Five Tips for New Snowmobilers

WFeel it? There’s a fall nip in the air that signals the arrival of cooler days and nights, and soon the snow will start in many parts of the country. Some people have a distaste for winter weather conditions, but snowmobile enthusiasts welcome the season and anticipate the fun they’re about to have. Imagine speeding along trails – or making your own – in a wide-open landscape, magically frosted with a layer of white. As sports go, snowmobiling is fun for individuals and is a great family activity, too. Here are a few tips for those new to the sport.

Wear safety gear and dress appropriately. You’ll need a regulation helmet and a pair of goggles designed specifically for cold weather activities. Choose a snowmobile suit designed to protect from frigid winter weather – the best choice has a waterproof inner lining. Your hands will control most of the action, so a good pair of gloves is a must. Waterproof winter gloves will keep them toasty and comfortable. A snug headband keeps ears warm inside the helmet as you fly along the trails.

Familiarize yourself with the machinery. Before you ever head out, sit on your snowmobile, get the feel of it, and find the right and comfortable distance on the seat that puts the handlebars within your correct reach. Place your feet in the stirrups and get used to the position: you won’t be taking them out when you snowmobile as they are specifically designed to help you stay in control of the machine. Explore your snowmobile to find the throttle and brakes. Get comfortable with the knowledge of where everything is.

Test drive your snowmobile! This is where the fun really begins. You’re ready to get moving, so apply pressure to the throttle to rev your engine and head out. If you drive a car or truck, this is instinctive and should be simple. As you move forward, turn the handlebars in the direction that you want to go. For a ride on softer, less compact snow releasing pressure from the throttle will slow you down. To achieve a stop on compact trails, apply pressure to the brake lever. On ice, just as you would in a vehicle, pumping the brakes by applying and releasing pressure on the brake lever gives you a smoother, safer stop.

Don’t try to set speed records if you’re a beginner! Relax, and enjoy the ride and the scenery around you. New riders have plenty of choices of trails that have been packed and well-traveled to enjoy while getting the feel for their machine and the sport. Heading off into unpacked snow when you have limited experience is an invitation to trouble, and to getting stuck.

Practice leaning your body into the turns to make them sharper and faster, but remember to keep your feet in the stirrups. They are there to help stabilize your body and keep you from slipping off of your machine. Snowmobiling is a sport where practice really does make perfect, and the more you ride, the more likely it is you will become a lifelong snowmobiling enthusiast.