Snowmobiling is a great way to cruise around the winter terrain and have a blast in the process. Whether you can jump on a trail right out your back door, or you have to take a trip to the mountains, remember, it’s not all fun and games. Snowmobile safety is a top concern.
According to an article published in the National Library of Medicine, snowmobiles can weigh more than 600 pounds and can travel at a speed of more than 90 miles per hour. This speed and weight can be a dangerous combination, and every year, snowmobile accidents result in approximately 200 deaths and 14,000 injuries.
Snowmobiling should be fun, but it also needs to be safe.
Where Can You Ride?
Snowmobiling is a popular winter sport in many regions, and you may not have to go far to find a place to ride, but you may also need to plan ahead.
According to the U.S. Department of the Interior, snowmobiling is allowed in 43 National Parks in 21 different states, but you may need a permit to ride legally.
For example, in Yellowstone, the winter snowmobile season lasts from December 15 to March 15. During this time, groups of up to five snowmobiles are allowed in the park as part of the Non-Commercially Guided Snowmobile Access Program. Groups can apply for permits for trips that last one, two, or three days, and visitors will need to pay an application fee and a recreation fee.
Even Arizona, best known for its sunny skies and scorching temperatures, has snow zones where you can ride a snowmobile. In fact, 12 News, the Phoenix NBC affiliate, has called snowmobiling northern Arizona’s “hidden secret.” Destinations for Arizona snowmobile riders include Bear Park, Long Park, Cinder Mountain, and Mormon Mound.
Obeying the Rules
State and national parks can provide a great place to ride your snowmobile, but make sure you’re following all the rules. This will help keep you – and the people and wildlife around you – safe. Standard rules might include age restrictions, designated areas, expected etiquette, and right of way. Check with the park for a complete list of rules.
Also, know the laws in the state where you’re riding. According to the American Council of Snowmobile Associations, every state has rules pertaining to the operation of snowmobiles. These rules often include requirements for registration, insurance, and helmets, as well as speed limits and restrictions against riding on road shoulders and ditches.
Stay Warm with the Right Gear – Not Alcohol
Alcohol can make you feel warmer, but it doesn’t protect you against the elements. In fact, the CDC says that alcohol can actually increase heat loss. Alcohol consumption can also impair coordination, mobility, and decision-making abilities – not a good thing when riding a snowmobile. So you shouldn’t drink and drive, and you shouldn’t drink and ride a snowmobile, either.
Instead, stay warm with the right clothes. When you’re dealing with cold winter weather, this means wearing layers.
According to the Weather Channel, you need three key layers when you participate in winter sports. The wicking layer is the layer next to your skin. You’ll sweat, so you want thermal underwear designed to wick moisture away from your skin. The next layer is the insulating layer. You want wool, fleece, and other materials that keep heat in. The outer layer is for protection, and you want waterproof but breathable materials to keep you dry.
You also need the right accessories, including warm socks and gloves. A helmet is another essential. A full-face helmet will protect both your eyes and your head.
Watch out for Others
When you’re out snowmobiling, you might feel like you have the entire area to yourself, but that’s probably not the case. There may be other people nearby. There may also be wildlife in the area. Below are some basic guidelines to keep in mind and to share with others in your group:
- Go a safe speed. If you’re traveling too fast, you won’t have enough time to react to hazards. Slow down when turning or when the trail curves.
- Give others space. Try to stick to the right side of trails and avoid riding side-by-side with your companions. Give non-snowmobilers the right of way.
- Pass with care. Let faster snowmobilers pass you. If you want to pass someone, make sure they are aware of your presence first.
- Keep an eye out for wildlife. Humans aren’t the only ones drawn to trails. According to MLive, the Department of Natural Resources has warned snowmobilers to watch out for moose and other animals using snowmobile trails.
- Be especially careful at crossings. Intersections can be especially dangerous, so slow down and stay alert.
- Avoid blocking trails. If you need to stop, try to move somewhere safe, so your snowmobile doesn’t become a hazard.
Know How to Maintain and Load Your Snowmobile
If you have your own snowmobile, you’ll need to transport it. That means loading it in your trailer or truck, and this is something that needs to be done correctly to avoid injury or damage to your truck or snowmobile. Snowmobile-Ed has a video that demonstrates how to load and unload your snowmobile.
You also need to maintain your snowmobile. Proper maintenance will help your snowmobile last longer, which means more fun in the snow. A well-maintained snowmobile is also important for safety reasons. Before taking your snowmobile out, prepare it for the winter with some pre-season snowmobile maintenance. Also, maintain your snowmobile between outings and once the season ends. See ILSNOW.com for a list of things to check.
Be Prepared with Emergency Supplies
You hope that nothing goes wrong, but if it does, you want to be prepared with emergency supplies. When deciding what to pack, think about what you’ll need if your snowmobile breaks down or you get lost or injured. You might need tools to repair the snowmobile. You’ll also need items to help you stay safe in the cold weather.
Some good items to include in your emergency supplies include the following:
- First Aid Kit
- Tool Kit or Multitool
- Extra Batteries
- Cell Phone
- Walkie Talkies if You’re Out of Cell Range
- ID/Medical Info and Essential Medication
- Signaling Mirror
For more emergency preparedness tips, see this article from Intrepid Snowmobiler.
Stay Safe Out There
Snowmobiling is a great way to enjoy winter weather, but an accident can ruin the fun. With a little precaution and some common sense, you can stay safe.
But if something does go wrong, you’ll be glad you have insurance. Give us a call; we can help you find the right insurance coverage for your snowmobile.