At Canadian Wilderness Adventures, we know a lot about snowmobiles and everything else that goes with this incredible sport. If you’re interested in snowmobiling but are just starting out, we’d like to share a few tips and tricks to help you get the most out of your learning experience.
From wearing the right clothing to knowing the trail signs – understanding the basics of snowmobile safety before you go will set you up for success so you can get out and explore the trails safely and confidently.
Keep reading for our top 6 Tips for Beginner Snowmobilers.
1. Book a Guided Snowmobile Tour
If you’re interested in snowmobiling but have no previous experience, we recommend booking a guided tour to learn some of the core basics. Things like speed management and how to operate the snowmobile in varying terrain are better learned hands-on so that you can get a feel for the machine.
Luckily, most of our tours, such as the Callahan Cruiser, Wilderness Run, and Mountain Explorer, are specifically designed for beginner snowmobilers and families. Our guides will introduce you to the sport of snowmobiling in a safe and exciting environment at a pace that works best for your group. We know how to turn the learning experience into an unforgettable adventure as you journey through the pristine Callaghan Valley. Follow wide, winding trails at a comfortable beginner pace and take in the spectacular scenery with an easy introduction to snowmobiling in the backcountry.
2. Dress Warm – Snowmobile Layering Essentials
As the temperatures can vary in the Whistler backcountry, you’ll want to dress accordingly. We recommend starting with your clothing layers – consider a thin base layer, a fleece or wool mid-layer, snow pants and a snow jacket for your outer layers. A shell or an insulated snowmobile jacket is key to protecting you against the elements and keeping the heat in.
A good pair of warm, waterproof gloves are essential, and most snowmobile helmets already have adequate insulation. We also recommend wearing a balaclava or thin neck gaiter, goggles, and thick warm socks (bonus – it’s always a good idea to bring extra gloves, socks and a toque or beanie just in case your first pairs get wet).
At first, this might sound like a lot, but trust us… you’ll be glad to be snug when you’re out snowmobiling and able to keep the cold out. Finally, to ensure your comfort and safety, consider bringing a backpack with extra snacks, water, and any items you may need for fun in the snow, such as a camera.
*When you book a snowmobile tour with Canadian Wilderness Adventures, we strongly encourage you to wear your own winter gear. However, we do have limited outerwear to borrow in the event you’re missing any pieces.
3. Communication With Hand Signals
When communicating on a snowmobile, hand signals are a great way to stay in touch with your fellow riders. A common hand signal for slowing down is to hold your arm straight out, with your palm facing down and slowly move it in a downward flapping motion towards your snowmobile. To signal that you’re stopping, hold your left arm straight up into the air so it’s over your head, and keep the palm of your hand flat. To signal that you’re turning, point your arm straight out in the direction you intend to go. To let other riders know that it’s safe to pass, point your arm out in the direction they should travel. Lastly, put your thumb up if you need to signal that you’re OK.
All riders should be aware of these basic hand signals and use them whenever possible. You can learn more about snowmobile hand signals here.
4. Know and Obey All Snowmobile Signs
When snowmobiling, it’s essential to pay attention to the posted trail signs. These signs are there to help keep you and other riders safe. Most beginner snowmobile routes will have speed limits and designated signs along the trail, at snowmobile crossings and at trail intersections. When a sign says “No Snowmobiles,” – obey it! It’s telling you not to enter a restricted area or trail that is closed to access, and there’s likely a good reason.
If you come across an area where the signs are confusing or hard to understand, it’s best to slow down and ensure you know what the signs are saying before continuing.
Knowing and obeying the trail signs is essential for a safe and enjoyable snowmobile ride.
5. Watch Out for Other Riders
When riding in a group or with a passenger, one of the most important things to remember is to watch out for other riders. You’ll want to ensure there’s enough space between any riders in front or behind you on the trail and that you’re travelling at a pace where you feel in control. We know that going fast is one of the biggest draws to snowmobiling, but you’ll want to ease into an appropriate speed where you and everyone around you feel comfortable. The thumb throttles on a snowmobile may take a bit of getting used to on your first go, but remember to wait until the person in front is far enough away before you gently apply pressure to the throttle. Then, to slow down or stop, simply remove the pressure.
Keep in mind when travelling in a group, following too closely is a common cause of snowmobile collisions. We also recommend when riding in a group on the trails, ride in a single file—never side-by-side.
6. Other Things to Remember
- When carrying a passenger on your snowmobile, your center of gravity will change and affect your ability to steer.
- Never go faster than being in control of your snowmobile.
- If you get stuck, let off on the throttle instead of revving the engine. Revving the engine will often cause your snowmobile to sink even further in the snow.
Above all else, know the laws, use common sense, be aware of your surroundings, and have fun!
For more information on snowmobiling in the Whistler backcountry, check out our other blog posts:
- What to Bring With You When Snowmobiling in the Backcountry
- 10 Commandments for the Mountain Snowmobiler
- Winter Survival Skill in the Wild.
Canadian Wilderness Adventures offers snowmobile tours in Whistler, BC. Be sure to ask about our current offers and group specials, and save 10% when you book online. Know that your safety and your enjoyment are paramount when you adventure with us.