Snowmobiling is a lot of fun, but it isn’t without its risks. Snow conditions, wind, glare, sun, the cold, and even vibration from the snowmobile itself can increase your risk of injury while you’re out enjoying yourself. Moreover, you’re typically snowmobiling in the wild – in areas that are “off-road,” in uncontrollable natural settings. It’s often far from any emergency assistance, making safety extremely important.
Drinking alcohol is always a bad idea when you’re operating a motor vehicle, but it’s equally bad when you’re out having fun on a snowmobile. Alcohol impairs your cognitive function and prevents you from making sound decisions – which could be life threatening when you’re out in the wilderness. Therefore, never consume any alcoholic beverage before or during your snowmobile ride. If you need any more incentive to avoid alcohol, operating your sled under the influence is punishable under the Criminal Code of Canada. You could lose not just snowmobile privileges, but all driving privileges.
Slow Down Under Adverse Conditions
Snow, rain, and nightfall all impair your vision. Slow down. Riding at night is especially risky, since you can’t see as well as you can during the day – even if your sled is equipped with a good headlight. Always ride with care and control under inclement weather, adjust your speed to the trail and lighting you have, and never outrun your headlights – be prepared for what might lie ahead over a bank or around a corner.
Stay On The Trail
Most organized snowmobiling associations have marked, mapped, and maintained trails that you can ride on. Veering off of these trails is not only dangerous, but it could be fatal. Stay off of frozen lakes – even if it’s the dead of winter. You can never be sure how strong the ice is. Also, be sure to stay off of private property.
Another hazard you might run into is a snow-loaded slope. Avalanches are common during the winter months, especially with the noise of a sled whizzing by. Know before you go. Take a course, carry and practice using a probe, and bring a shovel and transceiver with you.
Be Prepared and Well-Trained
Since you may end up many Km away from an emergency service, take the time to learn about some basic first aid. Keep a first-aid kit with you, take a safe-driving course from your local snowmobile club, and become familiar with your sled’s safety features as well as its basic operation.
Ride With At Least One Companion
Riding with at least one other person means that you’re never alone. If something happens, you have someone to help you. Too much can go wrong very quickly out there in the wild. Taking a friend along can also be a lot of fun.
The roaring of the engine, your helmet, and the wind might obscure the noise of objects falling down in the snow – right in your path. Snow can also impair your vision so be extra careful and alert when it’s snowing. Look for obstacles hidden by the snow, trees and branches that appear to be down, oncoming sleds, wildlife, snow banks that hide rocks and other debris, unexpected corners, bridges, open water, and thin ice.
While driving cautiously means you’ll usually have to slow down, it also means you’ll make it back home in one piece, and that’s what counts.
Charles Wells loves recreational vehicles. When he’s not zipping around on the snow, he’s blogging about it online. To find out what your insurance needs are, visit an insurance broker here.