Canadian Council of Snowmobile Organizations
Conseil Canadien des Organismes Motoneiges
Through strong leadership the Canadian Council of Snowmobile Organizations provides support to our members and provides the unified voice of organized snowmobiling at the national and international levels.
Through its Snowmobile Responsibly campaign, the Canadian Council of Snowmobile Organizations (CCSO) encourages everyone to take personal responsibility for their decisions and actions on the snow this winter. Every day, riders make many important, snowmobile-related decisions that can impact their personal well-being and that of others. Snowmobile Responsibly should be based on obeying applicable laws and rules, using good common sense, riding with care and control, and making smart choices. Here are a few tips to help you Snowmobile Responsibly and arrive home safely after each ride:
Know the Scenario: Like all other motorized recreational activities, snowmobiling possesses certain inherent risks. It often occurs off road in an unpredictable, uncontrollable and wild natural setting, so each snowmobiler must always expect the unexpected, be prepared and avoid adding unnecessary risks.
Choose Your Time and Place: A traditional use and / or designated area or a defined organized trail may be available, but it’s your choice whether to ride there or not. In a non-engineered setting, conditions change rapidly due to varying temperature, sudden storms, snow quality, terrain, heavy usage or variables like drifts and fallen trees. So do your homework before riding and make your own choice about if, when and how to ride based on the conditions at the time. If your decision is to go snowmobiling after carefully evaluating all factors and variables, you willingly assume any risks and all responsibility for what happens if you choose to proceed.
Choose Good Visibility: Just like with driving a car, your eyes provide most of the information your brain processes for good judgments and quick reactions while snowmobiling. But on the snow, many factors can severely limit your ability to see properly, including snow dust, white-outs, heavy snow, freezing rain, sun glare, flat light or fog; fogging or icing of visor and/or eye glasses, and darkness or over-riding your headlights. The fact that everything is white can also hamper your usual depth perception or ability to identify or distinguish things quickly and easily. When visibility is less than optimal, it’s up to you to decide whether to go or whether to continue.
Spread Out: Most of us have seen a group of snowmobilers riding along so close to each other that it looks as if their sleds were linked together like a freight train. On the road it’s called tailgating, and it’s against the law because of the associated dangers. When tailgating, you are totally at the mercy of the person ahead – how fast that rider can react to whatever’s ahead and how fast you can react to that reaction. Tailgating jeopardizes your own ability to make a quick choice and cuts your reaction time, leaving you vulnerable to the actions of others.
Be Vigilant: While riding, it’s important to practice 360˚ situational awareness. Simply put, you always need to know what’s going on around you to be able to properly assess your position and your next moves. Target fixation occurs when a rider’s eyes become locked on one object ahead, to the exclusion of everything else. This semi hypnotic state happens while tailgating, staring too long at one thing ahead or if everything is white on white. Being tired or impaired can play a role, too. Stay alert by moving your eyes around constantly and always checking around you, but if fixation persists take a break. When trail riding you’re also responsible for the rider behind you, so glancing back to check up on them from time to time is essential. The easiest way to do this is using mirrors.
Use Hand Signals: Snowmobilers developed and adopted a set of standard hand signals to inform following and oncoming riders of our intentions. Habitual use of the hand signals is both the courteous and responsible choice, so get in the habit of using them. The hand signals can be found at https://www.ccso-ccom.ca/en/hand-signals/.
Keep Your Wits: Smart choices, good judgment, constant vigilance and sharp reactions are the four keys to snowmobiling without incident. It’s a proven fact that alcohol and drugs impair all of these key driving functions, so keep your wits about you by making the smart choice not to consume alcohol or drugs before or while sledding.
Keep Right: By choosing to deliberately and consistently keep your sled on the right side of the trail, you’ll dramatically increase your chances of staying out of harm’s way. The simple act of keeping to your right makes life on the trails both safer and simpler for everyone.
Stay on the Trail: Year after year, the statistics show that staying on the trail is safer than riding anywhere else. Yes, a trail is still a non-engineered, unpredictable place where anything can happen unexpectedly, but an organized trail that’s available for riding is generally a better choice than venturing off trail, cross-country or on fields or roads. Sticking to organized trails whenever possible is also much easier on the natural environments and ecosystems we enjoy while riding.
Know Before You Go: No ice is completely safe. If you choose to cross anyway, you can reduce the personal risk you are accepting. Always cross in good visibility conditions and try stay near a stake line and/or previously beaten track. Spread the sleds in your group out slightly more than usual so that riders behind have additional reaction time if someone ahead gets into difficulty. Don’t stop until you reach the far shore and then regroup to ensure that everyone made it across safely. Never cross alone. If you stray off, you run a greater risk of encountering slush, hidden obstacles, ice huts, pressure ridges, thin ice or even open water. Keep a sharp eye out for ice heaves and ice roads. Above all, know before you go!
Avalanche Awareness: Go Farther references snowmobilers knowing the snow conditions in the back country. By checking the avalanche conditions, checking the weather, riding with companions that are properly trained, having the right equipment, all of this puts together the best tips for riding in avalanche terrain. The Canadian Avalanche Centre is using the logo of “Go Farther” so be aware and get properly trained to access the many inherent risks of back country and mountain riding. For more information on avalanches please see our Avalanche page, visit https://www.ccso-ccom.ca/avalanche-awareness/, or check out Avalanche Canada at http://www.avalanche.ca/ .
Be Prepared: The best plans will have you prepared in the event that an incident occurs. From losing your wallet, to sharing a list of what is needed and each member of your riding team brings those items, to leaving a detailed plan of events with a responsible individual with you and your team checking in daily. Many of the safety tips are all about being prepared to the best of your ability and then to remember to have fun and to ride within your capabilities – be prepared for that animal on the trail or a tree blown down across the trail or the setting sun shining in your eyes, also train your riding peers to use the approved hand signals and to pick a leader and a sweep for the day.
Arriving home safely after each and every ride depends primarily on your own decisions and actions, so choose to Snowmobile Responsibly this winter. Remember, you are the one who can keep keeping yourself out of trouble, so don’t blame others if things go wrong because of choices you made.
For more information contact:
Canadian Council of Snowmobile Organizations
P.O. Box 21059
Thunder Bay, Ontario