Snowmobile Safety and Trail Tips
As soon as you spot the first snowflake of the season falling from the sky, you know the time is near. And even though it might take a while for actual riding conditions to present themselves, you’re eager to get your snowmobile tuned up, out of the garage and onto the trails. We’ve put together a list first-timers and veterans alike can use to prepare for another safe riding season.
Snowmobile Safety Gear
Before you start cruising across the snow-covered trails, you need to be dressed for safety and the weather conditions. Make sure you’ve got the following gear to keep you comfortable and confident this winter.
Helmet. Keeping your head safe in the event of an accident is priority number one as a snowmobiler. No matter the style of your helmet, it should fit snugly without greatly impacting your vision. Full-face helmets cover a rider’s entire head and allow the rider to ride without goggles, as they include a face shield. Other types of helmets such as snocross and dual-sport can come with or without face shields and may allow for better peripheral vision given their generally smaller size.
Goggles. If your helmet has a face shield, you won’t necessarily need goggles. If it doesn’t, protect your vision and pick up a pair of snowmobile goggles from an outdoor retailer. You don’t want to get any debris in your eyes, and protecting them from the cold air and wind is a must for safety and comfort.
Gloves. While you’re cruising over the snow, your hands are going to get cold. You’d probably wear gloves if you were out and about in winter weather without a snowmobile, so you’ll definitely want a pair while you navigate your machine through brisk, cold winds. Good snowmobiling gloves come in a wide variety of materials, so just make sure they’re comfortable, waterproof and don’t leave any part of your skin exposed to the elements.
Layered, insulated and waterproof clothing. If you’re an experienced snowmobiler, you probably own a snowmobiling suit. If not, don’t worry. You can get by with jackets and pants as long as they’re wind and waterproof and don’t absorb moisture. You’ll want under layers for your pants and jacket, too. Make sure they’re moisture-wicking and can keep your body warm in below-zero temperatures. Still, nothing beats the gear that is built specifically for the purpose, so set your eyes on a quality snowmobile suit for the future.
Boots. The best way a snowmobiler can go in terms of footwear is to buy a pair of snowmobiling-specific boots. These boots should be waterproof, insulated and easy to maintain good foot traction in. And make sure they fit snugly and comfortably!
Basic Snowmobile Safety Tips
Now that you’ve got all your gear to stay safe and warm while you ride your snowmobile, brush up on some basic safety tips to keep you and your fellow riders safe from harm’s way this season.
Never ride your snowmobile under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Driving a snowmobile is hard enough as is — don’t put yourself or others in danger by trying to drive one unless you’re one-hundred percent sober. It’s foolish, it’s dangerous and it’s a crime.
Avoid riding on ice. No matter how frozen you might think the lake you’re cruising over is, you’re putting yourself in danger by riding on it. Some snowmobile suits have flotation devices built in, but you’re better off staying safe on the trails built for snowmobiles in the first place.
Wear tinted snowmobile goggles. While you already should be wearing goggles to protect your eyes from the wind and cold, consider getting a tinted pair to protect your eyes from the sun. The light will bounce of the white snow and make everything appear brighter, making it difficult for you to see clearly without the right kind of eyewear.
Avoid riding alone, or let someone know where you’re going. Getting stranded in the middle of winter is not only cold, uncomfortable and a loss of a riding day — it’s dangerous, too. Avoid going out on the trails on your own, but if you do take a solo ride, let someone know when and where you’re going so they can find you later on.
Use common sense when it comes to traffic. Practice good etiquette while you’re on the trails and drive your snowmobile like you’d drive a car. Always stop and look both ways at crossings, slow down when you see other snowmobilers coming towards or near you, stay on the right side of the trail and be a defensive driver — don’t take any risks while you’re handling an expensive, dangerous machine.
You should also brush up on how to make turning signals by hand. One arm extended means a left turn, while holding your forearm up at a 90-degree angle with your arm signals a right turn. To really become an expert in navigating the trails, consider signing up for a snowmobile safety course in a nearby community. You’ll meet likeminded riders and ultimately become a better rider yourself!
By respecting your snowmobile, other riders and the nature you ride through, you can be sure this snowmobiling season will be safe and a success. Contact your American Family Insurance agent to find out how they can help you make sure you and your ride are protected in the event of the unexpected, too.