Snowmobiling is one of the most recreational winter activities that Wisconsin offers. The trails are beautiful, and snowmobiles are a useful means of transportation for other cold weather pursuits, like ice fishing. Whether you’re an experienced rider or new to this fun pastime, safety is key to having the best ride possible.
Before hitting the trails, consider these six snowmobile safety tips:
- Drive sober – Alcohol is a leading contributor to snowmobiling deaths in Wisconsin according to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Even small amounts of alcohol can worsen perception, reaction time and judgement. The best way to avoid an alcohol-related crash is to be 100% alcohol-free until you’re done snowmobiling for the day.
- Stick to the speed limit– Obeying speed limit signs will help ensure you don’t overdrive or put yourself and others at risk. If you’re unsure of the speed limit in an area, drive slow enough to see an object in time to avoid a collision. This speed will differ given trail conditions, weather and the number of other riders around you. Don’t be shy about asking other snowmobilers or DNR wardens about the proper speed for a trail or area as well.
- Follow trail markings– Snowmobile trail signs help regulate the flow of traffic and alert drivers of potential hazards and crossings. Common signs include orange diamonds, which indicate a designated snowmobile trail, stop signs, stop ahead, slow, hazard and directional arrows. In addition to minding signage, when snowmobiling in unfamiliar surroundings be sure to ride with people who know the area. It’s fun to snowmobile with others, and safer.
- Dress appropriately– As with every winter activity, it’s important to dress for the elements. Snow, ice, wind and extreme cold make snowmobiling a particularly hazardous sport. To make sure your wardrobe is properly equipped, let’s start from the top down:
- Helmet: Always, always wear a helmet even if your destination is just next door. In addition to protecting you from head trauma, helmets also combat the increased wind, cold and moisture. In addition to your helmet’s visor or face shield, UV-protected goggles or sunglasses can help protect you from snow blindness, which occurs when the sun hits the snow and creates an extreme glare.
- Snowmobile suit: For frequent riders, snowmobile suits can be a smart investment. These suits are made of high-quality fabrics and are often water and wind proof. For those who plan to drive on ice, consider a buoyant snowmobile suit and carry a set of picks for added protection just in case you fall through.
- Clothing: If you prefer to wear street clothes instead of a snowmobile suit, make sure your outer clothing has a reflective trim on the arms and back so others can see you at night and in poor weather. Wearing layers is crucial to preventing frostbite and hypothermia and will keep you most comfortable. Go with fabrics that release moisture and retain heat, like polypropylene and thermal layers, not cottons.
- Mittens/gloves: Mittens tend to be warmer than gloves, but gloves offer more dexterity. Whichever you choose—before getting on the sled, check that they fit properly and that the lining is in good shape.
- Boots: The best boots for snowmobiling are waterproof, tall enough to repel snow from your ankles and feet, and have removable liners. Make sure your feet (with socks on) fit loosely within your boots for good circulation, which can help prevent frostbite.
- Prepare for breakdowns – In Wisconsin, snowmobile trails can lead to some pretty remote areas, so it’s wise to be prepared for the worst–case scenario—a breakdown or accident. Take a page from boater safety and leave a “snow plan” with family or friends. This should include a description of your machine, planned route and estimated arrival time so if something goes awry, a search party can be organized quickly. It’s also smart to carry an emergency kit, especially on long rides, that includes extra clothing, socks, gloves or mitts, spark plugs, toolkit, tow rope, pry bar, and wrenches, nuts and bolts sized for your sled. Carrying a cell phone with GPS location on is always a good idea, but remember, the signal may be affected by poor service or prolonged exposure to cold or moisture.
- Keep your sled in mint condition– Regular maintenance will lower your chances of breakdown. To keep your sled in top shape, refer to your owner’s manual, the dealer you purchased the sled from and/or local snowmobile clubs or associations.
Snowmobile insurance provides additional protection for you and your sled. Rural Mutual offers this type of financial coverage as an add-on to most homeowners’ policies.
If you’re excited to hit the trails this winter and have questions about snowmobile coverage, contact your local Rural Mutual agent.
The information provided in external website links is for general informational purposes only and does not form any recommendation or warranty by Rural Mutual Insurance Company or its affiliates.