High speeds and extreme conditions are what make snowmobiling so much fun — and dangerous. Here's how to have a blast in a winter wonderland while staying safe and responsible.
Know your snowmobile
First things first: knowing how to operate your snowmobile properly is the most fundamental part of your safety on the trails. And one of the best ways to learn is by taking a snowmobile safety course.
Not only will a snowmobile safety course teach you more about your winter cruiser, it will also cover important riding techniques and snowmobiling etiquette. You can learn rules of the trail, brush up on state laws, and adopt these vital hand signals:
- Left turn — left arm straight out
- Right turn — left arm out, forearm raised at a 90-degree angle
- Slowing down — left arm angled toward the ground
- Stopping — left arm straight up in the air
And here's the best part: taking a snowmobile course might even score you an insurance discount. Check with your state's Department of Motor Vehicles or Department of Natural Resources to find accredited snowmobile safety classes near you. You can also try snowmobilecourse.com, which is an online safety course that has been approved by some states.
Recognize snowmobiling hazards
As with any motor vehicle, there are hazards unique to driving a snowmobile. Stay safe while riding by keeping these in mind.
Sure, snowmobiles are designed for speed — but it's important to use discretion. Speeding is one of the major causes of snowmobile accidents. Always keep total control of your snowmobile, and take extra caution at night.
Riding on ice
Here's a good rule of thumb for riding on frozen bodies of water: don't. Though this is common for snowmobilers, there's no guarantee that ice (no matter how thick) will support the weight of a snowmobile and its rider. And when snowmobilers break through the ice, the result is often deadly. If you really must drive on a frozen lake or river, at least throw on a life jacket.
It may feel like you're flying over the snow, but your sled is still vulnerable to objects hidden below the surface — think tree stumps, rocks, and fences. Hitting one of these can leave you in a world of hurt. Scout your terrain before riding.
Drinking and riding
Drunk driving is drunk driving no matter what you're driving. Slowed reaction time, altered perception, and impaired ability mean danger for everyone. That's reason enough not to mix alcohol and snowmobiling — but did you know that booze can also make you more vulnerable to hypothermia? Alcohol makes you feel warm, which can cover up symptoms when you're on a frigid trail.
There's safety in numbers. Use the buddy system whenever possible, and avoid heading out on your own. If you must ride solo, at least inform others of your plan.
Always be prepared
The Boy Scout motto rings true even in the snowmobiling world. Be ready for anything with our handy checklist.
Never underestimate the importance of a first-aid kit in case of a mishap. Here are some items we recommend keeping in yours:
- Antibiotic and burn ointments
- Bandages, gauze, and wound closure strips
- Latex gloves
Here are some other essentials you should bring, even if it's just for a short spin:
- Flashlight and batteries
- Space blankets
- Extra food
- Waterproof matches/lighter
- Compass and maps
- Tools (in case your snowmobile breaks down)
- Extra fuel
There's plenty of safety gear out there to choose from. Here are the musts:
- Helmet (meeting U.S. Department of Transportation standards)
- Reflective clothing
Insure your snowmobile
Hopefully these tips will help you stay safe while enjoying your snowmobile. But snowmobile safety is more than just being careful on the trail — don't forget to protect your investment and yourself by insuring it. You can start your snowmobile insurance quote online or give us a call at 1-866-455-1980.
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