Snowmobile Safety Reduces The Risk

While snowmobiling is fun, it is accompanied by many natural challenges and risks. Snow conditions, wind, sun, glare, cold, vibration, motion and other factors work together to affect both driver and passenger. What's more, it takes place off-road in an unpredictable and uncontrollable natural setting, often far from emergency assistance. So make these smart choices to arrive home safely after every ride:

  Practice Zero Alcohol

We could fill an entire web site with statistics, situations and stories on this subject. Alcohol magnifies and distorts the challenges associated with riding. Simply put, alcohol and snowmobiling do not mix. The Zero Alcohol position endorsed by organized snowmobiling means avoiding any consumption before or during any ride. Operating your sled under the influence of alcohol is punishable under the Criminal Code of Canada. If convicted of driving a snowmobile while impaired, you could lose all driving privileges (car, truck, motorcycle, off-road vehicles and snowmobiles).

Stay on the Trail

Organized snowmobiling associations have many marked, mapped and maintained approved trails and riding areas for your enjoyment. By sticking to these designated snowmobiling locations and staying off roads, lakes and private property, you can greatly reduce your risk of getting into trouble.

Beware of Ice: The rule is know before you go. Riding into open water or falling through the ice are the most obvious risks, but collisions with fixed objects are also prevalent. What's more, your sled has less traction for starting, turning and stopping on ice than on snow. If you must cross on the ice, know before you go and only cross where there is a stake line maintained by local snowmobile clubs.

Avoid Avalanches: Any snow-loaded slope has the potential to slide in certain snow, wind and temperature conditions. So once again, the rule is know before you go. Take a course, carry and practice using probe, shovel and transceiver, and always check the latest avalanche bulletins before leaving home. Avoid avalanche prone slopes or parking in potential slide paths, and always cross any slope one at a time. Never ride up to help a sled stuck on a slope, which could trigger an avalanche.

Slow Down at Night

Darkness reduces visibility and alters perceptions, so riding at night is much more risky than during the day, especially if alcohol and speed are also involved. Change your riding approach to account for night dangers and be very careful not to outrun your headlights so you can see far enough ahead to stop safely.

Take It Easy: Always ride with care and control so that you can avoid getting into trouble. Take it easy also means expecting the unexpected and avoiding unnecessary risks. Always adjust your speed to the trail, light and weather conditions and come to a complete stop at all road crossings. Before proceeding, make absolutely sure that no traffic is approaching from any direction. Always cross at a right angle to traffic.

Get Trained

Before you go snowmobiling, take the time to learn the rules of the trail, how to ride properly and about operating your sled. Many snowmobile organizations offer driver training courses and your sled's manual also provides valuable tips.

Wear The Gear: Specialized snowmobiling gear includes suit, boots and gloves designed to keep you warm while riding and with reflective trim to be seen at night. Most important, always wear a properly fitted and approved snowmobile helmet, with the chin strap securely fastened and the visor down or goggles in place while riding.

Be Prepared

Snowmobiling can take you far away from emergency assistance, so be prepared to help yourself by carrying a tool kit, spare parts, flashlight, first-aid kit and a few survival items such as high-energy food, fire-starting equipment and a compass. While cell service may not be available, a SPOT unit or satellite phone is useful in an emergency. Leaving a snow plan behind one with someone responsible can be lifesaving. Make sure it describes where you will be riding and always let that person know when you're due back or expected to arrive at your destination.

Ride With Companions

Never snowmobile alone. Too much can go wrong very quickly if you are all alone. Besides, riding with friends and family is way more fun - and those extra bodies can assist if you break down or get stuck. Just make sure that peer pressure doesn't lure you into taking foolish risks with the rest of your pack!

Ride Defensively

Engine noise and your helmet may impair your hearing, while blowing snow or snow dust can reduce vision so be extra alert for danger. Never assume what another rider will do. Your safety is in your hands, so watch out for:

  • Obstacles hidden by the snow

  • Trees and branches on the trail

  • Slow grooming equipment

  • Oncoming sleds

  • Other trail users (skiers, walkers)

  • Wildlife

  • Trail wash outs and flooding

  • Snow banks and moguls

  • Road and railway crossings

  • Unexpected corners, intersections and stops

  • Bridges, open water and unsafe ice


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