Buying your first snow machine, or getting one for the kiddos? If you remember back to when you first started driving, it seemed like there was so much to remember and pay attention to while on the road. Snowmobiling is the same experience and can be intimidating for the newbie, so take a look at these quick tips.
- Plan out the expenses. The snow machine is just part of the cost. You will need riding gear, insurance, maintenance and wear items, and fuel.
- Speaking of fuel, use quality gas. Buy the proper octane rating from a national chain, and try to minimize the use of gas blended with ethanol (it is labelled E-10).
- Don’t overbuy. It’s easy to trade in or upgrade later, but to start, don’t buy the most powerful and expensive sled on the market.
- Maintenance is your friend. Develop a maintenance schedule, taking care of the engine, brakes, skis other critical systems.
- Watch the load. Different machines, even from the same manufacturer or in the same class, have different load ratings. Do not treat it like an F-250.
- Do a pre-ride checklist each time you ride. Look for leaking fluids, cracked hoses, or any other visible damage. If it’s not cosmetic, repair the issue before riding.
- Remember, like a motorcycle or an older car, a snow machine needs to warm up before being run hard. Don’t go wide open throttle unless it is already at operating temp.
- Look farther down the trail to identify threats before you are on top of them.
- Stay loose. Like riding a horse, stay flexible for the unforeseen bumps.
- Turn with your entire body. Look where you want to go, turn your head to face that direction, and steer with your arms while also powering into the turn with your legs.
- Expect the unexpected. There’s wildlife out there, and you’re going to scare the bejeebers out of it. Don’t twitch when that raccoon from nowhere suddenly skitters down the trail.
- Stay off the ice. You can’t tell at speed if that is solid ice or a quarter inch thick. Snowmobiling is better than swimming in freezing water.
- Ride with a buddy. This is free labor if your machine breaks down, plus it’s just more fun with a friend.
- If you can’t ride with someone, let a friend or family member know where you will be riding, and when you should be back.
- Don’t be a jerk. Don’t ride on private property unless you have their permission. Be considerate to others that enjoy the wilderness and limit straying from trails.
- Once you are back from a ride, knock the crud off your sled. You don’t have to go full detail mode every time, but riding it hard and putting away filthy is asking for trouble.
- Take a snow machine safety course. It will offer a lot of experience in a short time period, and a discount on insurance.
- Keep up with that maintenance. I know, it was mentioned earlier, but a highly maintained machine will stay reliable and enjoyable for years to come.
Let us know if there is anything else you would recommend for the first-timer.