Snowmobiles are used by many Canadians for both transportation and recreation. Although they can be fun, it is important for people who use snowmobiles to be aware of some of the risks that they involve. In Canada, snowmobiling is associated with the highest rate of serious injury of any popular winter sport. It is also an activity in which younger people are more likely to be the victims. The popularity of snowmobiles has increased along with their size and speed. The Canadian Paediatric Society does not recommend the recreational operation of snowmobiles by persons younger than 16 years of age. Snowmobiles should not be used to tow anyone on a tube, tire, sled or saucer. Follow these safety tips to help make your snowmobiling experience as safe and as fun as possible!
1. Dress Right! High speeds, cold temperatures, and strong winds can make for a very cold ride! This can put you at risk for frostbite and hypothermia. Remember to wear the proper clothing to keep you warm and dry.
Wear a snowsuit, mittens, boots, hat, and a helmet with a face shield. A proper helmet will reduce your risk of head injury and will protect you skin from the wind and flying debris.
Check the labels in your winter gear. Jackets, hats, pants, mitts, and boots should all be made for wearing in cold temperatures and should be both water and wind resistant!
Dress in layers so that you can add or remove clothes if necessary.
Wear fabrics that are breathable and that will help to keep you from sweating. Sweatshirts and other clothing made from cotton are not recommended because they will retain moisture. That means if you get sweaty or wet, the moisture will be right against your skin. This is dangerous as it can lead to hypothermia.
If you plan on crossing over frozen lakes or ponds it is a good idea to wear a buoyant snowsuit. A buoyant snowsuit will help to keep you afloat should you fall through the ice into the water. It will also help to protect against hypothermia. Make sure that your suit has reflective trim that can be easily seen in the dark so that other riders can see you.
2. Be Prepared! When out in the wilderness far from home, anything can happen. Make sure that you are prepared in case of an emergency such as your snowmobile breaking down, or getting lost. Carry emergency kits and repair kits just in case! Your emergency kit should contain:
- First aid kit
- Sun block (internal link to sun safety)
- Sharp knife
- Waterproof matches, or lighter
- Aluminized blanket
- High energy snacks such as power bars
- Extra clothing/socks/mitts
Your repair kit should contain:
- Spare belt
- Spare spark plugs
- Manufacturer's tool kit
- Extra wrenches
- Nuts and bolts sized for your sled
- Tow rope
- Pry bar
- Duct tape
- Extra ignition key
- Work gloves
3. Stick to marked trails. It can be easy to get lost or to find yourself in unsafe riding conditions.
4. Check the weather before you leave. You do not want to find yourself in the middle of a snowstorm when you are miles away from home!
5. Don't Drink and Ride! Did you know…?
Alcohol is involved in over 70% of snowmobiling injuries.
Alcohol can actually increase your risk of getting hypothermia.
Drinking while riding is punishable under the Criminal Code of Canada. If convicted you could loose all driving privileges, including your car, truck, motorcycle, off-road vehicle, and snowmobile.
Snowmobiling requires concentration and coordination. Don't let your judgement be impaired by consuming alcohol!
The Canadian Council of Snowmobile Organizations
The CCSO is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing leadership and support to organized snowmobiling in Canada. Their website offers users information on snowmobiling safety and Canadian trails. It also gives information on their Safe Rider's program which stresses personal responsibility for safety.
The Ontario Federation of Snowmobiling Clubs
The OFSC is a non-profit organization, which works to promote snowmobiling and snowmobiling safety on a provincial level. Their website provides users with information on trails, safety, and riding clubs and events. It also provides links to other snowmobiling sites.
Adapted from the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs