This article originally appeared in the Colorado Snowmobile Association newspaper, Snowmobile Scoop. 

Snowmobile Safety by Stan Gale, CSA Safety Director

The snow is falling and most of us have already been out there riding. It’s been a blast after the warm fall. Being mindful of some of the dangers that can occur and remember to never ride alone, because if you do, you’re taking an unnecessary chance. If you’ve ever had a mishap and had to tow your machine back to the trailhead, then you know what I mean! Having the right gear and avi equipment along with training and knowing the forecast is always a must. Paying attention to the big picture, especially visible avalanche activity in your immediate riding zone as well as staying and riding out of harm’s way and in particular terrain traps in narrow V shaped valleys and creek bottoms makes good sense. Even smaller slides or rollovers and tumbles on small slopes can be dangerous. Our machines are generally over 500 pounds! Remember to park your machine and to observe your friends if they are high marking while you are well out of the way of both the bottom of the slope and avalanche run-out zone and you’ll stay safe in case something unexpected happens! 

If you go out riding with anyone who isn’t a CSA club member and who doesn’t subscribe to these essential safety practices, alert them and sign them up! By making these practices part of your usual routine, you can set the example and build club membership value. I always carry small overnight safety pack that will enable me to survive the night or two just in case. I hope to never need it. Snowmobilers tend to ride pretty far from the parking lot, and having a well equipped emergency bivy pack with a couple of signal flares can make a big difference in the outcome of an unforeseen circumstance!

Have fun, be prepared for the unexpected, and be self-reliant. We ride in extraordinary terrain here in Colorado. Keep in mind that you are likely to meet out of state visitors on rental machines, and you can be a helpful and safety minded role model whom they will remember and learn from- just pass it on! 

I’d also welcome anyone to email me any type of “close calls” you’ve had ( I’ll keep the safety “donor” confidential, but I’d like to publish some of these experiences so we can all learn more and stay safe. I’ll start by relating that I had a short lived and “open throttle ride” when a clip on my glove gauntlet got unexpectedly caught and wedged between the finger-throttle housing and the throttle lever- whoa…Ride responsibly and stay safe. I’ll see you somewhere on the trail!