Snowmobiles can be a fun and entertaining vehicle that can bring you lots of interesting memories. Whether you have one yourself or you have the opportunity to drive one while on vacation, a snowmobile is certainly something you should try out if you have the possibility of doing so. But, are they hard to drive?
A snowmobile might be hard to drive for beginners first starting out, but although it may be difficult in the beginning, it gets easier over time. The biggest obstacle for beginners to overcome is steering and maneuvering the snowmobile properly.
Driving a snowmobile is neither the hardest, nor the easiest thing in the world. But it is certainly fun. We are going to explain the basics of driving a snowmobile and whether it is truly a difficult endeavor. We are also going to give you some tips on how to make the whole procedure easier, so keep reading to find out more.
Are snowmobiles hard to drive?
In order to fully comprehend the process of driving a snowmobile, you’ll have to get acquainted with the structure of the vehicle. In order to give you the best possible perception of what you’re going to be dealing with, here is a diagram of a Polaris snowmobile with all the main elements:
Snowmobiles are hard to get the hang of for beginners. But, most riders find it easy to ride a snowmobile after their 4th or 5th riding experience. Getting used to the handling and steering of the machine is what makes riding easier over time.
Now that you’ve seen what a snowmobile looks like and that you’re acquainted with all the parts, let us see the basics of driving it. It’s not that difficult, really, but you need to master a few simple techniques before going out in the snow on your own.
Warm The Engine
The first thing you need to do is let the engine warm up a bit. Since you’re dealing with low temperatures, it’s advisable to let your engine run for several minutes before actually starting your ride.
This will allow the engine to run smoother and you’ll certainly avoid any issues related to a cold engine; the same procedure is done when starting your car during cold winter days.
While you’re waiting for your engine to reach the desired temperature, you’ll want to position yourself properly on the snowmobile. This is essential if you want to pilot your snowmobile optimally and avoid any potential injuries.
Your feet should be on the sides of the rails, while your hands should be gripping the handle; remember that you should feel comfortable all the time – if you’re not, you’re probably not sitting properly on your snowmobile.
The rest concerns two basic driving techniques that you have to master before being able to go on your own. They are turning and going up or down a hill.
Turning and Handling
As for turning, the technique is pretty simple, although you might need some time to completely get the hang of it while riding. When you turn, you need to lean your body to the side, so you’re turning to shift the weight to that side; as said, you might need some practice to fully get the hang of it, but there’s nothing to it besides that.
You do have handle bars that you need to turn, but leaning helps the tracks dig into the snow and actually turn the machine more effectively.
Up or Down Hills
Going up or down a hill is a bit trickier, because there’s a significant risk of injury involved (you can easily fall off your snowmobile).
When riding down a hill, push your body weight back and position your feet so that you can take control at any given moment (one knee should be near the seat, while the other foot should be right over the side rail).
Many riders position themselves to the side of the machine so they can bail if needed. As a beginner, you should avoid large hills that require this technique.
Then, as you go up – push your body weight forward and start moving uphill. Going uphill doesn’t require a specific technique, but it does require a lot of composure and control over your vehicle.
And that covers the basics. As you can see, there are some things you need to know and do before you start, and a couple of essential techniques you need to master before being able to drive solo. It’s not as easy as learning how to ride a bike, but it’s also not that difficult to get the hang of.
Here’s a great video talking about some of the most common snowmobiling mistakes made by beginners, that way you’ll know what to avoid.
How to make snowmobiling easier
Now that we’ve gone over the basics, we are going to give you some professional tips on how to “cheat” your way to perfection. These tips will make driving a snowmobile easier for you and you should certainly adhere to them if you want to be a good driver in no time.
Use the Throttle
The first thing you – as a beginner – ought to know is that you don’t have to be afraid of accelerating via the throttle. Sure, you might think you’re playing it safe with driving slower, but you’re actually risking that the drivers behind you – especially if they’re also beginners who don’t have full control of the vehicle.
This is why you don’t need to drive like a snail and why you shouldn’t be afraid of accelerating when the time is right.
Another important factor is having the right gear. That might seem like a logical thing to you and an unnecessary piece of advice, but trust us when we say that it is of vital importance to have adequate gear that will completely protect you from the cold. Going numb while snowmobiling won’t do you any good.
Also, be reasonable of your expectations. Professional snowmobilers have so much experience that they make it look very easy. But most recreational snowmobilers aren’t professionals and don’t have that level of skill.
This means that you shouldn’t expect perfection and professional-level elegance. Just go out there and enjoy yourself, whatever others may think of it.
Related to this is not showing off. You yourself know your strengths and your limits better than anyone else, which means that you know what you can and cannot do with the snowmobile. It’s good to be bold and try something new gradually and with time, but trying to look cool in front of others is something you should avoid while snowmobiling.
Don’t Go Solo At First
Our final pieces of advice concerns your social contacts during the drive, either an instructor or knowledgeable friend. First of all, it is essential that you listen to your instructor.
They are someone who has experience dealing with beginners and who give it their all to teach people like you to be good drivers who enjoy their snowmobile. This is why their advice is crucial and although you might not agree with it or fully grasp it from the start, don’t forget that it is all in your best interest.
The second piece of advice is related to driving in groups. Namely, you should avoid driving solo, especially if you’re a beginner. You might need some advice or help with a problem, or you might get injured, so it’s pretty obvious why you should always have someone by your side. You’re safer in a group, so don’t avoid them, especially if you’re a beginner.
Here’s another video with some more tips and tricks used in steep, deep, and tougher terrains.
How much snow do you need to snowmobile
Before we wrap this up, we’d like to tell you something about the snow, i.e. its height. Namely, snowmobiles are special vehicles and they need quality conditions to be driven normally.
One of those conditions relates to the quantity of snow and its height. Although there is no strict rule and you’ll find different opinions, there is an optimal amount of snow for snowmobiling.
There are people that will tell you that even one inch of snow is good enough for you. These people drive in such conditions and they might even drive successfully, but for a beginner, it could be tough.
Such driving is reckless because the small amount of snow in such cases can damage both the base of the snowmobile and result in accidents that can injure the driver.
On the other hand, when there are more than 10 inches of snow, it could be just as hard for a newbie. Such conditions aren’t safe because the snowmobile might get stuck in such a large amount of snow. So, what is the optimal amount?
If the snow is fresh and fluffy, 12 inches or more may be fine. With packed snow, you will notice a difference in steering.
There are two main groups of opinions here. One that states that three to five inches of snow is enough; this is the majority opinion of the drivers. Still, there are tracks that aren’t open until there are six or seven inches of snow on them. This is to ensure the maximum level of security for both the drivers and the vehicles.
The minimum number is somewhere in between, four to seven inches of snow for a good snowmobiling experience.
We’ve given you all the necessary information on how to drive a snowmobile and also some neat tricks you can use to make the whole procedure easier for yourselves. Finally, you’ve seen how much snow you actually need to drive a snowmobile safely. We hope you’ve found this article useful. See you next time!