Snowmobiling is becoming more and more a winter popular sport. Snowmobiling provides great opportunities for family recreation during the winter months. Many people will be operating a snowmobile for the first time and along with that, new skills must be learned and new attitudes developed. To safely drive a snowmobile, you need to be strong, skilled and mature. We encourage that all adult persons new to snowmobiling or under 18 should enroll their respective state DNR safety training courses to learn basic snowmobile safety, responsibilities, ethics, laws and mechanical functions.
Each year, during the snowmobile season we see on television or read about snowmobile, accidents and fatalities. The contributing factors involve speed, alcohol, lack on knowledge regarding the use of the snowmobile, along with being not familiar with current trail conditions. We have listed below a set of tips to enjoy your snowmobile ride safely.
Snowmobile Safety Tips From Snowtracks.Com
Before you go out.. Know your Machine & Weather::
Keep your snowmobile in top condition and follow the "pre-op" checklist outlined in the snowmobile owner's manual before each ride. Know where your brake & throttle positions are before riding.
Be careful when fueling the snowmobile to avoid burns. Take care when loading snowmobiles on and off trailers to prevent strains and crush injuries.
Check the weather forecast before you go out.
Check the condition of the trails. Ice on trails are slippery and dangerous. In some areas, you may need to assess whether there is danger of an avalanche.
Have the Right Equipment::
Wear a helmet with goggles or a face shield. All drivers and passengers should wear helmets approved for snowmobiles (such as a helmet meeting the Department of Transportation/Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, Snell or American National Standards Institute motorcycle helmet standards – not a bicycle helmet).
Wear layers of water-repellent clothing. Warm boots and gloves or mittens are important as is a windproof outer layer. Do not wear clothing with loose ends that might get tangled in the machine.
Carry a first-aid kit, an emergency tool kit (with spark plugs, and drive and fan belts), an extra key, and a survival kit that includes flares. Carry a cellular phone if you’re in an area with service.
When riding in mountains, be cautious of avalanche dangers, and carry extra equipment such as shovels and a portable radio to summon help.
For off trail mountain riding snowmobiles should have brightly colored antenna flags mounted on rods that are 3ft to 6ft long located on the back of the snowmobile. This is especially important if you’re driving in a hilly area so that others can see you.
Never consume alcohol or drugs before or during snowmobile operation. Drinking alcohol before or during snowmobiling can impair judgment and slow reaction time. Snowmobilers who have been drinking often drive too fast. Alcohol also causes body temperature to drop at an accelerated rate, which increases the likelihood of hypothermia. Alcohol has been shown to be a contributing factor in most fatal snowmobile accidents.
Beginners should stick to groomed trails only and drive during the day.
Slow Down and travel at safe speeds, especially on unfamiliar or rugged terrain where you might run into hazards you can’t see, such as tree stumps, branch's and rocks. Speed is a contributing factor in nearly all fatal accidents. Drive defensively and always drive within the limits of your machine and your abilities.
Respect the Trail Groomer. They are working for you to make your ride more enjoyable. If you should encounter a groomer head on or from behind, please pull over and allow to pass or stop and let the groomer move out of your way. Groomers can’t back-up or turn around on a trail.
Keep the headlights and tail lights on at all times to improve the visibility of your snowmobile to other vehicle operators
When crossing roads, come to a complete stop and make sure no traffic is approaching. Cross at a right angle
Travel in groups of two or more, and only on designated, marked trails away from roads, waterways, railroads and pedestrian traffic. If you must travel alone, tell someone your destination, planned route, and when you will return.
Avoid traveling across bodies of water when uncertain of ice thickness or water currents. Rapidly changing weather and moving water in streams and lake inlets also affect the thickness and strength of ice on lakes and ponds. Snow cover can act as a blanket and prevents thick strong ice from forming.
If you should fall through ice while snowmobiling, kick your feet to slide back onto the ice; if the ice keeps breaking, continue moving toward shore or the direction you came from; once on the ice, roll away from the hole; don't stand until well away from the hole.
Snowmobiles are designed to ride on snow not open water. "Water skipping" is very dangerous and not recommended. Hypothermia (occurs when body temperature drops to dangerously low levels) frostbite and death has been attributed to water skipping in the Winter if the rider fails to reach land.
Do not carry more than one passenger. Don’t pull people on saucers, tubes, tires, sleds or skis behind a snowmobile. If you must tow someone, the safest way is to use a sled or cutter attached to the snowmobile by a rigid bar connection. Travel at a slow speed over level terrain away from trees, rocks and other vehicles. A spotter should watch the individual(s) being towed.
It takes strength and stamina to be a passenger. You need to be able to hold on tight for a long period of time, often, while the snowmobile goes over bumpy ground at a high speed. Children younger than six years old should never ride as passengers on a snowmobile.
Remember: Riding on private lands is a privilege and not a right. Please respect trails through private property and stay on the trails.
Mountain Riding Snowmobiling Safety Tips::
1. Watch for small trees that may be bent down hill as well as missing branches on the uphill side. Those trees have in all likelihood been under a slide in the past.
2. Never put more than one sled at a time on a hill when high-marking.
3. Always carry a shovel, probe and KNOW how to use them. The first ten minutes is crucial!
4. Be aware of sign of activity, snow load, wind load, shaeffing and the warning signs of an unstable hill as well as the slope degrees most prone to slide (ie. 25 to 45 degrees).
5. Always check on the local Avalanche Warnings everyday you ride.
6. Always let someone know where and when you are riding for the day.
7. Carry matches, flashlight, saw, first aid kit, survival equipment (including water and food, etc.) in case you ever have to spend the night or have trouble.
8. Always know where you are and your way back.
Sources: Wisconsin DNR - ISMA - Snowtracks.Com