With an abundance of snow every year for months on end, Sault Ste. Marie is considered a snowmobiler’s paradise. There’s nothing better than the feeling of zipping over packed snow on the trails or floating through fresh powder in the backcountry. Whether this is your first season on a sled or you have enjoyed the sport for years, it never hurts to review some safety rules. We encourage you to take a look at our quick guide and keep yourself safe out on the snow.
Prepare to Ride
Before you hit the trails, take some time to get all of your documents and equipment in order. Check to see if you need any special permits or permission for the areas you plan on riding and make sure your familar with the Snowmobile Act. Take a look at your owner’s manual to see if your machine is in working order and contact a repair shop if something seems wrong. Once you head out, be sure to have your snowmobile registration, proof of insurance, and driver’s license readily available. The Chamber of Commerce provides some more information about permits and trails for those planning to ride in the Sault Ste. Marie area.
Consider Taking Safety Training Course
Regardless of if you’re a rookie or a seasoned driver, anyone can benefit from a snowmobile operators course. According to the Canadian Safety Council, a safety course is seven to eight hours long and taught by instructors that the organization has certified. Drivers learn the following during the course:
- Making safe turns
- Reading the terrain
- Climbing hills
- Snowmobile controls
- Respecting the capabilities and limitations of your machine
- Local laws
- Courtesy of other drivers and riders
- Practicing good judgment
- Understanding different operating conditions
In most provinces, safety courses are mandatory for young riders (ages 10 to 15) if they intend to ride off their parents’ property. Make sure your children are properly trained before they get out and ride.
Update: It was announced in September 2018 that snowmobile safety training will be made available online. Online training was in high demand so this will give many snowmobilers a convenient way to get the training they need.
Dress for Survival and Safety
You and your passengers should always wear a full-face helmet. Additionally, be sure to dress in layers to keep yourself dry and warm. The best way to repel water and ensure that you stay ventilated is to wear gear that includes a snowmobile suit, bib, winter jacket, and gloves that shut out the wind. You can always remove a layer of clothing if you get too warm, but you risk hypothermia and other cold-weather health conditions by not dressing warmly enough. Always bring a cellphone in case you need to call for help, and make sure the batteries are fully charged before you hit the trails.
Watch Your Speed and Stay to the Right
Speed is the leading cause of crashes between snowmobilers, or between a single driver and an object. This is especially true when the accident occurs at night. Obey any speed limitations posted near where you operate your snowmobile and try not to exceed 65 kilometres per hour at night.
Most snowmobile trails are two-way. To stay safe, stay as far to the right of the trail as you can. This is even more important when driving on hills and turning corners. If you must cross a road traveled by cars, do it slowly and use extreme caution. You may want to consider wearing reflective clothing to ensure that other drivers see you.
Enlist a Fellow Snowmobiler to Ride with You
It’s generally not a safe practice to go snowmobiling by yourself. Your machine could fail and leave you stranded many miles from home. By riding with a friend, you can leave your machine and have him or her drive you to get help.
Avoid Driving on Lakes and Rivers
It’s impossible to know ahead of time if the lake or river you want to drive over can sustain your weight and that of your machine. The ice likely is thick enough now, but it’s not a chance worth taking if you don’t have to. Sault Ste. Marie and the surrounding area have many bodies of water, so if you must drive over a frozen lake or river, consider putting a life jacket on over your other gear for extra safety.
Don’t Drink and Ride
The Canadian Safety Council states that alcohol is a factor in nearly three-quarters of fatal snowmobile accidents. It’s easy to understand why when you consider that reaction time and visibility are negatively affected by alcohol and this can seriously impact how you control your sled. Not only is drinking and driving while operating a snowmobile unsafe, it could get you into significant legal trouble.
Get Snowmobile Insurance for Added Peace of Mind
Snowmobiling is supposed to be fun, but worrying about your safety and possible financial loss in case of an accident can take away from your enjoyment. Purchasing an insurance policy for snowmobile and including all potential drivers is the best way to ensure that you can enjoy the snowmobile season.
Just by following these simple tips, you can make sure that you stay safe on your snowmobile this winter. It always pays to be prepared.