by Carissa Wilson, Injury Prevention Coordinator, EIRMC

Snowmobiling is a great winter pastime and with Idaho’s 7,200 miles of groomed trails, there are plenty of beautiful areas to explore. Unfortunately, when done without regards to the elements or safety, snowmobiling can lead to serious injury or death.

The Basics

  • Always wear adequate winter clothing and protective glasses, goggles or face shields. Use sun screen to protect your skin from sunburn.
  • Don't drink alcohol and ride.
  • Don't ride alone; two snowmobiles traveling together are much safer than one.
  • Let someone know where you are going and when you expect to return.
  • Always keep to the right on snowmobile trails.
  • Be familiar with your snowmobile; try short trips and practice in open areas to become thoroughly familiar with its controls and operation before going on extended trips.

Avalanche Safety

Although snowmobiles themselves can be dangerous, avalanches are another factor that can put riders in danger. In the U.S in 2017-2018 there were 16 snowmobile related avalanche deaths - 25% of those were in Idaho. The American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE) gives the following 5 steps for avalanche safety.

  • GET THE GEAR: Ensure everyone has an avalanche transceiver, shovel, and probe on their person and knows how to use them. Test out your equipment before you head out. Always wear proper outdoor clothing.
  • GET THE TRAINING: Take an avalanche course to learn how to make proper decisions in avalanche terrain.
  • GET THE FORECAST: Check the current avalanche and weather forecast. Aorg gives updates on current avalanche warnings throughout the country.
  • GET THE PICTURE: Make a plan before you go of what terrain you aim to be on and what terrain you absolutely will avoid. Map out your route and research it thoroughly.
  • GET OUT OF HARM'S WAY: One at a time on all avalanche slopes. Don't put yourself in danger to rescue someone else. Don’t group up in exposed terrain. If something goes wrong you do not want more than one victim.

Equipment

Make sure you have a survival kit with you while snowmobiling. Below are some items to include:

  • Avalanche transceiver, probe and shovel
  • Waterproof matches in a waterproof container 
  • Several disposable lighters 
  • Cell phone 
  • Plastic whistle 
  • Map, compass, GPS 
  • Small flashlight with extra batteries 
  • 50 feet of 1/4-inch rope 
  • First aid kit 
  • Space blanket 
  • Candles 
  • High energy food 
  • Signal mirror 
  • Knife 
  • Metal cup 
  • Folding saw 
  • Extra drive belt, spark plugs and tool kit 
  • Tarpaulin or plastic windbreak

References:

https://parksandrecreation.idaho.gov/activities/snowmobiling

https://avalanche.org/