Snowmobile Trail Conditions: What You Need to Know to Stay Safe

snowmobiling on great trail conditions

Be Aware of Unsafe Snowmobile Trail Conditions So You Can Ride Safe

 

You probably don’t need a doctor to tell you that snowmobiling isn’t the safest sport. Just about everyone who’s been riding for a few years could tell you a story or two about getting hurt or getting close to it. Other people aren’t lucky enough to tell the tale. Snowmobiling is all about having fun, but part of having fun is staying safe. And part of staying safe is knowing how much of a risk is too much when it comes to determining whether or not your snowmobile trail conditions are safe or unsafe.

So what makes a trail unsafe? And how can you be sure that a trail is safe? It’s not just being a snow-covered trail system. There are all sorts of hidden aspects that can make your ride more dangerous than it needs to be. And being a responsible rider is knowing when to turn around. So let’s talk about some of those things that make snowmobile trail conditions unsafe.

 

snowmobiling on ungroomed trail conditions can be fun but possibly unsafe

 

The Rider and Snowmobiling Trail Conditions

 

First and foremost, we need to talk about the person on top of the snowmobile. Whether it’s you or someone you love, being safe means being prepared. The two biggest contributing factors to snowmobiling accidents are speed and alcohol consumption. You might be thinking “that sounds like the ingredients for fun”. Sure, until you end up wrapped around a tree.

Remember to never drink and ride. Don’t even drink beforehand. The alcohol is fine once you’re safely back home, but drinking during or before is going to cause your senses to be dulled, making you an unsafe rider. It’s no different than driving a car while intoxicated… and it’s equally as illegal and unsafe.

Also, think about how fast you’re going. I know, I’m starting to sound like that uncool teacher in high school now. But at the end of the day, you can never know the true conditions under the snow. Never barrel down a straightaway or take a corner at speed you know you couldn’t pull out of if things get hairy.

 

a beautiful scene of a gorgeous snowmobile trail in great condition

 

The Culprits Involved with Possibly Unsafe Snowmobiling Trail Conditions

 

There are a few things that are going to generally be what make your trails unsafe. Ice, water and ungroomed trails. But remember what G.I. Joe said, “knowing is half the battle”. Do your research before you head out and check your local trail reports. Your local trail report will have all of the information you need to determine where you need to go to ride safely.

 

ice can cause a snowmobile trail's conditions to be potentially very dangerous and unsafe

 

How Ice Affects Snowmobiling Trail Conditions

 

Snowmobilers fall through the ice every year. For some, it is fatal. This is why New Hampshire’s Fish and Game always advises that all ice-covered bodies of water should be considered potentially dangerous. We all know that you should check to see how thick ice is before you even consider riding on it. Follow NH’s lead; save yourself AND your snowmobile from the potential of falling through the ice.

But the problem with ice is that it is not completely uniform. Ice forms unevenly over the surface of the water. The thickness determined in one area of a lake or other body of water should not be taken to be completely indicative of the entire body of water. It could become paper thin at some points, and it’s going to spell disaster if you ride over it.

 

snowmobilers should be careful when riding near or on bodies of water, as they could be unsafe snowmobiling trail conditions

 

Water and Snowmobiling Trail Conditions

 

Water and ice seem to go hand in hand, and they do. But they can also be two completely different monsters. Water generally does not completely freeze in the winter as long as the body is large enough. When it’s covered in fresh snow and invisible to the naked eye, it can be extremely dangerous.

It is important to generally stick to snowmobile trails you know for this reason. Perhaps more importantly, its key to use trails that you know without snow, so take more hikes or rides on your favorite trails during the warmer season as well. It’s fun to go out into the wilderness and brace the elements. But that’s how you end up with your snowmobile in a ditch filled with water up to your waist that you didn’t know about.

Hypothermia is a very real danger that exists for snowmobile riders, so keep yourself safe, and know the signs. If you think you or someone else in your party might be suffering from hypothermia, it’s very important that you get that person to medical attention as quickly as possible.

 

ungroomed snowmobile trails can be fun, but if you are unfamiliar with an area, the trail condition could be bad

 

Ungroomed Snowmobile Trails

 

This is one that can apply even to trails that you know like the back of your hand. Trails of any kind, and especially snowmobiling trails, require grooming to keep them passable. If you’re from a region of extreme weather, you know how much this can affect the conditions of your favorite snowmobile trail.

