your senses begin to dull. To avoid slow reaction times, simply take breaks every couple of hours. Sit down and make some coffee or hot chocolate with friends, eat a snack, and simply rest your body.
In addition, you should be on the lookout for how dark it’s getting, if you’re near any water, if you’re close to the edge of a mountain, and so on. We highly advise against riding anywhere near water, whether that be a lake, pond, or river. We shouldn’t have to say it, but never ride on the ice. We don’t care how thick the ice may be or look – why put yourself at the risk of plunging through the ice?
Okay, so let’s say you decide against our advice and ride on the ice anyway. Just make sure it’s safely frozen. If you’re going to be doing this at all, consider using a buoyant snowmobile suit. If you break through the ice, oftentimes your suit and helmet will help keep you afloat. Kick your feet to move your closer towards the surface, grabbing anything sharp that can give you leverage to pull yourself up. Never remove your gloves.
Once you’re up on the ice, roll away from the hole. Do not stand up until you’re at least a good 20 feet away from it.
Leave a Plan
Never go out snowmobiling without leaving a plan with at least one trusted friend or family member. It can be as simple as a text message describing your sled, the color, make, and model, along with your planned route, location, and others that you’ll be going with. If you can, leave your snowmobiling partners’ contact information as well.
Just make sure that you let this person know when you’re back at home so they don’t become worried and call on a search party.
Now that you’ve read all about how to stay safe while snowmobiling, do you feel more confident? You should follow every single tip we have listed in this guide, as they’re all equally important. You may feel like you know what you’re doing, but when it comes to Mother Nature, we can never be completely certain and we are not the only ones in control. We hope this guide has helped you out to be better prepared next time, or simply to reassure you that you are riding safely. Thanks for staying tuned in with us, and we’ll see you again soon!