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Prepared for Your Ride

Riding Apparel

You need proper apparel and gear to ensure your snowmobile outing is safe and enjoyable. Make sure you dress in layers to be prepared for changing weather conditions which can vary greatly from when you start your trip to when you return. Wind chill factors experienced along with your moving snowmobile must also be managed to prevent potential effects from frostbite and hypothermia. Most importantly, always avoid cotton materials in all your clothing layers since cotton can get wet and freeze and does not wick moisture away from your body, drastically reducing your comfort and safety.

Under Layers and Snowmobile Suits

Under Layers


Layers of clothing you wear underneath your snowmobile suit are crucial to staying safe and feeling comfortable while riding. On cold days, layers can provide a barrier from cold, wind chill, and frostbite. If you have too many layers on you can always remove some during your trip, but if you don't put enough on before you start, you can't add more later.

The first layer should be a polyester or synthetic-blend long underwear bottom and top that allows your body to breathe. This layer should be lightweight and not tight or restrictive. A couple of light layers add better protection than one heavy layer. Cotton should never be worn as the first layer—or as any layer—since it does not wick moisture created by perspiration away from your body, does not dry quickly, and therefore stays wet and/or freezes. Polyester blends, silk, or other synthetic blends are recommended because they dry quicker and wick moisture away from the skin. Fleece, wool, or polyester tops and bottoms are the best choices while cotton sweatshirts, t-shirts, jeans, long underwear, and socks should never be worn.

Snowmobile Suits

Snowmobile suits are specially designed for warmth and comfort while riding. They generally consist of a jacket worn over a pair of insulated bibs or pants. The main purpose is to protect you from the cold, wind chill and frostbite. The outside shell of your apparel should be windproof and waterproof. Acrylic, Gore-Tex or other synthetic materials are the most popular fabrics used in snowmobile suits.

Do not wear cotton jackets, bibs or pants since they can become saturated with water from the snow and freeze. Ski apparel can sometimes be an acceptable substitute for a snowmobile suit as long as it is windproof and waterproof and fits loose enough to allow free movement when riding the snowmobile. Riders who regularly snowmobile on ice may want to consider special snowmobile suits equipped with a built-in approved floatation device.

Headgear, Facemasks, and Eye Protection



An approved helmet is a critical piece of headgear and should be worn at all times when riding a snowmobile. It can help keep you warm as well as protect you from serious head injuries in the event of a crash. Always ensure your helmet fits snugly and have the helmet's strap tightly fastened under the chin when you're riding to achieve full protection. A helmet should be replaced after being involved in a significant impact or after being used for a significant number of years since its ability to absorb impacts deteriorates over time.

Four basic types of helmets are commonly used by snowmobilers: Full face helmets are the warmest since they completely cover the face and provide a chin guard; they also have a full visor to protect your face and eyes from wind and cold. Open face helmets provide the same protection from head injuries but do not have a chin guard to help protect the face; they have a full visor that flips down to shield the eyes but allows wind to enter the helmet from below the visor. Modular helmets are the newest type of helmet; they combine full-face and open-face features giving riders ultimate protection along with greater visibility and flexibility for changing conditions. Motorcycle-style helmets provide protection from head injuries while allowing more ventilation and air flow in aggressive riding conditions; they require goggles to be worn since they typically do not have a built-in visor for eye protection


Facemasks can be important to have on very cold days to prevent frostbite. If your helmet is not full-faced, a facemask is a must. If not normally worn when riding, a facemask is always important to have stored in a pocket in case the weather becomes very cold. Balaclava facemasks made of thin polyester, silk, or other synthetic fabrics are lightweight, less bulky, more comfortable, and often preferred over knit stocking cap facemasks.


Eye Protection


Eye protection is essential and may include a helmet visor, goggles, and sunglasses. They protect the eyes from tree limbs, snow and ice kicked up from other snowmobiles, flying debris, as well as protect your eyes from watering from the wind and cold

Goggles, sunglasses, or visors with colored lenses for bright days are indispensable to prevent snow blindness. Amber, yellow, rose, blue or other colored lenses can be very useful during cloudy, late day, or other 'flat light' times by helping to reveal dangerous depressions in the snow. However, clear lenses are essential for riding after dark.

