Riding a snowmobile looks simple enough, but there are techniques you should know when it comes to riding in certain areas. Riding uphill and going downhill are different and you will want to turn in a certain way as well. These tips are great for beginners who do not yet have a feel for their snowmobile, but they are also good reminders for those who have been on a snowmobile many times.
When you are going up a hill, get into the kneeling position and lean uphill. You will increase the throttle in order to maintain your speed. When the snow is deep, you will need more speed. Don’t stop your momentum until you get to the top of the hill. If you stop moving forward, you may not be able to get going again.
Stay in a sitting position and situate yourself as far back on the seat as you can. Prepare yourself to stop at any time. Losing control going downhill is very dangerous. Put the snowmobile in a low gear to keep the speed slow and don’t release the clutch. Pump the brake every few seconds to slow yourself in case you need to stop. Braking hard and fast can cause an out of control slide. If you’re at the top of the hill and other vehicles are headed up toward you, let them finish their climb before you go down.
You will want to be in the kneeling position and move over to the uphill portion of the seat so you can lean uphill. Watch the type of snow you are riding on. Hard packed snow can cause slides so try to hit loosely packed areas.
Leaning into a turn will give you more control in the turn. Place some of your body weight forward and into the turn to take the load off the outside ski and put it on the inside ski. This will keep the turning ski deeper into the snow, which gives it more bite and less likelihood of sliding.
When you need to stop on a trail with other riders present, stop gradually and pull over as far to the right as you can. When you get off your vehicle, get off on the right side. Try not to stop on a curve or hill if at all possible.
If your trail leads you to a road and you need to cross, make sure you have good visibility in either direction. Stop on the shoulder of the road so you can look both ways. Yield to any traffic on the road and drive slowly when you cross. The snow on the road might be different than that on the trail and could cause your snowmobile to react in a unique manner. If you are in a group, have someone act as a crossing guard who watched for traffic and can direct the riders across.
Before you take on any of the hills or turns, it is a good idea to practice the different riding positions. The Seated Position is where you will spend most time. You are simply sitting on the vehicle with your feet on the foot wells. In the Kneeling Position, you will be half standing with one knee on the seat so you can more easily shift your body weight around. The Standing Position requires both feet on the foot wells and you will be standing up instead of sitting. The Posting Position is like a squat. You are partially sitting and partially standing so you can lean your body weight one way or another and get over bumpy terrain in more comfort.
These basic techniques are a good place for beginners to start as they take on snowmobile riding this winter. They are also a good reminder for seasoned riders who sometimes get stuck in a rut and forget some of the safety elements that go along with good riding.