A Snowmobiler's Guide To Getting Back Out There: 6 Tips for New and Returning Riders

Haven't been on your sled in a hot minute? You're not alone. whether it's stuff you've forgotten or never learned in the first place, don't worry—we got you!

Maybe you’ve never ridden a sled before, maybe you’ve only had a single experience, or maybe you’re returning to a sport that you once loved 15 years ago, whatever the story is, we salute you!

Here in Northern Ontario we’ve had the pleasure of seeing new riders grin, laugh, and sometimes groan from all the exercise and fresh air after a long day of snowmobiling. Ensuring you have a great experience can depend on many things. Today we’re going to highlight some new or returning sledder topics and information that we hope will help you have the best days ever.

1. Servicing Your Snowmobile Could Make or Break Your Season

We assume you’ve chosen your new or used snowmobile and it’s already shined up in your garage. Keeping your sled well maintained can make or break your winter. Find a dealer or service provider who you can trust by asking questions, asking friends, and studying what type of maintenance snowmobiles require. If you need a little insight we suggest you check out 8 Overlooked Snowmobile Maintenance Tips.

Don’t let this happen to you. // photo credit Joel Muyesson

2. Choosing the Right Gear Could Mean Ultimate Comfort or Discomfort

We’ve had the pleasure of riding with many different people. What we’ve realized is that everyone’s body type and needs are different. People often ask us what brand or combination is “the best”, but there truly isn’t an answer to that question. Our suggestion is to reach out to other snowmobilers that share your needs (fingers get cold, face sweats, feet sweat, wears glasses etc.) and compare notes. Finding someone with similar physical traits isn’t easy but it will pay off in the long run. We work with Klim because they offer Gore-Tex gear which keeps us dry during our long days outside.

Regardless of which gear you chose to wear, please study on how to layer your clothing, take extra gloves for weather changes or if you get them wet getting yourself unstuck, and plan for the weather. Here is a little help from The Intrepid Snowmobiler with Layering Your Clothing.

Being comfortable is key // credit Virgil Knapp 

3. Practice, Practice, Practice

Choosing a wide-open space like a field, or a lake which is safely frozen is an excellent location to start “test riding” your new sled. Snowmobiles from the ’70s/’80s/'90s all had lower centre of gravities, somewhat relaxed steering response, and were arguably less responsive.

Today’s snowmobiles offer great long travel suspensions which can help you enjoy longer days riding, but with the longer suspension comes a higher centre of gravity, meaning that you can tip over much easier. Many of these suspensions also allow for “ski-lift” or “transfer”, something you need to get used to because you don’t want to lift your skis while cornering your snowmobile.

If you compare the horsepower numbers of the new 2021 Indy 650 twin, with the numbers of a 1990 Indy 650 triple, you’ll be amazed at the difference. Horsepower numbers aside, these modern fuel injected sleds offer amazing throttle response and torque.

The Indy 650 has drastically changed // credit Ross Iacobellis
Jamie Byers wants you to be safe and have fun returning or joining us this year // credit Ryan Tarrant

What we’re saying is please take the time to get used to your new snowmobile. Test it to see how it and you will react. Please don’t hop on and expect it to handle like your last snowmobile from the 90’s and be ready for the difference in acceleration and braking capabilities.

Practice Makes Perfect! // credit Garside Family

4. Check Trail Conditions

The OFSC (Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs) is your one stop shop for snowmobiling information in Ontario. They have worked hard to develop the Go Snowmobiling Ontario App, a mobile app for Android & IOS, in addition to the interactive trail maps we all know and rely on. Links to all the trail maps can be found here: OFSC Maps Link.

My main riding area is in the Parry Sound Snowmobile District. Many of the clubs manage Facebook pages which can help foster a sense of community among riders—but always use the OFSC maps for your official trail status updates. 

5. Be Careful, Especially During Early Season Conditions

Like anything in life, waiting with anticipation is exciting. Often as humans, we get so excited that we throw caution to the wind. Sadly, that’s how many people get hurt. We hope this article How To Start Your Sledding Season Safely can help calm you down for your first outing and you get home safe and sound to a warm fire and some hot chocolate. We also suggest you read up and study how to identify ice conditions by reading this article on Snowmobile Ice Safety.

Always be aware of conditions and adjust your riding to accommodate // credit Jason Pickles

6. Enjoy Yourself and Lose the Stress

As humans we tend to make a big deal out of things. Stressing yourself out could ruin your experience. Starting with small loops, choosing the right conditions and weather, and letting yourself be free to enjoy yourself is the best advice we can give. Have a great season!

Make every day the best day // credit Virgil Knapp 

Stay safe, have fun, and check out these tips for planning your next ride. See you on the trails! 

About Ryan Tarrant

Ryan is a lifelong Georgian Bay sledhead and boater. When he’s not punching the clock, you can find him punching through the snow and the waves. A lifelong powersports enthusiast, his work can be found at Northern Ontario Tourism, Snowmobile.com, WAR, Explorers' Edge, and on his YouTube channel Random Ryan Tarrant.

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