During the winter months, Canada is a snowmobiling mecca. From fast-flowing trails to pristine off-piste backcountry, snowmobiling is a popular winter activity which allows participants to experience winter’s splendor in the great outdoors.
Like all recreational activities, there are inherent risks that require snowmobile riders to act responsibly by being prepared and making good choices. Out there you will encounter frozen lakes and deep backcountry powder far from the comforts of the city.
Ensure that you are properly trained and equipped to survive a night outside or to help others in need. You should also be aware of the following specific safety issues associated with snowmobiling.
Alcohol Use Many snowmobile crashes occur because of alcohol consumption. Alcohol use
is also a leading cause of snowmobiling-
related fatalities. Alcohol and drugs negatively affect your body by affecting your vision, equilibrium or balance and coordination, and reaction time.
Speed and Careless Operation Speed is a major factor in many snowmobile crashes. Always keep the speed of your snowmobile
slow enough to ensure you are in control and operating safely. Excessive speed combined with alcohol or drug use is especially dangerous.
Night Riding Riding at night requires extra precautions. It is important to ride at slower speeds and use caution to not override snowmobiles' headlights. Headlights generally illuminate the
path about 60 metres in front of you – so if you’re driving faster than 60 km/h you’re likely
exceeding the area illuminated by your headlights before you can react and stop safely.
Roadways Many snowmobile trails are located alongside roadways and sometimes cross over them. Always be aware of vehicles on the roadway, drive defensively, and come to a complete stop at all posted stop signs, as well as at unmarked road crossings.
Youth Riders Youth are important to the future of snowmobiling, so it is important that extra precautions be taken to ensure they have safe outings that are also enjoyable so they develop
a desire to continue snowmobiling as they get older. Help ensure youth operators receive proper training and that adults use appropriate precautions when riding with kids.
Avalanche Avalanches that involve people do not occur randomly. Over 90 percent of the time, the victims or someone in their group triggers the snow slide. This means that avalanches could generally be avoided if snowmobilers would learn to follow avalanche safety procedures. If you ride in avalanche terrain, learn simple things that can help save lives.
Closed Areas Respect for closed areas, regardless of whether they are private or public lands, is important since closed areas often contain hazardous conditions for snowmobile operators.
Other areas may be closed due to sensitive landowner relations or due to special management prescriptions that benefit wintering wildlife or nonmotorized recreation.
Photo: Canadian Tourism Commission (banner); Tourism Laurentians/Guillaume Pauliot