Gloves, Socks, and Boots


Proper gloves are an essential part of your riding gear. Your gloves should repel water and wind to help keep your hands warm. Gloves with a gauntlet which extends over the wrist, above the cuff of your jacket sleeve, provide an extra degree of wind protection. Fleece or wool glove liners, worn as a layer with regular gloves, can help adjust to colder or warmer weather since you can always add or remove the liners. Some choose mittens, which can be the warmest, to protect their hands. Always ensure that your gloves or mittens allow your hands to operate the snowmobile's controls freely. It's a good idea to always carry an extra dry pair with you to change if needed.



NEVER wear cotton socks! Good sock choices include thin nylon, polypropylene, fleece, wool, silk, or synthetic blends. Non-cotton socks are best for keeping a warm insulating layer on your feet since they help wick moisture away from your skin. When you feel your feet beginning to get cold it's time to change your socks, so always carry an extra pair with you to change when needed



Good winter boots are very important for making your outing enjoyable by keeping your feet warm, comfortable, and protected from snow and water. The best boots for snowmobiling use a combination of materials that includes a rubber, waterproof bottom with good lug sole for traction; a synthetic upper that fastens and is high enough to repel snow; and a breathable liner made of wool, fleece or synthetic material that wicks perspiration away from the foot. Be sure your boots do not let any water in, but also allow your feet to "breathe" or let out moisture. Choose boots that provide support and are comfortable for a long day of riding. They should fit well and not feel tight or restrictive since tight boots can cut off circulation and cause your feet to become cold more quickly. Always make sure the insides of your boots are completely dried-out between trips.

Gear to Pack

Personal Items

Create a kit of personal items that includes your driver's license, snowmobile safety certification card (if required by your jurisdiction), money, critical medications, insurance forms for vehicle, cell or satellite phone, water, high energy food, and any other items you deem important. This kit should be with you at all times.

Be sure to charge the batteries of your cell or satellite phone before you begin your trip and keep it warm, stored in an inside coat pocket, and either turned off or to airplane mode to help preserve the battery life. Cell phones and even satellite phones often do not work in remote areas where you may be snowmobiling, so don't rely on a phone as your only safety device. Always call 911 directly to request help or to report an emergency (versus calling anyone else first) since the 911 dispatch center can determine your exact location.


Safety Equipment

Always carry safety equipment on your snowmobile in case of an emergency. At a minimum this should include a compass and map, waterproof matches with a candle or fire starter, a flashlight with spare batteries, and an extra ignition key.

A GPS (global positioning system) or SPOT messenger unit can be helpful in emergency situations since it provides your exact location to emergency personnel. These units run on batteries, so be sure to check them before you ride, bring some spares with you, and keep them warm. It is helpful to review how the unit works before you ride so you are familiar enough to use it while dealing with the stress of an emergency.

A small shovel can be extremely helpful if you become stuck or stranded. Many shovels are small enough to store on your sled or to easily carry in a backpack. Always carry a shovel, along with a probe and avalanche beacon, when riding in avalanche prone areas.

A strobe light or flares may also be helpful in an emergency situation. Since strobes run on batteries, always bring extra and keep them warm so you can keep the strobe operational until emergency personnel arrive. If using flares, be sure to follow instructions to avoid injury.

Ice picks fastened to a cord should be carried by snowmobilers if traveling on frozen lakes and rivers. The cord from each pick should be threaded through the sleeves of your jacket, out of the way of your hands until they are needed. If you happen to fall through the ice, the picks will be right at your wrists covered by your jacket sleeves. By jamming the pointed end of the pick down in the ice, the pick will anchor you and allow you to pull your body back onto the ice.

Pack a tool kit for snowmobile maintenance.



Snowmobile manufacturers generally include a basic tool kit inside each snowmobile's hood or under its seat that includes a spark plug wrench, other wrenches for common adjustments, flathead and Phillips drive screwdrivers, and a strap for emergency starting 2-stroke snowmobiles with a recoil start. These tools should always remain with the snowmobile.

