Sled Ready

Get off the couch and suit up—it’s time to go snowmobiling. Snowmobiles, sleds, snow machines—whatever you call ‘em, they’re a lot of fun and help our excruciatingly long winters literally fly right by.

Your snowmobile should be prepped for another action-packed season by now, but don’t be ashamed if you’re a procrastinator; trailer your sled to the dealer to make sure everything is working as it should.

As winter progresses, stay on top of the machine’s maintenance. Seemingly little issues frequently evolve into major problems, so get ‘er fixed at the first sign of trouble.

On that same note, get intimately familiar with your snowmobile’s owner’s manual in order to interpret those cryptic messages on the instrument panel to avoid potential engine or drivetrain failures in the middle of nowhere. The manual covers a variety of subjects including headlight and suspension adjustments, service intervals, and how to operate your snowmobile.

Safety Notes

If group riding isn’t your thing, and you prefer to venture off alone, at least have the courtesy of leaving a note with where you’re going and when you expect to return—it’ll give rescuers a general idea of where to find you (or your remains).

Loners, and all sled drivers, for that matter, should hope for the best, but expect the worst. Those of you who sled off into the wilderness sans crew ought to pack a respectable survival kit, to keep you and your machine alive. Survival kits can include topographic maps, a sleeping bag, extra clothes, a way to make a fire, food and water, a cell or satellite phone, a flashlight and batteries, a first-aid kit, and sled-specific tools, spark plugs, oil, tow rope, fuel de-icer, and owner’s manual.

We’re not going to lecture you about consuming alcohol or controlled substances while operating your snowmobile; you’ve heard it before and repeating won’t change a thing.

Be smart, be safe, stay warm, and most of all, have fun enjoying Minnesota’s 20,000 miles of snowmobile trails.

Dress for Success

Bopping down a trail at any speed in frigid temps can bring on a case of hypothermia in short order. A snowmobile operator’s wardrobe should consist of, at least:

  • A DOT-approved helmet, and a shatterproof face shield or shatterproof goggles (those cool shades you picked up at the convenience store aren’t going to cut it)
  • Water-repellant insulated snowsuit and jacket
  • Heavy, insulated waterproof boots
  • Water-repellant insulated gloves or mittens, long enough to cover your wrists

Don’t wear long scarves or loose clothing—these can get entangled in moving parts and ruin your entire day.

By Lee Boyt

This story was originally published in the Dec.-Jan. 2012 issue of Northern Wilds Magazine.

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