Michiganders all know that with lakes surrounding us on all sides that there’s almost just as many winter recreational activities as there are summer ones. Ever since our last snowstorm, people have been starting to plan for those snow-filled activities, including snowmobiling. Here’s a few safety tips to keep in mind before we get the next round of snowfall and you start thinking about hitting the trails!
Take a Safety Course
Anyone with a driver’s license (unless that person’s license is suspended) can legally drive a snowmobile in Michigan. Youths over the age of 12 and under the age of 17 years old are required by the State of Michigan to take a snowmobile education course if they wish to ride (and must be supervised by an adult 21 years or older), which is available to sign up for on www.snowmobile-ed.com/Michigan though riders of all ages are encouraged to sign up for this course, which instructs how to ride safely and responsible, teaches the rules, and offers riding techniques to help operate the snowmobile and to avoid hazards.
Wear Protective Gear and Appropriate Clothes
Wearing a snowmobile suit, which consists of a jacket and insulated bibs, helps you stay warm and dry during the ride and makes it more enjoyable and safer. Be sure to check the weather forecast and dress in layers underneath the suit accordingly. Avoid dressing in cotton, which can freeze when it’s wet, and opt for polyester blends which wick moisture away from your body. Wear goggles or a face shield if you do not have a full-faced helmet, and always opt for a DOT-approved helmet, which not only protects your head from injury, but also helps keep you warm. Make sure any children riders have a helmet that fits them properly.
Avoid Riding Alone
Bringing along a buddy or riding in a group is not only fun, but also a lot safer. If your snowmobile breaks down or you get into an accident, having someone there who can help you can be lifesaving. It’s recommended to also tell a family member or a friend about where you’re going, just in case you get stranded, as cell phones don’t always work in more remote locations.
Stay on the Trail and Stay Alert!
Keeping on marked trails is safer, as they have been prepared for snowmobile riders and are less likely to have hazards. It’s important to be aware of your surroundings and to keep an eye out for potential hazards on the path, such as fallen trees, barbed wire fences, rocks, animals, snow banks, ditches, and other people, whether they be riding on snowmobiles, hiking, or skiing.
Riders are encouraged to bring along a first-aid kit, an emergency kit, and a repair kit when they’re on the trails. Some tips on what to keep in your kits:
First Aid: bandages, hand sanitizer, gauze, disinfecting wipes, band-aids, adhesive tape
Emergency Kit: Compass, local map, blanket, water, waterproof matches, snacks, knife, flashlight
Repair Kit: spare belt, spark plugs, tools, pry bar, duct tape, rope
Don’t Drink and Drive!
Same with operating any vehicle, it is against the law to be under the influence of alcohol (and drugs) while you’re riding your snowmobile. Driving while impaired can lead to delayed reactions and reckless driving, which can cause accidents.