January 4, 2021
Backcountry snowmobiling is increasing in popularity in Canada but can be a high-risk activity. Since you are traveling at a high speed on a heavy machine in an unpredictable natural environment far from emergency services, it is important to take precautions and be prepared for the unexpected. You can have a safe and enjoyable snowmobile trip if you plan ahead and are prepared for any possible emergencies.
Most snowmobile accidents happen at night and snowmobiling at night is especially dangerous when combined with high speeds. If you are riding after dark, slow down and do not override your headlights. Your headlights will usually let you see around 60 m in front of you. Going faster than 60 km/hr would probably mean you are going too fast to react and stop before hitting an unexpected obstacle.
Alcohol is one of the most common causes of snowmobile accidents and fatalities. Never ride under the influence of alcohol.
Always make sure you are riding at a speed that allows you to have full control of your snowmobile. It is easy to underestimate your stopping distance, for example, at 72 km/hr, you may need around 272 feet to stop. Excessive speed, especially when combined with alcohol consumption, is a major cause of snowmobile accidents. Check the speed limits for snowmobiles in your area.
Avalanches are usually triggered by people and it is easy for a group of snowmobilers to cause one. Most avalanche fatalities are caused by avalanches triggered by the snowmobilers themselves.
You can reduce your risk of triggering an avalanche by:
Some areas may be closed due to safety or environmental concerns. Respect closures both for your safety and to preserve the environment.
Make sure kids receive proper training on how to operate a snowmobile safely so they can have enjoyable trips now and in the future.
Avoid snowmobiling on rivers and lakes because it is difficult to know whether the ice can support you and your snowmobile. Make sure to wear a buoyant suit if you must cross over frozen water and do not attempt to cross unfamiliar bodies of water. Check ice conditions and avoid slushy ice and ice near moving water.