Always ensure there are spare spark plugs and a spare drive belt with the snowmobile at all times in the event of failure. Also consider adding a knife, pliers/side cutters, adjustable wrench, electrical or duct tape, rags, bungee cords, and a tow rope to the basic tool kit to help perform general on-trail repairs and maintenance.

Emergency First Aid Kit

A first aid kit should always be carried with you on your trip. This kit should include a variety of items necessary to assist in an emergency. There are a number of good first aid kits available commercially that are compact enough to easily be carried on a snowmobile or in a backpack. Otherwise you can build your own custom kit that should include, but not be limited to bandages, 2-inch compresses, 4-inch compresses, a roll of 2-inch gauze, a roll of 1-inch adhesive tape, a thermal/space blanket, knife or scissors, alcohol wipes, and antibiotic ointment. All items should be stored in a waterproof container; do not include liquids that could freeze.

It is highly recommended that you take a certified first aid and CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation) course to aid you in case of an emergency. Always be aware of the dangers of frostbite while snowmobiling; take precautions to prevent it by always keeping skin covered.

Planning Your Snowmobiling Trip

Where you will ride:

Before you start riding, decide the routes and trails you will be riding. Create a plan using detailed maps for the planned riding area

How long you will ride:

When choosing a trail with the maps, always consider how long you want to ride. Determine the time period by the maps and, if possible, an experienced rider's judgment. Take into account passengers or other riders, gasoline/supplies, and added time for stopping and enjoying sights along the trail.

Who you will ride with:

When riding snowmobiles, always ride in a group or use the buddy system, preferably a buddy who will stay with you throughout your journey and not leave you behind. If you are new, ride with someone who is experienced, patient, and willing to help you learn the proper way to snowmobile. If you are riding in a group, choose a group of riders with equal or better riding experience, or a group of riders who will be considerate of your abilities.

Who you will ride with:

When riding snowmobiles, always ride in a group or use the buddy system, preferably a buddy who will stay with you throughout your journey and not leave you behind. If you are new, ride with someone who is experienced, patient, and willing to help you learn the proper way to snowmobile. If you are riding in a group, choose a group of riders with equal or better riding experience, or a group of riders who will be considerate of your abilities.

Notify someone of your plans:

Before you begin your trip, make sure someone reliable knows where you plan to go, whom you are going with, when you are leaving, and when you will return. If the trip involves an overnight stay, include information on where you will be staying and contact numbers. This is most important since time becomes critical in the event of an accident or an emergency.


You should perform a full check of your machine prior to your first outing of the year to ensure everything is in proper working order. A certified mechanic should fix any items you find that might need repair before the season starts

Items to check include:

  • Air Intake: make sure nothing has clogged your intake

  • Throttle: squeeze the throttle and make sure it moves freely

  • Brake: squeeze the brake lever to ensure it works properly and does not go all the way to the handlebar grip

  • Track: ensure proper tension adjustments

  • Idler or bogie wheels: check to ensure they turn freely

  • Slide rail/high-fax: check for wear

  • Skis: check for proper alignment

  • Wear bars and carbides on skis: check for wear

  • Lights: check bulbs and connections

  • Injection oil mix on 2-strokes or oil level on 4-strokes: check level and quality

  • Gear oil level: check level and quality

  • Spark plugs: check color and condition

  • Drive belt: check for wear

Every Snowmobile Outing

Before you start your snowmobile, check the following:

  • Weather forecast: your clothing (to ensure appropriate clothing for weather) and the wind chill factor

  • Throttle: it should freely return to the idle or closed position

  • Snowmobile: it should be positioned in a clear space free of people or objects

  • Fuel and oil levels

  • Ski assemblies and rods

  • Drive belt

  • General mechanical conditions

  • Handlebars (they should turn both ways)

  • Emergency kit

  • Personal items kit

  • Safety equipment

Before you begin your ride, check the following:

  • Brakes: they should operate freely and smoothly

  • Track: ensure it is free and not frozen down

  • Skis: ensure they are free and not frozen down

  • Headlight and taillight

  • Emergency switch

  • Idle: (slowly run your machine for at least 60 seconds or more to allow the engine time to warm up)

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