16 Tips for a Safe Snowmobile Trip
Snowmobiling in Michigan can be a great experience and a fun past time for the winter season, but it can also be very dangerous if the proper safety precautions are not taken. To help keep you safe, we’ve put together a list of some important safety tips to keep you safe on your next snowmobile adventure.
1. Take a snowmobile safety course
One of the best ways to learn the laws in your area and make sure you are ready to ride is to take a snowmobile safety class. These classes will teach you everything you need to know and teach you local regulations. They will also provide you with any certifications or licenses you would need to jump on the slopes. Learning the rules of snowmobile safety before hand gives you the ability to practice before your ride. Better to over prepare than getting hurt.
2. Check the weather forecast and the trail conditions
It is always a good idea to check the weather and trail conditions to plan ahead. If the trail is frozen, the wind chill is too low, or a blizzard with white out conditions is in the forecast, you will want to plan your ride for another day. Checking the weather also helps you select the proper clothing for the day.
3. Wear appropriate clothes and protective gear
Staying warm and dry during your ride will make it more enjoyable and safer. Wear a snowmobile suit, which commonly consists of a jacket and insulated bibs. Under your snowmobile suit, dress in layers. Stay away from cotton because if it gets wet, it will freeze. Choose polyester blends to wick moisture away from your body. In addition, wear goggles or a face shield if you do not have a full-face helmet, socks (no cotton), waterproof gloves, winter hat, facemask and winter boots. Always wear a DOT-approved helmet, not only to keep you warm but to also protect your head from injury. Make sure children have a helmet that properly fits.
4. Inspect your snowmobile before your ride.
Make sure your snowmobile is running properly before heading out on the trail. Having your owner’s manual handy on your ride is a good idea for extra safety. It is important to follow the recommended service schedule to keep it maintained and running smoothly. Before each ride, check fuel and oil levels, battery, brakes, drive belt, skis, throttle, handlebars, headlights and taillights. Also, make sure you allow your snowmobile time to run for at least a minute to warm up before taking off.
5. Use the buddy system
Never ride your machine alone. Riders in groups are always safer than those riding solo. Use the buddy system when in larger groups so there are two people looking out for each other as their priority. Plan out your routes in advance so you can leave a map with your loved ones at home. This will make it much easier to find you if you end up stuck out on the trails.
6. Carry a first-aid kit and a repair kit
Keep a basic first-aid kit in the snowmobile in case of injury. It should include: disinfecting wipes, bandages, hand sanitizer, gauze, adhesive tape and Band-Aids. In addition, carry an emergency kit with waterproof matches, flashlight, compass, map, blanket, water, snacks and a knife. A repair kit is also essential and should include: duct tape, tools, spare belt, tow rope, spark plugs and pry bar.
7. Stay alert
It is important to be observant and watch for obstacles in your path, such as rocks, fallen trees, barbed wire fences, ditches, open water, other snowmobiles, snow banks, animals, hikers and skiers.
8. Avoid frozen rivers
It is impossible to gauge the thickness of ice. Ice can easily crack and give way under your snowmobile.
9. Do not speed
Driving at a moderate pace will allow you to react to an unexpected occurrence on your trail and avoid an accident. Many trails have posted speed limits to follow.
10. Stay on the trail
Marked trails are safer because they have been groomed for you and are less likely to have hazards. Going off trail can result in accidents because you are treading on unfamiliar terrain. Also, many ‘public’ trails run close to private property. Unless you have received permission from the landowner, stay on the marked trail. Failure to do so can also result in the trail being closed to the public in the future. Be a responsible rider by following the posted signs and trail markers.
11. Driver should be the age of 16 or older
It is also strongly recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics that children under the age of 16 do not operate a snowmobile. The reason for this is because they may lack the skills needed to safely operate the vehicle and due to their stature can be easily injured.
12. Children under the age of six should never ride as a passenger
The snowmobile can ride rough and it takes a strong person to hold on tight, especially for long periods of time. Children younger than six lack this strength.
13. Do not overload your snowmobile
Make sure you check your manufacturer’s guide for the approved number of passengers and also the amount of weight it can carry. Exceeding these maximums either from an additional passenger or heavy gear can increase your chances of accidents and injuries.
14. Never drink and drive
Just like driving a car, operating a snowmobile while impaired can lead to delayed responses and cause accidents.
15. Do not pull people on anything behind your snowmobile
Snowmobiles are not designed to pull sleds, skiers or saucers and it is very unsafe to do so.
16. Always Use Hand Signals
Using hand signals can be much easier than trying to yell over the motor and blustery winter winds. Learning a few hand signals before going out on the trails can keep everyone in your group safer:
- Stopping: Put your left arm straight up in the air over your head; keep your palm flat.
- Left Turn: Put your left arm straight out so it’s in line with your shoulder. Your arm should be pointing straight out in the direction of the turn.
- Right Turn: Bend your left arm and raise it to shoulder height. Extend your forearm up into the air with your palm flat
- Slowing Down: Put your left arm out and down. Move your hand in a downward flapping motion towards your machine.
Experts You Can Trust
The experts at USA Trailer Sales carry a huge selection of hitches, accessories and of course snowmobile trialers. We are always here to help you negotiate the many options and possible customizations available when buying your trailer. Please contact us with any questions you may have or stop by one of our six Michigan locations to speak with a local trailer expert today.