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Snowmobile Trail Smarts
How excited are you to hit those snowy trails? We’re sure you’re eager to get out there, and as snowmobile season approaches, you’ll be happy you prepared ahead. Once you’ve done your maintenance/safety checks and gathered your gear, these tips can help you plan for safe and stress-free snowmobile trail adventures. It just might be your most incredible snowmobiling season yet!
Preparing Before You Hit the Trails
A little preparation goes a long way — especially in the cold, winter elements you’ll often face on your snowmobile! So before you hop on, be sure to prepare yourself, your machine and your gear with these tips.
Register your snowmobile. If you purchase your snowmobile through a dealer, they’ll often help you get registered. If not, take the time to do so with the Department of Motor Vehicles, the Parks and Wildlife Department or another agency. Most states don’t require snowmobiles to be titled, but it’s worth checking to see if you’ll need one.
Purchase your trail passes. Most trails will require a trail pass in order to be ridden. Do your research before you purchase, since you might be able to buy one pass for the entire state’s trails. Check your state’s Department of Natural Resources website for information on purchasing a pass. In general, pass fees go toward maintaining trails and providing subsidies to smaller clubs that maintain trails. Riding a trail that you’re not registered for can get you in a heap of trouble, so do your due diligence, ride legally and protect your reputation.
Dress for success. The forecast is your friend. Dress in weather-appropriate safety gear, including a helmet, every time. If you don’t own a snowmobile suit, dress in moisture-resistant clothing and warm layers to keep you comfortable while you ride and in case you get stranded.
Finding the Perfect Trail
Carefully planning your riding area will give you more time to spend riding and reduce the amount of time spent navigating or troubleshooting your route later on. Area clubs create and groom most trails and can be required to report these trails and their condition to the state. Use these tips to plan your ride, check the conditions and set yourself up for a successful day of snowmobiling.
State government travel or tourism web sites. They can provide a list of trails, including the conditions and status of those trails. They’ll also let you know what kind of passes you’ll need to ride particular trails, and if they don’t sell them, they’ll point you in the right direction. You can also use these sites to find places to stay, eat and enjoy off-trail fun.
State-wide snowmobile association. They’ll often give you detailed trail maps, trail passes and alert you to key snowmobile events. They’ll also provide links or contact information to smaller clubs, include information to relevant workshops and might even have a for-sale or wanted listing page.
Individual snowmobile clubs. These clubs have frequent events during the season that include group trail rides. Being a club member can reduce the cost of state trail passes, which are often required for sleds registered in-state and out-of-state.
Map your adventure. It’s easy to get lost on trails — especially in rural areas where there’s spotty cell service or places you haven’t already traveled. Keep a printed map tucked with your gear and take notes on the most recent conditions listed on the state travel websites so you can make smart route changes on the fly, if necessary.
As a snowmobiler, you know how important it is to respect the environment you ride through. All it takes is one disrespectful rider to make the rest of the good riders look bad, so take a look at these trail etiquette tips and spread them among your riding group.
Wait for enough snow cover. We’re sure you can’t wait to get your snowmobile up and running across the countryside. But if you don’t wait for there to be enough snow cover on the trails, you’ll be running on hard surfaces that’ll be harmful to your snowmobile and to the vegetation on and near the trail. Check with your state’s Department of Natural Resources for snowmobiling conditions and riding recommendations.
Avoid small trees and shrubs. Even when there is enough snow cover to ride, you still might find small trees and shrubs along the trail. Do nature a favor and leave them be, as riding over them will kill them or stunt their growth.
Respect the wildlife. If you see any animal walking on or near a trail, don’t disturb it. You’re on their turf, and scaring an animal can have a negative impact on the environment and your reputation as a rider.
Obey “no trespassing” signs. Ride only on trails or areas you’ve been given permission to ride. Your snowmobile can do lots of damage to the ground, plants and wildlife in areas not groomed for snowmobiles, so be careful to respect all property you ride on or near.
Now that you’re prepared for an awesome season, your final step is to ensure you have the right snowmobile coverage. Make sure you and your snowmobile protected from the unexpected by getting in touch with an American Family Insurance agent. Happy riding!