MOUNTAIN COMMUNITIES — Rediscovering classic, outdoor winter activities like snowmobiling can provide a simple way to spend time with loved ones. In fact, snowmobile sales are expected to increase 15-20% this winter, according to the International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association (ISMA), allowing families to safely social distance and get outside amid the global pandemic.
“Snowmobiling is a unique way to experience landscapes in the throes of beautiful winter,” said Pascal Vincent, Director of Global Product Management, Ski-Doo. “That’s not to say there aren’t certain precautions that need taken when heading out to maximize fun and ensure everyone has a safe journey when snowmobiling.”
Here are some great safety tips!
1. Never ride alone. There’s safety in numbers, and that’s especially true with an outdoor activity like snowmobiling. Riding with a friend (or group of friends) is not only safer but can also be more fun. In addition, ensure someone not on the trails with you knows your approximate whereabouts. Send a message or leave a note with the names and locations of trails you’ll be riding, the names and contact info for those you’ll be riding with and an approximate time you plan to be back.
2. Understand your snowmobile before you hit the snow. Spend some time learning the controls and functions of your snowmobile so you can hit the trail with confidence. The experts at BRP, a global leader in the world of powersports and boating, and the manufacturer of the Ski-Doo snowmobile, recommend checking the snowmobile’s operator’s guide, knowing the fuel level and understanding best operational practices before heading out. Also ensure the emergency tether cord is working properly and attached to both your clothing and the snowmobile.
Some areas also require a safety class. Your state snowmobile organizations may offer safety training classes that teach riders about the parts of a snowmobile, riding skills, how to handle emergencies on the trail, laws and regulations and hazards to avoid, among other topics.
3. Bring the right gear. The right riding gear is as much about comfort as it is about safety. Essentials include high pants or bibs, jackets, gloves, boots, goggles and helmets. Even if not required in all locales, a Department of Transportation-approved helmet can provide warmth and protection as well as fog-free vision.
Learning to layer is also essential for maximum comfort. Start with a moisture-wicking base layer, add a mid-layer that provides insulation but breathes then an outer shell to protect from the elements. Many snowmobile dealers offer a full line of clothing specifically designed and manufactured to keep you warm and help withstand winter weather. For additional safety, ensure someone in the group has a first-aid kit.
4. Plan out your route and share the trail with others. Respect everyone on the snow and adopt a fun and safe riding style. This includes learning traditional hand signals for turning, slowing and stopping, and staying to the right when approaching hills and turns. Be mindful of signs and reminders to slow down. When stopping, pull over to the right of the trail in a highly visible location.
Planning your route in advance can also help you stay out of restricted areas. Consider downloading an app like BRP GO!, which uses connected technology to provide navigation for unusual and faraway routes. The app also allows you to safely track fellow riders and download content directly to your phone.
5. Pay attention to the weather and protect the environment. Since the inception of the first snowmobile trail system, the sport has depended on access to private and public lands. Trespassing and illegal off-trail riding threaten snowmobiling access, which is why ISMA urges riders to take “The Pledge” to ride only where it’s allowed to ensure snowmobiling continues to flourish.
It’s also important to check the forecast and trail conditions before heading out. The wind chill or other conditions like snow blindness or whiteouts can make riding less enjoyable and more dangerous. Also avoid riding on rivers or other ice-covered surfaces that may be unstable. Leave your playground and surroundings clean. Don’t throw trash in the snow and respect the animals in the area that call it home.