Defining what it Means to be a Snowmobiler

Rohan Mathew

Snowmobiling has evolved into a trendy winter sport. In fact, it’s no longer only considered an emergency transportation means or an alternative through snow-covered terrain where automobiles are nonfunctional. It’s now explored by individuals and families widely as a recreational sport. 

Snowmobiles (snow machines) have drastically risen in popularity. These are powerful and self-propelled vehicles measuring 400 kg, with a front-located engine. Their movement mechanism is facilitated by centrally located rubberized skis, belts, tracks, or low-pressure tires. A snow machine can hit 190 km/h on a horsepower engine. 

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Quick Facts about Snowmobiling

At least 4 million snowmobiles are registered in the region between Canada and the United States.According to estimates, Ontario alone has over 360,000 snowmobiles in use, surpassing the rest of North America. The snowmobiling industry records more than $9.4 billion in expenditure each year with North America accounting for most of its mortality rate in snowmobiling.

According to popular beliefs, 14,000 emergency room visits and an additional annual fatality rate of 200 persons for snowmobiling-related injuries is a huge underestimation. 

Ontario alone reports 7000 injury cases related to snowmobiling every year (not to mention the unreported incidents). Cases of reported injuries rise with the increasing popularity of snowmobiling.

Experts Say Snowmobiling Is Supposedly Designed To Be Fun

Thankfully, this is true on most occasions. However, like many activities, it can involve adverse effects. Among other threatening factors, the size and sheer force of snowmobiling machines are the cause of severe injuries or death encountered by most riders.

It may seem as though the more snowmobiling rises in popularity, the higher the cases of the number of injuries and death are reported, which has had a profound burden on society. 

You’ll notice the new call for emphasis on safety following early-season incidents this year if you observe closely. 

Problems Associated with Snowmobilers 

Although snowmobiling is rising in popularity, dedicated participants in this lucrative recreational activity may face facial fractures for a handful of reasons such as alcohol use, traveling on unknown terrain, immaturity of the driver, and night-time driving. 

Here are brief incidents from personal stories recently encountered by die-hard snowmobilers:

A family in New York recounted a head-on accident recently encountered by one of them upon meeting a corner-cutting rider.

In another example, a snowmobiler in Wisconsin petitioned for extra safety coverage on snowmobiling terrains, citing a narrow escape he experienced with his son and an earlier head-on collision involving a close relative.

Overall, in our recent surveys, most readers have cited safety topics regarding their snowmobiling experience. Snowmobilers can reduce instances of snowmobile-related injuries through further education and the elimination of preventable factors.

Preventions for Snowmobiling Incidents

As with most recreational activities, the significant injuries involved in snowmobiling are avoidable. Because most of these traumas are rooted in human behavior, they are potentially preventable. 

We witness most top-notch professionals in the West train practice their beacon usage and terrain reading, and even exercise their probing and shoveling skills. However, we hardly witness riding buddies gathering together for a safety talk. Or probably because most aspects of trail safety are tagged as common sense—

  • Slowing down
  • Riding sober
  • Staying right
  • Anticipating the possibility of meeting someone in a sharp corner
  • Maintaining a safe following distance
  • Avoiding overdriving your headlight, and
  • Pulling far right

Does this list sound familiar? But why do several snowmobilers still have multiple versions of close calls? You know, the day you met head-on an over speeding sled riding on the wrong side, or the occasion you navigated a corner and stumbled onto packed sleds. or the time you witnessed a gnarly accident where someone was nursing severe injuries; a close buddy who died on spot or got seriously injured upon hitting a block moments after leaving the bar. 

It starts With You

While blaming ‘the other guy’ is seemingly the easier option during a close call, the ball is primarily on your court. It all begins with the man in the mirror. If each of us focuses on doing the right thing, we will witness more safety as we have fun with our close buddies again. 

Provincial laws give the directives to snowmobiling with respect to the use of public road system, minimum age for operation, speed limits, and registrations of snowmobiles. But riders in private areas of land may find ways to defy these details. Even worse, police manpower may be inadequate to sufficiently patrol these areas. This has called for serious measures like complete ban of alcohol use for snowmobilers in jurisdictions like Canada and Finland 

Being a good snowmobiler is not just about flying further, riding harder, or moving faster. Instead, a good snowmobiler takes control of their machine and protects their safety while at it.