Support Safe Snowmobiling!
The Klondike Snowmobile Association strongly believes in safe snowmobiling and works year-round to support and promote snowmobile safety. We encourage all of our members learn and use safe snowmobiling habits and ask them to encourage other riders to do the same.
Please scroll down to find a variety of safety information including some safety stats, a list of snowmobile safety tips, information on snowmobile safety courses, avalanche awareness and safety, ice safety, and the Whitehorse Safe Snowmobiler Card.
For more detailed snowmobile safety information, please visit the Safe Riders website at www.saferiderssafetyawareness.org
Snowmobiling is a fun, safe sport!
Statistically speaking, snowmobiling today is actually much safer than many people think. As mentioned in our Spring 2017 Newsletter, between 2014 and 2016 fewer than one percent of Yukon emergency room visits were related to snowmobiling and not single person was killed anywhere in the Yukon on or by a snowmobile. In fact, in recent years in the Yukon there were three times more injuries from skiing/snowboarding and four times more injuries from cycling than there were from snowmobiling.
As for environmental facts and myths regarding snowmobiles, we encourage you to check out the Canadian Council of Snowmobile Organization’s Facts and Myths document at http://www.ccso-ccom.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Facts_Myths_About_Snowmobiling_CCSO_Jan2015_English.pdf.
Basic Snowmobile Safety Tips…
- Have a plan
– It doesn’t need to have great detail, but always have a plan.
– Decide what areas you’re going to and do some homework. Look for quality maps to bring, note terrain types and features, look for any potential danger areas (thin ice, avalanches, etc.), check for any restrictions on snowmobile use, look for any recent snow reports or trail condition reports from other riders who’ve been there recently, etc.
– Pack appropriate supplies and gear.
– Make sure your sled, your gear, and you are ready for the trip.
– Tell someone you trust where you’re going, what time you expect to return, and what to do if you don’t return.
– Always bring basic survival gear and a method of calling for help. Keep in mind there is no phone service in most areas of the Yukon.
– Have a pre-departure briefing with everyone in your riding group to make sure everyone knows what the plan for the day is, everyone is on the same page with communication, everyone is ready to ride, everyone knows who has what safety and survival gear and where to find it, and everyone knows what they need to do if something goes wrong.
- Wear an approved helmet
– Helmet use is recommended at all times when operating snowmobiles, and required by law in many areas.
– Before using your helmet ensure it fits properly and is a DOT approved snowmobile helmet.
– Quality anti-fog eye protection is also a must.
– There is a wide variety of helmet and eye protection styles available, take the time to find a combination that works best for you.
- Make use of other safety gear as well
– A helmet and eye protection are must-haves, but there are many other products available that will also enhance your safety, including chest protection, neck protection, knee protection, and more.
– Wear ice escape gear and/or avalanche gear if applicable to your ride.
– If you snowmobile regularly we recommend you research several of these products, and choose the ones that best match your riding style.
- Maintain your sled
– A well maintained machine will be safer, more reliable, and perform better.
– Most snowmobiles come with an owners manual that includes a recommended maintenance schedule, follow this schedule and your sled should run strong for many years.
– If you have any questions or problems check with your local dealer, they’ll happy to help you.
– We recommend you give your snowmobiles a thorough inspection and tune up every fall, so when riding season finally arrives your sled will be ready to go.
– A few minutes of preventative maintenance before you leave home can easily save you hours of trouble in the bush.
- Maintain your gear
– Every fall many people tune up their snowmobile, but overlook their gear.
– Check your riding gear at the beginning of the season and replace anything that is worn out, damaged, expired or missing.
– Make sure your helmets and any other safety gear are all in good condition and ready to use.
– Check your first aid kits and survival kits for adequate contents and replace anything that is missing, damaged, or past its expiry date.
– Check any riding backpacks or bags to make sure everything is there and nothing is expired or damaged.
- Before starting your sled always make sure the controls are functioning properly
– Sometimes things freeze, cycle all of the controls to confirm proper range of travel and freedom of movement before starting the engine.
- Before the first start of each day inspect your sled
– Check that your sled is not frozen to the ground.
– Open the hood and check for damage, leaks, adequate fluid levels, condition of belts, etc.
– Conduct a general visual inspection your machine to ensure the skis, track, suspension, steering, etc. is all secure and in good working order.
- See and be seen
– Make sure your sled has a working headlight, tail light and brake light.
– Your sled should also be equipped with reflectors and/or reflective tape, amber at or near the front corners and red at or near the back corners. They should be easily visible from the front, rear, and sides of your snowmobile.
– Some form of high-visibility feature on your outermost layer of clothing is also highly recommended in case you get separated from your machine.