Grooming can be as simple as flattening down a trail that people can easily identify. However, after rough weather, you might be dealing with a downed tree, dead animals, or anything else obstructing your path. This is why your speed is something you should always consider. We want to feel that rush when we’re going fast, but you can never know exactly what the condition coming down the trail and around the next turn will be.

When you keep your speed reasonable, you’re going to give yourself that extra time you need to react to the unexpected. So again, go ahead and check out those local trail reports before you get out there, but always keep your wits about you!

 

this rider is having a blast while snowmobiling on great trail conditions

 

The Risks and the Rewards of Various Snowmobile Trail Conditions

 

So there are some of the things that can make your snowmobile trail conditions dangerous, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. We don’t want to scare you away from your snowmobile forever (as if we could)… but keep these tips in mind to stay safe when you’re out on the trails.

The best ride is always going to be the one that gets you back home safely at the end of the day. If you want to discover some new snowmobile trails, check out our blog that features 25 of our favorites in the USA!

 

snowmobilers love the great outdoors and safe snowmobiling trail conditions


Snowmobile Repair Work You Can Do Yourself

snowmobile repair work that you can DIY makes you feel like this guy

Snowmobile Repair: Keep Your Sled in Good Condition Without the Mechanic Bills

 

Not every tiny setback with your snowmobile should have you running for the phone to call your local repair shop. In fact, in the middle of winter, you have to expect that your local shop is going to have a sizable backlog of snowmobile repair work on deck. So don’t let those long wait times deter you from taking care of your sled. In the long run, maintaining your snowmobile is going to take much less time, money and effort than repairing it will.

So before you let your sled break down, take a look at this list of snowmobile repair work that you can do for yourself at home.

 

Snowmobile repair work shouldn't keep you off the trails

 

Be Prepared to Take on Snowmobile Repair Work at Home

 

Before you get the toolbox out and have to deal with a pool of oil seeping across the garage, make sure you have the right knowledge for the job! Don’t start the work without your snowmobile’s correct repair manual. It’s going to tell you everything you need to know about making adjustments and handling regular maintenance or full-on repairs.

Also, when in doubt, check out YouTube! It’s a guarantee that you’re not the first person to experience whatever problem your sled has. It’s also a pretty safe bet that someone has taken the time to record themselves making that same snowmobile repair, or adjustment, and has uploaded their tutorial to YouTube. No matter how handy a person you are, it’s always good to have some reassurance that you’re making the right moves.

 

Before embarking on snowmobile repair work, so you can hit the trails like this guy, read through your manual.

 

Fluid Levels are Important

 

One of the most obvious things to do at home is the same thing you do with your car. Maintain those fluid levels. Regularly change your snowmobile’s oil according to the manufacturer guidelines. This is going to keep your sled happy and running healthy all season long. It will also minimize any snowmobile repair work you will need to tackle down the line.

You need to think about your chaincase oil, too. This also needs to be changed in with certain frequency and is every bit as important as your engine oil. Keep your drive train happy and healthy for a long time by following those helpful manufacturer guidelines.

Again, don’t go in blind if you don’t know what you’re doing! Check out trusted resources like this great tutorial on oil changes from snowmobile.com.

 

Keep on the trails like this guy and make sure your snowmobile repair work is minimized through regular maintenance

 

Adjust the Chain Tension

 

If you’re thinking about your chaincase oil, it’s probably a good idea to think about your chain tension as well. A loose chain is going to skip and possibly even grind on your sprockets. This can cause damage which is going to leave you in need of those professional snowmobile repairs.

Get Greasy!

 

Grease is the lifeblood of your snowmobile. Get some fresh grease in all the spots that need it: rear and front suspension, the steering components, and the drivetrain are all going to need it at certain intervals. Make sure to take a look around to see what it needs.

 

Snowmobile repair work can be done with basic tools like these wrenches.

 

Perform Regular Snowmobile Maintenance

 

Certain parts of your sled are going to wear down over time, like your bolts and fasteners. You also need to think about your clutches. Make sure to take regular looks at all of these components. Your clutches need to be cleaned periodically, and sometimes even rebuilt, but you’ll never know if you’re not keeping with a schedule. This might sound like a lot of work, but you’ll be breathing a sigh of relief when you don’t have to face those bills from the snowmobile repair shop.

