Snowmobiling is an activity both exciting and dangerous. Preparing for an emergency before going on a snowmobiling trip is that crucial element of survival in a bad situation. If you like snowmobiling and want to learn more about being safe while riding, take a moment to read these snowmobiling safety tips.
Watch the weather and check trail conditions before riding
Don’t drive your snowmobile in adverse weather conditions. Plan your trip and check the trails you’ll be riding prior to departure. Check trail conditions and trail maps.
Don’t drink alcohol and ride
Alcohol is a factor in over 70% of all fatal accidents as well as many non-deadly snowmobile accidents. Alcohol and drugs have a negative effect on the driver’s vision, balance, coordination, and reaction time. Don’t ride with people who drink and ride!
Never ride alone
Snowmobile safety can be achieved by always riding with a friend. If one machine is disabled, you have another to get help.
Dress for safety & survival
Always wear a quality DOT helmet and facemask. Wear layers of clothing to keep warm and dry. Snowmobile suits, bibs, jackets, gloves, and mittens should cut the wind, repel water, and keep you ventilated.
Excessive speed is a major factor in many accidents, especially at night. To ensure snowmobiling safety and to avoid accidents, keep your night time speed under 40 MPH.
Stay to the right
Almost every trail is a “two way” trail. So stay to the far right of the trail, especially on hills and corners. Obey all trail signs and cross roadways with extreme caution.
Stay on the trail or stay home
Trespassing is a major complaint about snowmobilers and can result in trail closure. Always stay on designated snowmobile trails. Venturing off of trails can result in accidents. Only ride private property when you have landowner’s permission.
Riding on ice – lakes & rivers
It is safest to avoid riding on lakes and rivers. If you must ride on ice, wear a life jacket over your outer clothing. Stay on the marked trail and stay off of ice that has moving water (current) near or under it – ice in these areas may be thin and weak which can prevent snowmobiles safely crossing.
Gear to Pack
You should carry a variety of safety gear along with you on your snowmobile outing to ensure you’re properly prepared for changing conditions as well as unanticipated challenges you may encounter during your trip.
Create a safety kit of personal items that includes your driver’s license, snowmobile safety certification card (if required by your jurisdiction), money, critical medications, insurance forms for vehicle, cell or satellite phone, water, high energy food, and any other items you deem important. This kit should be with you at all times.
Be sure to charge the batteries of your cell or satellite phone before you begin your snowmobiling trip and keep it warm, stored in an inside coat pocket, and turned off to help preserve the battery life. Cell phones and even satellite phones often do not work in remote areas where you may be snowmobiling so don’t rely on a phone as your only safety device. A flare or radio would be good backups.
Always carry safety equipment on your snowmobile in case of an emergency. At a minimum, this should include a compass and map, waterproof matches with a candle or fire starter, a flashlight with spare batteries, and an extra snowmobile ignition key.
A GPS (global positioning system) unit may be helpful in emergency situations since it provides your exact location which can be relayed to emergency personnel. A GPS runs on batteries, so be sure to check them before you ride, bring some spares with you, and keep them warm. It is helpful to review how the GPS works before you ride so you are familiar enough to use it while dealing with the stress of an emergency.
A small shovel can be most helpful if you become stuck or stranded. Many shovels are small enough to store on your snowmobile or to easily carry in a backpack. Always carry a shovel, along with a probe and avalanche beacon, when riding in avalanche prone areas.
A strobe light or flares may also be helpful in an emergency situation. Since strobes run on batteries, always bring extra and keep them warm so you can keep the strobe operational until emergency personnel arrive. If using flares, be sure to follow instructions to avoid injury.
Ice picks fastened to a cord should be carried by snowmobilers if traveling on frozen lakes and rivers. The cord from each pick should be threaded through the sleeves of your jacket, out of the way of your hands until they are needed. If you happen to fall through the ice, the picks will be right at your wrists covered by your jacket sleeves. By jamming the pointed end of the pick down in the ice, the pick will anchor you and allow you to pull your body back onto the ice.
Snowmobile Tool Kit
Snowmobile manufacturers generally include a basic tool kit inside each snowmobile’s hood or under its seat that includes a spark plug wrench, other wrenches for common adjustments, flat-head and Phillips-head screwdrivers, and a strap for emergency starting 2-stroke snowmobiles with a recoil start. These tools should always remain with the snowmobile.
Always ensure there are spare spark plugs and a spare drive belt with the snowmobile at all times in the event of failure. Also consider adding a knife, pliers/side cutters, adjustable wrench, electrical or duct tape, rags, bungee cords, STOP-FYRE mini fire extinguisher, and a tow rope to the basic tool kit to help perform general on-trail repairs, maintenance, and fire suppression.
Emergency First Aid Kit
An important part of snowmobile safety is a first aid kit that should always be carried with you on your trip. It should include a variety of items necessary to assist in an emergency. There are a number of good first aid kits available commercially that are compact enough to easily be carried on a snowmobile. Otherwise you can build your own custom kit that should include, but not be limited to bandages, 2-inch compresses, 4-inch compresses, a roll of 2-inch gauze, a roll of 1-inch adhesive tape, a thermal/space blanket, knife or scissors, alcohol wipes, and antibiotic ointment. All items should be stored in a waterproof container; do not include liquids that could freeze.
It is highly recommended that you take a certified first aid and CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation) course to aid you in case of an emergency. Always be aware of the dangers of frostbite while snowmobiling; take precautions to prevent it by always keeping skin covered.
Take a Snowmobile Safety Training Course!
These courses are designed to educate the student on basic snowmobile operation, laws and regulations, and safety.
Be Safe Out There!