– A small but bright flashlight is a valuable tool for both troubleshooting problems and attracting help.
- Always be prepared
– Wear appropriate clothing. Use layers and be ready for it to get warmer or colder during your ride.
– Wilderness survival gear and a basic first aid kit are a must.
– Always bring the proper equipment (shovel, rope, flashlight, etc.)
– Pack extra supplies (food, toilet paper, knife, fire starter, etc.)
– Keep in mind if you break down or injure yourself it may take several days for help to find you, even if you are close to town.
- Always check the weather forecasts before heading out
– Also check ice and avalanche forecasts if available.
– Look for any recent trail or snow condition reports from the area.
- Never go into avalanche terrain without proper avalanche gear
– Avalanches continue to pose one of the biggest threats to snowmobile safety.
– All riders in avalanche terrain should carry a probe, shovel, and beacon.
– Also consider additional avalanche safety gear such as an airbag style backpack.
– All riders going into avalanche terrain should first take an avalanche safety course.
– Check your gear before each ride and practice with your avalanche gear regularly.
– Check out our Avalanche Awareness page for more avalanche information.
- Be aware of ice conditions
– Operating a snowmobile over frozen lakes and rivers increases the risk of an accident.
– Wear ice escape picks and consider other ice safety gear.
– If you find yourself on thin ice or open water, do not stop. Keep up as much momentum as you can and and gently steer towards dry land or safer ice.
– If you do fall through moderate to severe hypothermia can occur in minutes so get out, get dry and get warm fast! If there is a warm place nearby go use it, if not then start a fire right away and call for help.
– Check out our Ice Safety page for more information on snowmobiling over frozen lakes and rivers.
- Use extra caution when snowmobiling at night
– Snowmobilers are significantly more likely to be involved in a crash when riding after dark.
– Make sure your sled is equipped with proper lights and reflectors, and regularly check to make sure they are clean and working properly.
– Have reflective features on your outermost layer of clothing.
– Reduce your speed so you can easily stop in the space that your headlights allow you to see.
– Always use extra caution when riding near or after dark as it will be much harder to see and identify obstacles, open water or other dangerous situations, navigation will be more difficult, and bad weather can sneak up on you.
- Always travel with someone who knows the area
– Carrying a map and compass and/or a GPS system is also highly recommended.
– Cell phone service is not available along many trails and in many riding areas, so if using a phone make sure you have your maps downloaded onto the phone itself, and remember cold can greatly reduce battery run time.
- When riding with a group make it clear that each sled is responsible for the sled behind
– The best way to keep everyone together and safe is if each snowmobile operator keeps an eye on the sled behind them, and stops if they are not there.
– Using this system if anyone gets lost, stuck, etc. the entire group will naturally come to a stop in a relatively short time.
- Have at least one person in your riding group with some first aid training
– Snowmobiling often takes place on trails and in areas where help can take several hours to reach you, if they can at all, so it is highly recommended you have people in your group that have some first aid knowledge.
– Basic first aid courses are widely available right here in the Yukon, often for under $200.
– Ensure your first aider is comfortable with their skills and their training is up to date, most first aid tickets have an expiry date after which a refresher course is required.
– Always carry a basic first aid kit and some wilderness survival gear.
– Ask around at work, many workplaces are required to have basic first aid available on site so your employer may be willing to share the cost of a course.
- Always tell someone in town where you plan to go and when you plan to return
– If anything goes wrong someone back in town will need to initiate the search.
– Search and rescue teams will need to know who to look for and where to look.
– If you are stranded unless you know for sure help is within easy walking distance then it is almost always better to stay with your machines. Search and rescue teams can often track and spot snowmobiles and other vehicles, however spotting individual people in the bush is extremely difficult.
- Carry a personal tracking device or beacon
– When working or playing in the back country it is highly recommended to carry some form of personal tracker or beacon, preferably one with a help button, such as an inReach, Spot, or similar.
- If you are that someone and your snowmobilers have not returned:
– Stay calm. The vast majority of the time they are perfectly fine and are simply outside of cell phone service either digging out a stuck snowmobile or dealing with a mechanical breakdown. Give them a couple hours and see what happens.
– If you don’t hear from them after a reasonable amount of time contact your local RCMP detachment and explain the situation, they will have all the current details on how to start a search and rescue in your area.
– Although we are not professional search and rescuers, please feel free to contact us at the Klondike Snowmobile Association as well for advice or assistance. We’ll be happy to help out any way we can.
- If you come across anyone in distress please stop and offer assistance
– Most snowmobile areas are not patrolled by anyone and are infrequently used.
