It’s that time of year again when people are getting ready to start riding their snowmobiles through fresh snow. Like any motor vehicle, driving a snowmobile requires alertness, skill, and common sense. It’s important to use caution while driving a snowmobile to ensure the trails are safe for you and other riders. Here are a few safety tips to help you have an enjoyable season.
- Look at your state’s laws.
Many states have specific laws a rider needs to obey while on a snowmobile. It’s a good idea to learn these laws so you don’t get pulled over while riding.
- Ride only on the groomed portion of designated trails or on private land where you have permission.
Make sure to stay out of wilderness areas; this is usually illegal. Respect and obey gate closures and regulatory signs, especially "no trespassing" signs. If you are unsure where to legally operate your machine check with the local authorities.
- Never ride on a frozen body of water unless you are absolutely sure the ice is at least 6 inches thick.
Snowmobiles are not designed to float, and going into cold water can be very dangerous. Make sure to carry a set of "ice claws" with you just in case. Ice claws can dig into the ice to help you pull yourself out of the water if you fall through.
- Be prepared for any emergency.
Having a tool kit with you for every ride can be invaluable. The kit should contain basic tools and spare parts, such as starting rope, head and tail light bulbs, drive belt, sparkplugs, flashlight, and tow rope. It’s also a good idea to pack a basic first aid kit and some snacks.
- Ride straight and sober.
Driving a snowmobile while under the influence of alcohol is just as dangerous as driving a car in the same state. Alcohol also increases the chance of hypothermia.
- Slow down.
Speed limits are posted for a reason, and in most states you can be pulled over for speeding while driving a snowmobile.
- Pay attention to signs.
Make sure you take note of snowmobile trail signs and rider hand signals. Trail signs tell you what a safe speed is for the conditions of the trail. Rider hand signals will tell you if a rider is stopping or turning, so you can keep a safe distance.
- Dress for success.
Wearing appropriate clothing, including warm boots, mitts, and a helmet is important for any rider. It’s best to wear insulating layers with a wind-resistant outer layer that still allow for freedom of movement.
- Be kind to the environment.
Snowmobiling can have a serious impact on the environment. Before you go for a ride make sure there’s enough snow to protect the ground and your snowmobile from being destroyed. If you eat while you’re out make sure to pack your trash; littering is both bad for the environment and illegal.