Simple snowmobile safety tips for the first ride of the season

You’re at the parking lot, unloaded and ready to ride, but before you hit the trail for the first time this year, be sure to check these things off your list

by Trish Drinkle

A man sitting on his snowmobile.
Early season riding reawakens excitement for the adventures to come, as well as muscles that may have been dormant during the summer months. Trish Drinkle photo

When you are out of practice, it is easy to forget the simple stuff that becomes second nature mid-season. With that in mind, here is a parking lot checklist to help make your first ride a success:

  • Gas is kind of a no-brainer, but be sure to replenish and top up all fluids—including oil, diamond drive and chain case oil and coolant before you head out. Inspect your drive belt and make sure you have an extra belt and spark plugs with you. Turn your transceiver to Search.
  • Turn your communication devices on.
  • Unzip your avalanche airbag handle so it is ready for use.
  • Do a transceiver check for everyone in your group. It’s easy for a rider to forget to turn on their transceiver when out of practice.
  • Put scratchers down for the trail (and up if you plan on backing up and are using traditional one-way scratchers). If your machine has a temperature setting, it’s wise to keep an eye on the gauge while you’re on the trail to make sure you are not overheating. No one wants a season cut short from a blown motor.

Early season riding tips

  • Maintain good group communication and remember the basic rules of the trail. Intermittently watch for the rider behind you to make sure no one is left behind and stop at all intersections and wait for your entire group before continuing on your adventure.
  • Although you’ve waited all summer and fall for this moment, be wary of land mines, including rocks and stumps. It may look like a blanket of white untouched snow, but if there is a bump in the canvas, it most likely is a stump or a rock. Take nothing for granted. You’re A-arms will thank you for it.
  • Stay hydrated and stretch before heading out. Many of the muscles you use are unique to snowmobiling and unprepared for an abrupt awakening. You will be sore after the first ride, and simple tasks—such as brushing your teeth and opening a jar of pickles—may have you screaming in pain. The pain is worth it, but there are ways to minimize muscle soreness and expedite muscle recovery. Ice the sore spots after your first ride. If you’ve encountered bruising from an unplanned manoeuvre or an up-close-and-personal encounter with a tree, ice and arnica cream is helpful.  Protein in the form of food or supplement two hours after your ride or before you sleep will help expedite muscle repair and recovery. Massage and heat in the days after your ride can bring euphoric release. If you are unable to see a massage therapist, or con your loved ones into massaging you, a foam roller can be equally relieving. You may feel like crawling into a hole and calling it a day, but that will only make matters worse. Move it! Move around and partake in moderate exercise to promote circulation, which stimulates healing.
  • Make note of anything you forgot on your first ride out so you can be even better prepared for all of the snow slaying to come! 

For other safety tips, see the article First Ride of the Snowmobiling Season—How to Make it a Success.

A man in a green Motorfist onesie holiding a saw.
Items like saws and multi tools may need to be returned to your snowmobile if they were used during the ATV and dirt bike season. Pictured here is Kevan Drinkle with a Franken sled saw. Trish Drinkle photo

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