Winter is here and for those who are eager to take their snowmobiles out of hibernation, or who are thinking of hitting the trails for the first time, it’s important to make sure both you and your sled are prepared for the season.
With over 600,000 snowmobiles registered in Canada* and interest in the sport continuing to grow, we sat down with Chris Brookes, Executive Director of the Alberta Snowmobile Association, to find out what steps both new and experienced riders need to take to make sure they’re ready to brave the snow.
Step 1 – Give your sled a checkup:
- Just like your car, your snowmobile needs regular maintenance checks. The best thing to do is bring it in to a mechanic, or if you are mechanically inclined, begin by doing a walk-around of your machine, checking for any noticeable signs of damage, rust or loose parts. Next, inspect your fluids; this includes gas, brake fluids and coolant. If any fluids were left in the sled while it was stowed away for the summer, they should be emptied first, before adding new liquids. This is done to keep moisture from building up inside tanks and lines, which can cause corrosion.
- Check your battery. There’s nothing worse than ending a ride with your machine breaking down in sub-zero temperatures and having to wait for a tow truck.
- If you don’t own your snowmobile, doing a walk-around of a machine you’re renting from a club is equally as important from both a safety and liability perspective.
Step 2 – Check the conditions:
- No matter how nice it may look outside, don’t be fooled. Weather conditions during the winter months can change at the drop of hat, which is why it’s imperative that riders check the weather and trail conditions before heading out. For example, is there enough snow? Have the pathways been groomed? Are there warnings for loose snow or avalanches in the region you’re looking to explore? Being prepared for various conditions and knowing when to stay back is an important lesson for all sled riders to learn.
The best information on trial conditions can come from your local club. Not sure which one is closest to you? Visit the Canadian Council of Snowmobile Organizations (CCSO) to find out.
Step 3 – Hand Signals:
- Whether you’re a seasoned rider or brand new to the sport, knowing how to signal is mandatory to ensuring you and those you’re sharing the trail with are kept safe. Remember: trails don’t come with stop lights and snowmobiles don’t come with turn signals, meaning your hands are the only way to get your direction and intention across.
Step 4 – Proper Gear:
- Safety trumps fashion. Dressing in layers — which includes thermal underwear, insulated socks and boots, heated gloves, and a wind and water proof coat — is crucial to keeping you dry and warm throughout your ride. Lastly, and most importantly, a safety-certified helmet and mask for face and eye protection are key.
Snowmobiling should be fun, safe and social but before the first snowflakes fall, review the steps listed above and check with your insurance agent to make sure you’re properly protecting both you and your sled!