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Snowmobile stories: Staying safe in the snow

Snowmobile and rider on wide open trail in hilly area.

There's something uniquely exhilarating about snowmobiling. The excitement of speeding through snowy landscapes makes the freezing cold winter weather barely noticeable. All that matters is the powerful machine that roars beneath you and the wildly fierce rush of adrenaline within you.

When I was a kid, I craved this experience. A friend of mine had a small youth snowmobile, but at the time it seemed like a monster of a machine. We would take turns going on joy rides, exploring nearby trails and doing loops around his house. Eventually he would grow tired of riding and head in to warm up and watch movies, but I would refuse to quit. I felt as if I had found the source of ultimate thrills, so I would often continue to ride until it was time to go home.

One day in the beginning of winter I went to my friend's house, eager to go on the first snowmobile ride of the year. It had been a while since I had last ridden there so I couldn't quite remember all of the ins and outs of the riding area, but that didn't stop me. When it was my turn to ride, I jumped onto the snowmobile and darted into the night. I was having a blast, but it didn't last long.

On my way to the first trail, I completely forgot to avoid a seven foot drop-off that would have been easier to notice were it not for the deep snow. I barreled over the ledge and for a brief moment I was airborne before crashing into the snowbank below. Thankfully, I wasn't injured. I got up and looked around to ensure my friend hadn't seen my embarrassing crash. I sighed with relief when I realized he hadn't and I vowed to myself to never make the same mistake again.

This experience taught me the importance of snowmobile safety. To help make sure you don't make the same mistakes I did, here are five ways you can stay safe and warm during your snowmobiling adventures:

  1. Be familiar with the area.

    Before riding, take some time to learn about your location. Identify potential hazards like frozen lakes, fallen trees, rocks, and other objects hidden beneath the snow.

  2. Maximize visibility.

    Heavy snowfall can greatly decrease visibility, especially at night. Wear glasses or goggles and make sure that your headlights are functioning. Remember that the headlights of other riders can be blinding, so always drive cautiously at night.

  3. Dress to stay warm and dry.

    A helmet, mask, jacket, gloves, boots and tall socks are necessary for spending hours outside. Be strategic and find gear that is water and wind proof, and avoid cotton and other clothing materials that retain moisture.

  4. Carry a repair kit and other gear.

    Be prepared for the unexpected with a kit that contains spark plugs, tow rope and other tools. A cell phone and first aid kit are also essential, and a flashlight, map, and extra pairs of socks and gloves may come in handy.

  5. Go out with other riders.

    Don't be a lone wolf. You're always safer sharing the experience with other experienced riders. Before heading out, it's always important to let friends or family know where you are going, how long you expect to be out, and anything else you're planning.

Don't let carelessness and unpreparedness ruin your fun this winter. Putting these tips into practice will help you to be prepared, prevent accidents, and make the most of your snowmobiling experience!

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