– Your assistance may be the difference between life and death.
- Please respect all trail users
– Almost all of the snowmobile trails in the Yukon are officially designated as “Multi-Use Trails”, so be ready to share the trail with a variety of other user groups.
– Slow down to 15 km/h or less and give lots of extra room when passing hikers, bikers, skiiers, dogs, etc.
– When meeting dog sled teams we recommend pulling over and turning off your snowmobile.
– A little bit of friendly trail etiquette goes a long way towards making everyone’s outdoor experience safer and more enjoyable, and keep in mind it only takes one bad experience to give us all a negative reputation.
- Ride according to your abilities
– Mastering the sport of snowmobiling can take years, and the best way to learn is to carefully and thoughtfully build your skills one step at a time.
– Travelling too fast for the conditions and loss of control due to poor operator judgement are among the leading causes of snowmobile-related deaths.
- Watch for trail groomers
– These large and slow moving sleds have the right-of-way and may be out at any hour.
- Please don’t take the signs from the trails
– If you want one for your living room wall, give us a call or send us an e-mail and we’ll be happy to get you one.
- Please report all trail conditions to the K.S.A. after your ride
– There is a form at the bottom of our Trail Conditions page you can use to submit trail condition reports.
– We also accept trail reports via phone, text, email, Twitter, Facebook, or in person.
– We rely heavily on trail condition reports when choosing where to send our groomers and trail crews.
– The trail conditions page on our website is based entirely on reports from riders like you.
– Also please let us know if you see any damaged or missing signs, or any problems with gates, bridges, etc.
- Snowmobile trails are not engineered like highways
– Conditions and hazards are constantly changing.
– Expect something unexpected around every corner.
- Wildlife is exactly that
– Wild animals can be dangerous and unpredictable.
– Most animals are more vulnerable during winter.
– Please respect them and their habitat by keeping lots of distance and reducing noise levels as much as possible.
- Keep right when on roads or trails
– It just makes life simpler and safer for everyone.
- Never consume alcohol or drugs before or while snowmobiling
– To be a safe rider you must be a sober rider, no exceptions.
– Although the numbers have been coming down in recent years, many independent studies have concluded that alcohol was a factor in as many as 50% of fatal snowmobile accidents.
- Read and understand your Owners Manual
– Most snowmobiles come with an owners manual containing important safety information, performance and comfort tips, and a maintenance schedule that are applicable to your specific make and model of snowmobile.
– It is important that you read, understand, and use the information in your owners manual.
– When in doubt contact your local dealer and/or the manufacturer of your snowmobile, they know your snowmobile best and will be happy to answer any questions you may have.
- Join your local snowmobile club
– They work hard for you, both through trail maintenance and by advocating on your behalf.
– Local clubs are a great source of information for current trail conditions, events, news, and more in your area.
– Your membership fees are often used to help make snowmobiling safer.
- This is just a quick reference guide
– This page is meant to be a helpful quick-reference guide, and is in no way a substitute for any kind of formal training or manuals.
– If any discrepancy exists between the information on this website and the information contained in any of your manuals, placards or course material, please consider those sources to be more correct and current than this website.
At this time the K.S.A. does not offer a snowmobile safety course. However, for anyone interested in taking one, there are currently two independent services being offered in the Yukon:
Safe Trails North offers snowmobile safety courses. Please contact them via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (867) 335-1932 for more information.
Main Street Driving School is also offering a snowmobile course. Please contact them at (867) 633-2355 or by email at email@example.com for more information.
For information on avalanche safety, please check out the Yukon Avalanche Association at http://www.yukonavalanche.ca/ . Since their establishment in 2010, they have been doing an excellent job at providing training courses, events, reports and other great resources for snowmobilers and other backcountry users. The K.S.A. highly recommends them to all backcountry users. Also, another excellent resource is Avalanche Canada, check them out today at http://www.avalanche.ca/!
In addition to the above, you can also check out our Avalanche page for an explanation of the easy to remember S.T.O.P. method for avalanche awareness.
Snowmobiling on frozen lakes and rivers can be a fun and rewarding experience, however it does introduce additional risks and thus requires an additional set of skills, tricks and safety gear. Check out our Ice Safety page today!
City of Whitehorse Safe Snowmobiler Card
For information about, and to obtain a Whitehorse Safe Snowmobiler Card, please visit the City of Whitehorse’s snowmobile website at http://www.whitehorse.ca/departments/bylaw-services/snowmobiles . This card is now required for all Whitehorse residents prior to operating a snowmobile within the Whitehorse city limits. This requirement does not apply to visitors who are in Whitehorse for two weeks or less.