 

Keep it Clean!

 

This might sound like a no-brainer, but we’ve all got that friend. The person with a sled that’s always covered in salt and mud and whatever else they’re picking up. While they might be going for that “battle-scarred” look, it’s not going to look as cool when their sled turns into a pile of corroded rust. You wouldn’t let your car go all winter without a trip to the car wash, so don’t submit your sled to that kind of torture!

 

Make an Inspection Schedule for Your Snowmobile

 

Some things don’t have specific end dates. Your hyfax and carbides are vital to the performance of your sled, but you can’t just say they need to be replaced every X amount of miles. Make a schedule for yourself to routinely check out the health of your hyfax and carbides.

Inspect your lights as well. Headlights and tail lights might not be something we typically think of as needing repairs, but it’s something your snowmobile needs in order to be safe. You don’t want to be riding home at sunset and find out that one or both of your headlights are out.

 

Is your snowmobile in need of repairs or are you taking care of things at home so you can ride like this guy?

 

Lots of Snowmobile Repair Work Can Be Done By You

 

With the right knowledge, there’s no need to take your snowmobile into the shop for professional hands (and professional bills) for every little thing. Not to mention the season is only so long, and you want your sled to spend as much time on the trails, and at as many snowmobiling events, as possible.

Some repairs and maintenance are easy enough to do at home. Save yourself some cash this season and take matters into your own hands!

Purchasing a Used Snowmobile: A Buyer’s Guide

The best used snowmobile is out there for you. You just need to find it!

Looking to Invest in the Best Used Snowmobile?

 

There are so many reasons to buy a used sled over a new one. Maybe you’re getting your kids their first ride. Maybe you’re looking for a beater when you want to go on those rough rides, or maybe you’re just on a budget.

No matter what the reason is for buying your snowmobile used, there are some important things to keep in mind before you write that check. Just like buying a pre-owned car, buying a pre-owned sled isn’t something you do without a little know how. And of course, you want to land the best used snowmobile possible.

 

Know Your Used Snowmobile Budget Ahead of Time

 

Obviously, you want to know how much money you have to throw around for this investment. Sleds aren’t cheap, especially if they’re some of the best used snowmobiles on the market. The most important thing to keep in mind is that the price of the sled isn’t the only thing to consider. Beyond what you’re shelling out for the snowmobile, you also need to think about what other costs might come up.

Think oil changes, spare parts, tune-ups. There are lots of little factors like this that can really add up if you’re not careful, even when it comes to landing the best used snowmobile for the price. Maybe you’re buying your used snowmobile as a project. In that case, you’re probably already thinking about these factors. But if you’re buying it to start riding this season, make sure you take some time to mull over those extra expenses. When you go to see your potential new, pre-owned snowmobile, try to get an idea of what those additional expenses are going to be and factor that into your budget.

 

The best used snowmobile depends on a lot of factors. Make sure you understand them all.

 

Unfortunately, there’s no real rule of thumb with these additional figures, but use your common sense with what you already know about snowmobiles and what it costs to repair them. If this is your first snowmobile, take a buddy with you who has an idea of what it might cost to get your sled in riding condition.

Consider becoming part of a snowmobile club to gain some additional knowledge (or even a buddy) on these costs. Not every snowmobile is the same, and widening your pool of knowledge will only be a good thing.

Explore Your Options When Searching for the Best Used Snowmobile for Your Style

 

How can you ensure you're buying the best used snowmobile for your needs?

 

Whether you want a Ski-Doo, Polaris, Arctic Cat, or any other kind of sled, just make sure you truly know what you want. Ask your friends what brands they like best, and more importantly, what brands they like least. Also, what do you want to use it for? Is this a mountain sled or a trail sled? Again, know what you want!

When you figure out what brand and/or what model you’re looking for, do some research on which one is considered the best used snowmobile and why. Read up on the brand’s website. Perhaps more importantly, check out a forum.

Online forums for snowmobiles are full of unsolicited opinions from people who just want to talk about what they like and what they don’t like. You should also consider making your own post, listing your budget and what you’re looking for in an ideal, used snowmobile.

