Making Tracks in the Snow, Safely

Posted by Safeco November 30, 2015
Snowmobile Safety Tips

10 Tips for Safe Snowmobiling

Winter is for hunkering down, bundling up, hanging out near the fire – or not. If you're a snowmobile rider, winter is for getting out into the crisp, clear air and exploring new countryside.

But, before you go, it's worthwhile to give safety a thought. After all, snowmobiling is like other off-road activities in that it involves heavy machinery at high speeds, with the added complication of a challenging environment (snow and cold):

So, give these 10 tips a look and make sure you're well prepared to ride this season.

  1. Keep it legal: The minimum age to operate a snowmobile can vary by state, from 12 to 18. Be sure to check local laws before you ride. Some states may also require you to pass a safety certification course. Again, check the requirements in the area where you’ll be riding.
  2. Have a plan: Emulate aviators and boaters by filing a "snow plan" with your friends and family that describes your machine and your planned route. Be sure to let them know when you return safely, too.
  3. Dress the part: It's all about layers – ones made of polyester, silk or synthetic blends that dry quickly and wick away moisture. Avoid cotton. You'll also want a snowmobile suit or some other windproof outer layer. A helmet is essential, just as for motorcycles or ATVs. Wear a facemask if your helmet isn't full face, and don't forget goggles, sunglasses or a visor.
  4. Play it safe: Always carry a first aid kit and safety equipment, including a compass and map, waterproof matches with a candle or fire starter, a flashlight with spare batteries and an extra ignition key. Other useful items include a GPS unit, a small shovel, a probe and avalanche beacon if riding in avalanche-prone areas, a strobe light or flares and ice picks fastened to a cord if crossing frozen lakes and rivers.
  5. Don't drink and drive: This stands no matter what type of machine or vehicle you’re operating, but it’s especially important for snowmobilers. Alcohol causes body temperature to drop more quickly, which increases your susceptibility to cold and hypothermia. And, snowmobilers often find themselves in remote locations miles away from help, where being alert and sober can be essential.
  6. Slow down at night: A snowmobile's headlights illuminate only about 200 feet in front of you. If you're driving faster than about 45 mph, you're likely overriding your headlights—going so fast that you pass through the illuminated area before you can stop safely.
  7. Don't go it alone: Whenever possible, use the buddy system. If you do choose to ride alone, be doubly certain to follow safety procedures, and let someone know when you are riding, where you are going and when you will return.
  8. Avoid surprises: Watch out for unexpected obstacles under the snow, such as tree branches.
  9. Stay off the ice: Wherever possible, avoid riding on frozen lakes and rivers. If you must cross ice, stay on the trail and don’t stop until you reach shore. If you hit slush, don’t let off the throttle. If you are following someone who hits slush, veer off to make your own path.
  10. Cross carefully: Come to a complete stop before crossing roads of any kind and make sure no traffic is approaching from any direction. Then cross at a right angle to traffic.

Finally, be sure you have the insurance coverage you want for your snowmobile. It's not unlike insuring a motorcycle or an ATV, so think about such coverages as liability and uninsured/underinsured motorist, as well as comprehensive, collision and medical payments. And, look for ways to personalize your insurance with options such as accessories coverage and roadside assistance.

When you know you’re protected and you take the appropriate measures to be safe, you can really enjoy dashing through the snow. Happy trails!


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Insurance is offered by Safeco Insurance Company of America and/or its affiliates, with their principal place of business at 175 Berkeley Street, Boston, Massachusetts, 02116. This website provides a simplified description of coverage. Nothing stated herein creates a contract. All statements made are subject to the provisions, exclusions, conditions and limitations of the applicable insurance policy. Please refer to actual policy forms for complete details regarding the coverage discussed. If the information in these materials conflicts with the policy language that it describes, the policy language prevails. Coverages and features not available in all states. Eligibility is subject to meeting applicable underwriting criteria.