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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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!
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!