Snowmobilers are a great group of people (and their snowmobiling memes prove it) who want to make sure you’re out there having fun. They don’t want you getting hosed by a snake oil salesman.

 

Take a Look at the Exterior of the Used Snowmobile

 

The best used snowmobile will make you feel like you received a huge value for your hard earned dollars.

 

What’s on the outside is usually pretty indicative of what’s on the inside. Take a look at the tunnel and the body for any bending or warping. Check out the skis. Are they worn or missing any carbides? Inspect the spindles for any looseness. Also, test that suspension. Don’t be afraid to get on top and shake it around a little bit. If it’s supposed to be the best used snowmobile out there, it can take it.

Lift the skid and rotate the track. Look out for worn lugs or clips and make sure the sliders are in good shape. Any of this can be fixed, but it’s all going to add to your budget, so the fewer problems the better.

If you don’t feel particularly confident in your ability to know where to look and what to look for, watch this quick video to get some ideas of where to start and what to do.

What’s Under That Hood?

 

The two people riding this used snowmobile made sure to do their due diligence before purchasing it.

 

Now comes the moment of truth. The way the engine and mechanics work should be your telltale sign of whether or not this sled is worth investing your time and money into. Give the engine and clutches a look for leaks. Also, check to see if they’re clean. If the engine looks dirty and not very well taken care of, this is a clue as to how well it was taken care of.

A great test is to just start her up. Let the engine run for 10 minutes or so and listen to how it sounds. It should rev evenly while it’s on. Peaks and valleys in the sounds are an indicator that the engine is going to need some work.

Look at the oil and keep your eye out for sludge. This is a sign that it’s been sitting a while, and again, a sign that it needs work. Also, inspect the rest of what you can see easily on the outside for mechanics and electric. Check that the gauges work and that the brakes are responsive and function properly. This is how you’re going to get a good idea of how much extra money you need in your budget, especially if you love the brand but the one you’re considering isn’t the best used snowmobile you’ve ever come across. Sometimes inventory can be tight when it comes to preowned sleds.

Most importantly, run a compression test and see for yourself how healthy that engine is.

Ask Questions!

 

You can bet this guy didn't buy his pre-owned snowmobile without asking a bunch of questions first.

 

This is the most crucial part of the process! You’re going to get vital information by asking questions from your seller.

 

Keep these questions in mind:

  • How many owners has this sled had?
  • Has it ever been in a wreck?
  • Where do you ride?
  • How many miles are on it?
  • When was the last oil change?
  • Was it transported on an open or closed trailer?
  • How has it been stored?
  • Are there any current problems with it?

 

While they don’t have carfax for snowmobiles, one thing you can do is to google the VIN number. It might not be able to tell you every detail, but you should be able to find out where it came from. If sleds are ever totaled, a lot of times they end up in an auction house, and a little bit of research should be able to tell you that much.

 

Shop Smarter When on the Hunt for the Best Used Snowmobile

 

No matter what your riding destinations or track lengths, the best used snowmobile is out there for you!

But don’t pay out every dime you own just to save yourself on the sticker price. There are used sleds out there that are more trouble than they’re worth. So keep these tips in mind when you’re out there looking for a new ride.

How Does Snowmobile Drag Racing on Asphalt Work?

icy highway where snowmobile drag racing might take place in the warmer months

Snowmobile Drag Racing on Asphalt Ensures that Sleds Don’t Have to Get Locked Away During the Summer 

 

Allow me to do my best Jay Leno impression… *AHEM* “So, uh… snowmobile drag racing… Have you seen this, have you heard about this? Snowmobile drag racing. Makes me think, maybe these people just need to buy a motorcycle.”

Taking your sled onto the asphalt for snowmobile drag racing is a trend that is gaining a lot of popularity across the country. So much so that you can find modified parts specifically for getting your snowmobile onto the drag strip. And when you hear that drag racing sleds can get up to 200 mph it’s easy to see why people like it so much.

We all know snowmobile riders have a need for speed. So it’s no wonder that people have been modifying their sleds so they can keep them running all year long, including snowmobile drag racing when snow isn’t required.

No more waiting for winter, it’s time to get to the strip!

 

these snowmobilers are racing on a winter track, but they also enjoy snowmobile drag racing on the asphalt

 

How Does Snowmobile Drag Racing Work?

