Riding a snowmobile is one of the most exciting experiences you can have in the snow. If you’ve never been on one before, it can be a little intimidating, but I promise you it’s not that hard to figure out.
I’m Chaz, and I love snowmobiling and everything about these machines. I’ve been riding since I was a kid and have learned a thing or two over the years about how to drive, repair, and enjoy all sorts of sleds.
In this post, I will give you some basic tips and advice on how to ride a snowmobile.
Nothing too technical, just enough to get you started.
Hop on your sled, and let’s get to it!
Table of Contents
Before you ever even sit on a snowmobile, you need to keep a few important safety considerations in mind. Every new rider needs to know and understand that these machines can be dangerous – and so can winter conditions in general.
Always wear a helmet and enough cold-weather clothing to keep you warm and comfortable when you ride. A helmet is a critical safety item that can save your life. The proper clothing is essential to prevent hypothermia and frostbite.
It’s always best to ride with someone else and never go out alone, especially if you are new to snowmobiling. Getting lost or tipping a sled is possible, and another person provides added safety.
Also, you need to educate yourself about avalanche safety and some other general winter safety skills before you go. Knowing how to avoid potentially dangerous situations is critical.
Balance and Comfort
The first step to riding a snowmobile is hopping on the sled. There’s not much to this; you simply throw your legs over either side of the seat and get comfortable.
Stay balanced with your feet stable and secure on the machine’s rails. Put your hands on the handlebars and make sure you aren’t sitting too far back or too far forward.
Do all of this before you even start the engine. You will also want to make sure there aren’t any clothing items or points of discomfort on your sled before you drive because you don’t want to adjust things at speed.
Good balance is a critical first step to riding and might take some time to get perfect. Everyone sits a little differently or has a different center of gravity. Remember to take a few seconds to find your center before you fire up and hit the throttle.
Throttle and Turning
After you feel comfortable and ready, turn the ignition to fire up the engine. Then you want to hit the throttle and get after it.
A good tip to keep in mind if it’s your first time is to commit to throttling up and acceleration. If you’re timid (which is natural), the sled will feel bouncy and be difficult to control.
This doesn’t mean you need to go really fast. It just means you should maintain a steady amount of speed as you hit the throttle. Too much gas is better than not enough but make sure to test this out on a flat open area before heading into the trees or up steep slopes.
Throttle control can take a long time to get perfect, and every sled will have a different feel. Don’t get upset if you are jumpy at first. Just be patient, and your skills will improve.
Once you get going, driving a snowmobile is pretty intuitive. You simply turn the handlebars in the direction you want your sled to turn in a similar way to riding a bike.
If you can anticipate your turns, it will help you stay balanced and in control. This means that you should lean into or against a turn to use the weight of the sled and your body to navigate. I’ll talk more about leaning and counter steering in the next section.
Learning how to combine throttle use and turning is another critical aspect of riding a snowmobile. You won’t want to be at full throttle when making big turns because you could flip your sled. And you might need to hit the gas hard to make a tricky maneuver in a tight space.
Experience is the best teacher of these skills. Just remember to be more aggressive than timid with the throttle, and this will help you steer.
Once you get the hang of the basics, there are a few more advanced tips that can help you ride better.
Counter steering and leaning are two tips that can help you navigate different conditions and terrain. These are also intuitive once you get the hang of them.
When you are on a steeper slope or making fast maneuvers on any angle of incline, your sled will have a natural tendency to roll in the downhill direction. That’s gravity compounded by the force of movement.
If you don’t counterbalance this momentum, you can roll the sled and get injured or stuck. So you can counter-steer the handlebars and lean your body in the uphill direction to balance out your machine and avoid rolling.
This is good to practice at slower speeds to get a basic feel for it, but when you’re actually in a situation where you need to use these advanced maneuvers, higher speeds, and more throttle are again your friends.
Standing up is another advanced technique that can help you navigate certain situations and offset any balancing issues. This skill is easy to practice on flat, open terrain. All you need to do is stand up on your sled. Just make sure to keep your hands on the handlebars at all times!
Putting It All Together
Riding a snowmobile is easy and fun. But doing it safely or navigating more complicated conditions can take a while to master. The best way to improve your riding is to go out there and get after it; just always remember to put safety first.
The biggest tips for new riders (safety first still) are practicing throttle control and balance. These two factors work with one another to keep you in control at all times.
Do you have any tips for riders to learn or improve the skills on a snowmobile? Let us know in the comments below!About Chaz Wyland