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 snowmobilers to learn and use safe snowmobiling habits.
On this page you’ll find:
- Some snowmobile safety statistics
- A list of snowmobile safety tips
- Links to avalanche safety, ice safety, and current safety course offerings
For even more snowmobile safety information, check out the Safe Riders website at www.saferiderssafetyawareness.org.
Snowmobiling and COVID-19
Snowmobiling is a great source of stress relief and already includes face coverings and physical distancing, so there is nothing wrong with continuing to get out on your snowmobile. In fact, snowmobile sales have increased during the pandemic and snowmobile traffic on the trails is up! At this time we recommend you continue to get out and enjoy snowmobiling, however please consider sticking to lower risk snowmobiling to help our already stressed health care system, remember to check for current travel restrictions before exiting or entering the Yukon, and if you’ve had any potential contact with COVID-19 please help limit the spread by avoiding travel between communities and following all isolation recommendations.
Snowmobiling is a fun, safe sport!
Statistically speaking, snowmobiling today is actually much safer than many people think. Snowmobile-related deaths are few and far between in the Yukon, and as mentioned in our Spring 2017 Newsletter between 2014 and 2016 fewer than one percent of Yukon emergency room visits were related to snowmobiling. In fact, in recent years Yukoners suffered three times more injuries from skiing and snowboarding and four times more injuries from cycling than from snowmobiling.
Snowmobiling is not without risks. However, thanks to decades of work by countless volunteers with support from dozens of organizations and associations, the snowmobiling community has developed strong safety and education programs that are working well. We encourage all snowmobilers to check them out.
For some recent statistics and percentages on snowmobile accidents in Canada, check out Statistics Canada’s great new info graphic at https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/11-627-m/11-627-m2021002-eng.htm
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.
Snowmobile Safety Tips…
- Always have a plan
– Decide where you’re going to go and do some homework. Find some maps to bring, note terrain features and potential danger areas, check for any restrictions on snowmobile use, and look for any recent condition reports.
– Pack appropriate supplies and gear.
– Tell someone in town where you’re going, what you’re bringing, when you expect to return, and what to do if you don’t return.
– Have a pre-departure briefing with everyone in your riding group to make sure everyone knows what the plans are and everyone is ready to ride.
- 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.
- Wear an approved helmet
– Helmet use is recommended at all times when operating snowmobiles, and required by law in many areas.
– Before using a helmet ensure it fits properly and is an approved snowmobile helmet.
– Quality eye protection with anti-fog features is also a must-have for most snowmobiling. Your eye protection should also provide sun protection or allow room for sunglasses to help prevent snow blindness, a common issue on sunny days during winter when the sunlight reflecting off the snow becomes bright enough to damage your eyes.
– There is a wide variety of helmet and eye protection styles available, take some time to find a combination that works well for you.
- Make use of other safety gear
– 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.
– Always carry avalanche gear when riding anywhere near avalanche terrain.
– Consider wearing ice escape picks or a floating snowmobile suit if you plan to travel on frozen lakes and rivers.
– Do some research and choose safety products that best match the type of riding you expect to do.
- Maintain your sled
– A well maintained snowmobile will be safer, more reliable, and perform better.
– Most snowmobiles come with an owners manual that includes a recommended maintenance schedule, follow these 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
– After you’ve given your snowmobile a tune up, you should also check your other riding gear.
– Check all of your riding bags, backpacks, tool kits, first aid kits, and survival kits at the beginning of each 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, up to date, and ready to use.
- Before the first start of each day inspect your sled
– Check that your snowmobile is not frozen to the ground.
– Open the hood and check for obvious damage, leaks, adequate fluid levels, condition of belts, etc.
– Conduct a general visual inspection your snowmobile to ensure the skis, track, suspension, steering, etc. is all secure and in good working order.
- Before starting your sled always make sure the controls are functioning properly
– Sometimes things freeze, break, or come loose, so cycle all of the controls (throttle, brake, shut off switch, etc) to confirm proper range of travel and freedom of movement before starting the engine.
- See and be seen
– Make sure your snowmobile has a working headlight, tail light and brake light.
– Your snowmobile 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 visible from the front, rear, and sides of your snowmobile.
– Some form of high-visibility feature on your clothing is also recommended in case you get separated from your machine.
– A quality flashlight or headlamp with fresh batteries is a valuable tool for both troubleshooting problems and attracting help.
- Always be prepared
– Wear appropriate winter clothing, and use layers so you’re 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.)
– Have some commonly needed spare parts (spark plug, drive belt, etc) on your sled.
– Bring a small tool kit suitable for removing and installing your spare parts as well as making minor adjustments and basic repairs to your particular snowmobile.