 

You can just take your unmodified snowmobile and put it on the track and rip the throttle. You can also take your car and drive it into a lake. Neither one is particularly advisable. And I think we can all see how that might go a little haywire.

So what do you need to do to get your sled ready for the switch from snow to blacktop?

Well, it all starts with a little modification.

 

Snowmobile Drag Racing Mods

 

Tracks

 

The first thing you need to think about is your tracks. Asphalt tracks come in 15” tracks and 10 ⅝”, and while the smaller tracks are going to give you more speed, they require more extensive modification of your snowmobile if you’re planning on drag racing.

If this is a project you’re willing to put the time and money into, and if you are thinking about dedicating a specific sled to the asphalt, you can go with the smaller tracks.

On the other hand, if this is something you’re trying for the first time, the inexpensive route is always the best one. See how you like snowmobile drag racing as a sport in general, then think about making those bigger upgrades in the future.

The biggest difference between asphalt and snow tracks is how tight you’re going to make it. The asphalt track needs to be TIGHT. Honestly, there’s no such thing as “too tight” when you’re talking about asphalt tracks.

At high speeds, your track is going to balloon out, and if it is too loose, it’s going to start smacking the tunnel’s underside. This can happen when braking as well.

 

Rear Suspension

 

Your modifications to the rear suspension are going to be three-fold. The first step is to remove the sliders because they aren’t used in asphalt racing. Easy-peasy.

The next part is adding some wheels to prevent your rails from touching the track. There can be a lot of variability in how many wheels you need to add. It can depend on the model and track. Ultimately, you just don’t want your track touching anything when turning around the skid.

The last step is to limit your suspension by strapping it down. This is going to do a couple of important things for your snowmobile drag racing. It’s going to prevent your front end from coming up on acceleration.  It’s also going to make all of your accelerating momentum push you forward rather than up, thus increasing your ability to get moving.

 

this strip of asphalt would be excellent for snowmobile drag racing

 

Front Suspension and Skis

 

Are you ready for a little break from all the hard work? After-market skis are generally bolt-in for your snowmobile. No problems there.

Your front suspension is going to be modified just like your rear suspension. Just get that track to sit as flat as you can get it on the ground. Also, take some time to check your ski alignment. You want it pretty straight, and to be aligned parallel with the track. This is going to keep you moving straight as you’re taking off the line.

The NHRA, which actually governs snowmobile drag racing as well, requires snowmobile dragsters to have one inch of suspension travel.

 

Clutch and Gearing

 

Here’s where modifying your snowmobile takes a little more thinking. There is no real guideline for how you should adjust your clutch and gearing – it’s all pretty much based on what you’re comfortable with and how you feel your sled will run best.

One thing we can tell you is this: it’s not top performance that wins the race, it’s consistency.

 

Safety

 

This is always going to be your most important factor in racing, or just riding your snowmobile. If you don’t have a safety tether on your snowmobile, you’re definitely going to want to install one.

Always check on your brakes and brake pads. We’ve spent all this time thinking about going fast, so now we also need to think about what happens when the race is over.

If your sled is modified, be sure that you are in compliance with NHRA regulations. If your machine is going to be able to do a run in under 10 seconds, you’re also going to need a professional license. Beating 10 seconds might sound laughable, but it’s completely possible with the right sled and mods.

 

snowmobile drag racing on asphalt versus a motorcyclist

 

Time to Get your Snowmobile Drag Racing on the Asphalt

 

Once you’ve made the necessary mods, you can find tracks all over the country. Prepping your snowmobile for asphalt tracks can be a really fun project, and even more fun once you’re racing.

No longer are the snowmobilers quarantined to only having fun in the winter time! Get your Ski-Doo or Polaris into the garage and start modifying it this spring.

That way you can be out there in the summer heat making your opponent sweat extra hard!

What Do Motorcycle Video Games Get Wrong About Riders?

motorcycle video games aren't like this real life rider

Why Motorcycle Video Games Can’t Hold a Candle to the Real Deal

Every kid who owns an Xbox 360 or a PlayStation probably has a motorcycle video game. Even the older folks who remember spending summer afternoons in the arcades remember the Sega Manx TT Super Bike game. Leaning in and out of those curved tracks holds a special place in many peoples’ hearts.

