Snowmobiling is a great way to get outside and enjoy the natural beauty of winter. It is exhilarating, fun, and adventurous – but it can also be dangerous.
Here are some ways to stay safe while on the trails.
The first thing you can do to stay safe is to take a snowmobiling safety course. A safety course teaches you how to operate a snowmobile and how to ride the trails safely. It will instruct you on how to prepare for a ride and how to avoid hazardous situations. You can find training programs in Vermont through the VAST network. VAST offers online and in-person courses.
Checking the weather and wearing appropriate clothing
Just like any other outdoor recreation, the weather plays a key role in the safety of your experience. Check the conditions for the day you plan to ride. If the trails are too icy, the windchill is too low, or there is going to be a white-out blizzard, it would be smart to plan your ride for another day.
Checking the weather can also help you decide what to wear. Staying warm and dry is paramount to a safe and enjoyable riding experience. Wearing a snowmobile suit (a jacket and insulated waterproof pants) along with warm layers underneath will help keep you warm. Avoid cotton, as it freezes when wet, and opt for polyester or wool as your baselayers.
It is also important to wear warm gloves, and an insulated DOT helmet, as this will keep you warm and protect you from a head injury. If your helmet does not have a faceguard, make sure you have goggles and a neck warmer to protect your face from windchill.
Inspect your rig
Before you head out for your ride, make sure that your machine is running smoothly. Check the lights, breaks, skis, gas, and oil. Let your machine run for a few minutes to warm up before you hit the trail and always bring your owner’s manual with you in case something comes up.
Ride with a friend
Going on outdoor adventures is always more fun with others, and it is safer. If your machine breaks down or you are new to snowmobiling, having others to help you out can make all the difference when you hit an odd bump or your oil runs out. Along with riding with friends, make sure someone at home knows your route and estimated time on the trails.
First Aid Kit
When out in the woods, accidents happen. A first aid kit is essential if there is an injury. A first aid kit should include disinfectant wipes, gauze, tape, tweezers, painkiller, bandages, hand sanitizer, and band-aids.
An emergency kit will have all the essentials if you find yourself lost in the woods. It should contain waterproof matches, a compass, a map, some snacks, and an emergency blanket.
A repair kit has all the essentials for when your machine breaks down. It should contain sparkplugs, oil, ducktape, tools, tow rope, spare belt, and pry bar. If you are 30 miles into your ride and your machine breaks down, these tools could get you out before night sets in.
Remain on the trail
It can be exciting to adventure off into the woods while on your snowmobile but it is important to stay on the trail. Trails are groomed for snowmobiles and are therefore safer for you to ride on. Most trails also run adjacent to private property and it is illegal to ride on private property unless you have express permission from the owners to do so.
Failure to stay off private land could result in the owners retracting their land use permission and closing the trails for future riders. While you stay on the trails it is important to stay alert and watch for any potential obstacles in your path.
Avoid frozen bodies of water, they may look strong and be fine when you stand on them as a person, but snowmobiles are heavy and could break the ice. Do not speed. Maintaining a steady pace allows you to react to obstacles and have a safer riding experience.
Alcohol and snowmobiling do not mix
Just like driving a car or flying a plane, when driving a snowmobile, you are operating a vehicle, and should not drink alcohol. Drinking while driving impairs judgment and can cause delayed reactions which can result in accidents and injury. Along with a car, it is recommended that drivers should be over 16 to operate a snowmobile.
Your snowmobile is not a car
Do not treat your snowmobile like a car. Check the operating manual of your snowmobile to see what its carrying capacity is. If you exceed the capacity for gear or add another person you could increase your risk for accident and injury. It is not a car and cannot carry an unlimited amount of stuff. It also is not made to have things attached to the back and towed.
These are some of the basic parameters of snowmobile safety. If you have purchased a snowmobile and are interested in learning more check out VAST and take a safety course before you hit the trails.