– Keep in mind if you break down, get stuck, or injure yourself it may take several days for help to find you, even if you are close to town.
- Always have a way to call for help
– When working or playing in the back country it is highly recommended to carry some form of satellite based personal tracker or beacon on you, preferably one with an easy to use emergency help button, such as an inReach, Spot, or similar.
– Cell phones are great in town, however in most snowmobiling areas there is no service so they should not be relied on.
- Learn safe riding habits, and use them!
– Learn safe riding habits, and make a point of using them.
– Recent studies indicate that the majority of snowmobile related injuries and deaths are caused by poor decisions of the snowmobile operator.
– Be a safe rider and encourage your friends to do the same.
– Many tips are available on line, and formal training courses are also available.
- Learn how to get un-stuck
– Snowmobiling is easy to learn and modern snowmobiles can go amazing places, but even the experts will usually get stuck at some point during a good ride.
– Take some time to learn proper methods for getting your snowmobile unstuck, it will be much faster and much safer than trying all of the wrong ways.
- Never go into avalanche terrain without proper avalanche gear
– Avalanches continue to pose a big threat to snowmobile safety, so all riders going into mountainous terrain need to be avalanche aware and avalanche prepared.
– All riders in avalanche terrain should carry a probe, shovel, beacon, and know how to use them.
– 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, and drowning continues to show up in the leading causes of snowmobile fatalities in Canada.
– 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 gently steer towards dry land or safer ice.
– If someone does fall into the water hypothermia will begin within minutes and they can become unresponsive due to severe hypothermia within the hour, so it is important to 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.
– Also keep an eye out for overflow and avoid it as much as possible, as snowmobiles can easily get stuck in overflow and it usually requires a great deal of effort and multiple wet feet to recover them.
– Check out our Ice Safety page for more information on snowmobiling over frozen lakes and rivers.
- Use extra caution when snowmobiling at night
– Recent statistics show that snowmobilers are significantly more likely to be involved in a crash when riding after dark.
– Make sure your snowmobile is equipped with proper lights and reflectors, and regularly check they are clean and working.
– Have reflective features on your clothing.
– Reduce your speed enough that you can always stop within the space that your headlights allow you to clearly 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. Also keep in mind 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/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 or other device make sure you have maps downloaded onto the device itself, and keep in mind cold weather 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 snowmobile behind them, stops if they are not there, and goes back to investigate if they do not appear within a reasonable time.
– Using this system if anyone gets lost, stuck, etc. the entire group will naturally come to a stop in a relatively short time.
- Take a first aid training course
– Snowmobiling often takes place on trails and in areas where help can take several hours to reach you, so it is highly recommended you have people in your group with some first aid knowledge.
– Ensure your first aider is comfortable with their skills and their training is up to date, as 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.
– First aid courses are widely available right here in the Yukon, and wilderness first aid courses are also regularly offered. Ask about a course at work, most workplaces are required by law to have 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 may 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 on foot is extremely difficult.
- 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 proper 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. Power always yields to paws.
– 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.
– Always travel at a safe speed for the terrain, conditions, machine, and operator skill level. Excessive speed is a factor in most snowmobile crashes.
– Losing control and colliding with a stationary object as a direct result of poor operator judgement and excessive speed remains, by far, the leading cause of snowmobile-related injuries and deaths.
- Never consume alcohol or drugs before or while snowmobiling
– To be a safe rider you must be a sober rider, no exceptions.
– Alcohol and drugs continue to be a factor in over 50% of all snowmobile related deaths in Canada.
- Watch for trail groomers
– These large and slow moving machines always have the right-of-way, they are usually volunteer operated, and they may be out on any trail 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.
- Snowmobile trails are not engineered like highways
– Conditions and hazards are constantly changing.
– Expect something unexpected around every corner.
- Keep right when on roads or trails
– It just makes life simpler and safer for everyone.
- 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.
- 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.
- If trucking or trailering your snowmobile always take appropriate safety precautions while loading, hauling, and unloading
– Only use vehicles and trailers that are in good roadworthy condition, appropriately sized and equipped for your load, and rated for the weight you are hauling.
– Always secure and double check your load.
– Always use a proper ramp when loading and unloading snowmobiles and wear your helmet.
-See our Snowmobile Hauling page for more information.
- 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.
- 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 Klondike Snowmobile Association does not offer a snowmobile safety course. However, for anyone interested in taking one, there are currently some 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.
Avalanche training is available in the Yukon, please check with the Yukon Avalanche Association at http://www.yukonavalanche.ca/ for details.
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.
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 https://www.whitehorse.ca/living-in-whitehorse/our-roads/safety/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.