Ah, winter’s just about here. And with it, the time to uncover your snowmobile for a new season of wind-chapped wonder!
We know you don’t need another lecture on the dangers of riding your winter cruiser (rocketing through snow at frigid temps isn’t exactly like going to Book Club — you already know these thrills come with real risks). And you don’t need another batch of common-sense clichés (“wear a helmet,” “be careful in the dark,” etc.).
What you can use, however, are some snowmobile safety tips you may not have considered. And, as it so happens, we’ve got 5 of those in mind.
5 ways to improve your snowmobile safety
1. Take care of snowmobile maintenance
Half the battle for snowmobile safety is won before you hit the powder — and there’s more to it than just filling the gas and squeegeeing the windshield.
At the start of riding season, give your snowmobile a comprehensive check: replace spark plugs and filters, clean and charge the battery, and top off all fluids. As you continue to ride, keep up with your key snowmobile maintenance tasks by inspecting the brakes, lubricating the chassis, and aligning the skis every few weeks.
2. Make like a motorcyclist
By this, we don’t mean ditching your skis, donning a leather jacket, and sending in audition tapes to Sons of Anarchy. (Although, you’re not prohibited from doing so.)
Instead, we suggest following the motorcycle safety acronym for survival: SIPDE.
- Scan your field of vision constantly and don’t let your eyes fix on any point for too long.
- Identify hazards well in advance.
- Predict the worst at all times so you’re not caught off guard — for instance, if you’re on a trail at dusk, assume a deer will leap across. Or, if you see another snowmobiler headed toward you, assume it’s up to you to steer out of the way.
- Decide on a plan of action before hazards are close.
- Execute your plan.
These tips translate perfectly from the road to the snow and can help you condition your response system to work lighting fast.
3. Stay loose
Statues are meant for museums, not trails. If you tense up while riding, your snowmobile is likely to plow straight ahead (which, unless you’re on the world’s most boring trail, can be dangerous).
In order to keep your snowmobile flexible, you need to stay limber. To make a turn, look where you want to go and turn your entire head in that direction. You can also train yourself to shift your lower body around the sled. For many riders, their natural inclination is to use their arms to change course when really it’s the legs that can best dictate your snowmobile’s path.
4. Avoid frozen water
Listing what is safe about frozen lakes or rivers would be faster than listing what isn’t, but we’ll do it anyway. In a nutshell, nearly every nasty riding condition is waiting on the water — a lack of traction, unforgiving falls, unpredictable patterns from other snowmobilers, the threat of cracking ice (remember, ice thickness is rarely uniform, so a foot-deep layer can become an inch deep in no time).
While some riders still choose to take their chances on the ice, the safest bet is to turn around and head the other way.
5. Use a buddy (or satellite) system
Ideally, of course, this would mean riding with at least one other person so you can keep an eye on each other. If, however, your usual snowmobiling sidekicks are unavailable, map out your route ahead of time and leave it with friends or family back home.
And, if you really want to keep loved ones in the loop, you might even consider investing in a GPS messenger, which lets you send texts and connect to your social networks (even in remote corners with no society in sight). Best of all, in the event of a crash, a GPS messenger transmits a direct signal to rescue centers from your exact location, giving you and those who care about you complete peace of mind.
Bonus tip: take a snowmobile safety course
Obviously, a snowmobile safety course will help you ride more confidently. So how is that advice much of a bonus? Well, it’s not. The bonus part comes when you snag a snowmobile insurance discount for being such a responsible rider!
Grab a snowmobile insurance quote to see if you qualify. And, if you have snowmobile safety tips of your own, share them in the comments below.