It’s that time of year when the temperatures drop and fun winter activities such as snowmobiling become the norm here in Minnesota. However, it’s always a good idea to review some safety tips before hitting the fluffy white stuff every year.
Snowmobile Safety Course
Not only is taking a snowmobile safety course a good idea before hitting the snowy trails but in a majority of the states you are required to get a safety certificate.
Taking this course will teach you how to ride and operate your snowmobile safely, be responsible, and teach you all the rules you need to know to be compliant to your state’s requirements.
Always Check The Weather
Winter weather has a way of changing on a dime. It’s always best to check the weather forecast before heading out and making sure you are prepared for whatever it has in store for you.
Checking the weather allows you to dress appropriately as well as perhaps change your plans to another day if necessary. No one wants to be caught off guard by blizzard conditions while in the middle of nowhere.
As mentioned in the previous tip, knowing what to expect from the weather allows you to choose the appropriate clothing for the day. Heading out for a day of fun in lightweight gear might be perfect at the beginning of a ride. However weather conditions can change at any time and being caught away from home in less than perfect winter gear when temperatures drop can be uncomfortable at the least and down right life threatening at worse.
It is always best to dress in layers under a snowmobile suit so that you can adjust what you’re wearing according to the weather conditions. Wear clothing made of polyester blends so they wick moisture away from your body. Cottons can get wet and freeze once temperatures drop.
Always wear a full-face helmet or at least goggles or a face shield, bring waterproof gloves, a winter hat, facemask, and winter boots. It’s vital that you wear a DOT-approved helmet as well to protect from injury too.
Check Your Snowmobile
Before even heading out it is always prudent to make sure your snowmobile is in good condition and running well. Keeping the snowmobile up to date on its service maintenance schedule ensures that it is running well.
Check all the fluid levels and as well as the fuel level, battery, brakes, lights, and every other mechanical part before heading out. It’s best to find out about any issues while still safe at home then when out in the open somewhere.
Playing in the snow is always more fun with friends. It’s also safer. Having someone with you on your ride ensures that you have someone to help you if you break down or have an accident especially because many remote areas do not get great cellphone coverage.
It’s also a good idea to let the people at home know where you’re going to be riding as well as when they can expect you to be back. This way if you don’t return when expected they know where to start looking for you.
No matter how perfectly you followed the above advice, things do happen and it’s best to be prepared for them.
Always bring an emergency kit in case you get stuck with things like waterproof matches, flashlight, blanket, compass, map, water, and snacks.
Also, remember to have a repair kit with things like duct tape, tools, spare belt, rope, spark plugs, and anything else you might feel is necessary should you have to do repairs out in the open.
And last but not least, have a first-aid kit with you in the event that there is an accident and you have to fend for yourself while waiting for rescue.
All of these things help to keep you more comfortable and possibly save your life should something unexpected occur.
It can be tempting to go off the trail to explore where no man has gone before but there’s probably a reason why they haven’t gone there. There could be unseen dangers such as barbed wire fences, drop offs, or it may lead to someone’s private property.
Also, when it’s extremely cold it can seem like a great idea to drive across rivers or lakes. However, there is no way you can really know how thick that ice is and the weight of you and your snowmobile can crack even the thickest of ice. So it’s best you avoid taking chances like that.
Another thing to adhere to is the speed limit. Many trails have posted speed limits for a reason. Abide by them. Even if the trail you’re on doesn’t specify a set speed limit, it’s best to drive at a moderate pace. In the snow there’s no way to tell what is underneath and be prepared for everything. Make sure your ride is a fun one by being safe and responsible at all times.
Other safety advice consists of not overloading your snowmobile, not pulling anything behind the snowmobile and, of course, not drinking and driving. Save the drinking for afterwards when you’re safe and sound at home by the fire recounting your fun adventures from the day.
For more information on snowmobile safety, rules and regulations, or taking a snowmobile safety training course see Minnesota’s Department of Natural Resources website by clicking here.