7 Must-Know Snowmobile Safety Tips

Everyone cheers in our house when those first flakes fall from the sky. No matter how busy we are, we take a moment to marvel. We love winter sports – especially snowmobiling. When it all kicks into high gear, my wife and I sometimes feel like we have to play safety cop, but we don’t mind.

It’s a good idea for snowmobilers to brush up on safety tips and strategies before heading out. According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, there were 212 snowmobile accidents in 2011 in Minnesota alone with 19 fatalities. Ensure a safe, fun season by sticking to these must-know snowmobiling safety tips:

Check First. Then Go.

Before any of us hits the trails, we make sure to check the condition of our sled. A snowmobile enthusiast friend of mine is a stickler for this checklist: throttle, ski assemblies, rods, belt, headlights/taillights, brakes as well the fuel and battery levels. It’s also a good idea to check the weather and remember to pack an emergency kit (flares, extra key, first aid kit, flashlight, spare fuel, etc.).

Protect the Trail.

Remember to respect the trail systems and riding. Avoid disturbing local wildlife and only ride within the areas you’re permitted — no matter how much your little ones beg to chase the snow bunnies.

Pay Attention.

The longer you ride, the slower your reaction time. If you’re sleep deprived because your youngest was having nightmares last night, it might not be a great day for a ride. (Speaking from experience.) Even though you may not feel tired, the combination of motion, wind and vibration of the machine tends to dull your senses. Take breaks every few hours to stay safe.

Safety Trumps Style.

Our friends tell their daughters that all the fashionistas on the trails wear warm gloves, goggles, and a windproof outer layer. These items can be vital to safety, and all the cool kids are doing it.

Tell Others Your Plan.

Another great idea prior to a snowmobile ride is to create a “snow plan.” That’s a description of your planned route (kind of like a flight plan for snowmobiles). Keep it handy so family and friends all know where to find it.

Never Add Alcohol.

Just not a good idea. The increased sleepiness and slower reaction time are a formula for disaster. (Picture a two-year-old at the mall without a nap – worse than that.) Never drink and ride. By the way, it’s illegal, too.

Avoid Riding at Night.

Snowmobiling after dark can be a blast but requires special attention. The golden rule: Don’t over drive your headlights. Always drive slow enough to see an object in time to avoid a collision.

Stay safe on the snow this season!

(video courtesy of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources)

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