For some people, winter is a time for laying low and hibernating. For others, like snowmobilers, a little snowfall is a signal the fun is about to begin. If you’re ready to get the sled out of the shed and hit the glistening trails, be sure to brush up on your snowmobiling manners and safety so you and the rest of the enthusiasts out there can have a great time all season.
Review your local and state laws
Rules vary from state to state regarding snowmobile registration, insurance, permits, required equipment and where riding is allowed. Check your state’s Department of Natural Resources website to make sure you’re in compliance. The American Council of Snowmobile Associations (ACSA) has a handy webpage that summarizes laws for each state and also links to each state’s comprehensive information.
Know your hand signals
ACSA recommends the use of hand signals for communicating with other riders in your group as well as additional snowmobile traffic on the trails. The following ACSA-approved left hand signals are recommended.
Stop – Raise your arm straight up from your shoulder with your palm open.
Left Turn – Hold your arm straight out from your body.
Right Turn – Bend your arm and raise it to shoulder height with your palm open (like one half of a football goal post).
Oncoming Sleds – Guide your machine to the right while also pointing your arm to the right in an arc over your head.
Slowing – Extend your arm out and down from your body. Flap it in a downward motion to show caution.
Last Sled in Line – Bend your arm and raise it with a closed fist to shoulder height (like one half of a football goal post). Use this signal if you’re the last rider in your group.
Be courteous on the trails
- Ride single file.
- Keep to the right as much as possible on trails, especially when going around corners.
- Reduce speed on curves and corners.
- Pass on the left, but only if a rider has waved you on.
- If you’re stopping along the trail, pull sleds as far off the trail to the right as possible. Don’t stop near curves.
- Obey “no trespassing” signs; ride only where permitted. Always seek permission of the landowner before riding on private property.
- Watch out for motorists when crossing roadways. Be mindful of cross-country skiers, hikers, horseback riders, wildlife and trail-grooming vehicles.
- Use caution, slow down and give a wide berth to trail-grooming vehicles. Only pass these vehicles when you have a clear line of sight and plenty of room. Stay to the right. Be patient and take time to assess the situation.
- Don’t ride off trail.
- Don’t ride when there’s not enough snow on trails or when soil or vegetation is exposed.
- Don’t approach wildlife; be respectful of habitats.
- Maintain your snowmobile to reduce both noise and emissions pollution.
Have a blast this winter out riding, and if you need to add insurance to a new or existing snowmobile, reach out to your Farm Bureau agent.