But there’s nothing like actually swinging your leg over a bike and taking off down the highway. Motorcycle video games aren’t like the real deal. 

 

you cannot replicate riding a bike like this one when you're playing a motorcycle video game

 

A big reason why there’s nothing quite like it is that motorcycle video games still haven’t gotten it right. As far as technology and game developers’ ideas have come, they still can’t quite get the exact feeling for riding a real-life bike. So what are motorcycle video games and virtual reality missing when it comes to the real-time thrill of hitting the open road on two wheels?

Where Grand Theft Auto Falls Short as a Motorcycle Video Game

Just like with your favorite movies and tv shows, it’s hard to get all of the details right in a motorcycle video game. One reason why this happens is to make creating content a little bit easier by skipping some of the finer details. For example, when a lawyer watches Law and Order, they’re going to notice those details. The same can be said when a real gearhead plays a motorcycle video game. There are some parts of the experience that just don’t translate perfectly.

 

Would you rather be this rider in real life or play a motorcycle video game?

 

Countersteering

 

One of the more nuanced parts of riding is the concept of countersteering. For the non-riders out there, countersteering is how a rider turns their bike at higher speeds. It is the process of using your body weight to lean and steer the bike rather than turning your handlebars as you would at low speeds in order to change direction.

This is a more sophisticated use of physics and body language than many motorcycle video games are able to incorporate into their controls. It makes sense that this is something often left out.

Also, we need to consider that the majority of people in the world are not riders. Their perspective on steering comes from steering a car. The idea of countersteering just seems counterintuitive to most people. So, unfortunately, one of the subtle challenges and rewards of riding a bike rather than driving are left out of motorcycle video games.

For anyone unfamiliar with the concept, here’s a really simple youtube video that perfectly explains it.

 

Riders like this guy need to keep their heads straight and that nuance is left out of motorcycle video games

 

Keeping Your Head Straight

 

In addition to countersteering, another thing that people tend to notice about motorcycle video games is how the camera shifts when your character leans into a turn. You will always see the camera angle lean sideways into the turn along with the bike, which is something you would never do in real life.

Motorcycle video games seem to think that you’re just sitting stiff as a board on top of your bike. But what they aren’t taking into account is that this would completely throw off your balance. If your whole body is off-center, it’s really going to throw off your balance. When riding a real bike, you always keep your head pointing straight up to keep your sense of balance and direction.

 

when you're riding a bike like this racer, you have to consider many factors that motorcycle video games do not account for

 

Wheelies and Stoppies

 

This is one of the flashier parts of riding a bike, and it’s no wonder that most motorcycle video games that feature your favorite two-wheeled monster want to include it. Again, this is another thing that may seem so simple, but it’s actually really complex. There are so many small movements and corrections that your body and bike need to perform to make these moves work.

It’s definitely not as simple as just tilting your joystick back or holding your front brake in the game. But unless they make a game console you can straddle at home, it’s probably hard to make the concept come to life.

 

Riders like this guy need to be aware of actions that can lead to accidents, and this is not taken seriously in motorcycle video games

 

Accidents

 

Motorcycle accidents are no laughing matter, but it looks pretty ridiculous when you see the ragdoll motorcycle video game characters go spilling over their handlebars. Video games seem to believe that any minor bump or hop is going to send you 10 feet straight up in the air. In reality, a rider knows that they’ve got a much better grip on their bike.

You’re not going to go spilling into a ditch just from driving over a pebble. I’m not sure where the game developers got this one from, but it seems like they could’ve saved some time.

 

 

From PC to 600cc

 

In the days of yesteryear, it seems like movies like Easy Rider and Cool Hand Luke are the kinds of things that made kids want to get their motorcycle license. These days, that outlaw motorcycle image has begun to fade away from the public eye.

But what’s replacing the Cool Hand Luke’s of yesterday are the motorcycle video games of today. Virtual reality may not have hit the nail perfectly on the head, but as technology continues to develop faster than you can blink, we’re getting closer to a realistic virtual ride every day. We’re excited to see where virtual reality motorcycle experiences will take would be riders in the future.

 

motorcycle video games cannot replicate the real deal of poppin' a wheelie like this guy is doing