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Video: Riding in Various Conditions

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Video Transcript

On screen: RIDING IN VARIOUS CONDITIONS

Haley

Looking good, partner. Now that you’ve got a feel for the different riding positions, let’s crank up your skills a notch by practicing in some different conditions. Let’s start by heading up some hills, all right?

The person behind the camera nods.

Haley

All right, let’s go.

On screen: MANEUVERING ON HILLS

Rob

All right. So hills can be tricky, so watch Haley first.

Haley heads uphill.

Rob

Notice how she’s leaning uphill and posting. Increasing your throttle maintains your speed. The deeper the snow, the more speed and momentum you’ll need. And don’t stop until you reach the top. Otherwise you could get stuck. And if you ever feel like you aren’t going to make it, then turn back downhill and avoid the headache of getting stuck. All right, now do you know which one of these actions are best when going downhill? Lean far back on the seat? Keep your thumb off the throttle? Lock your brakes? The correct answers are always, sometimes, and never. In order to control the machine’s momentum, be sure to lean far back on the seat. You may have to use a little throttle, depending on the steepness of the slope, in order to keep your forward momentum. But be aware that if the slope is too steep, then no throttle should be used. Instead, control your speed with light braking. And you should never lock your brakes because that will put you into a slide.

Haley

Now that you’ve got that, what would you have to do to traverse the hill? Shift your body weight to the uphill side of the machine, and keep a low center of gravity. That will put your weight on the uphill side of your track.

Rob

Our partner is doing great up there, but what do you think happens in different snow conditions? The fact is that each type of machine acts differently in various snow conditions and terrain.

Haley

You’ll learn a lot of this through trial and error, but we don’t want you to get hurt or stranded trying. So here are a few friendly pointers.

On screen: OPERATING ON AND OFF THE TRAIL

Haley

Hard-packed snow on groomed trails makes the best surface for learning to ride. When riding off-trail in approved or designated areas, untracked snow can look harmless and even inviting. But be aware that it might hide hazards, such as stumps, fence wire, rocks, or unexpected ditches or holes. And when you’re riding in designated off-trail areas, you really need to pay attention to your speed and where you’re going.

Rob

All right, I know you’ve seen those crazy videos of snowmobiles accidentally falling off cliffs, avalanche drifts, or ditches. And it ain’t always pretty, and we don’t want it to happen to you. But what is pretty are snowmobiles gliding through deep, powdered snow.

On screen: OPERATING IN POWDER

Rob

Even though it looks effortless, it’s actually the most rider-active snow condition you’ll face. Toss in some hills, and you’ll really get a workout. But again, it’s the hazards hidden under the snow that can cause problems, so be careful.

Haley

Even if you’re being responsible, one eventual challenge, especially in powder snow, is losing traction and getting stuck. To avoid getting stuck in the first place, always stop so you’re pointing downhill or on packed snow. You can even use the tracks of another machine. If you feel your machine bogging down, turn downhill and try again by using your old tracks. Rocking your machine might keep you from getting stuck and can also come in handy to get you unstuck. If you’re stuck, gunning your engine will dig you deeper. Instead, get off your machine and use gravity to your advantage by turning and pulling the skis downhill. Then pack the snow on the downhill side of the machine for better traction. Or you can always use a trusty tow strap and another machine to get you unstuck. And besides the weather and terrain, you have to be aware of the changing light conditions.

On screen: LOW LIGHT CONDITIONS

Haley

Low light conditions, like twilight, create a flat light that can affect your depth perception. Shadows start to disappear. And that could cause you to misjudge your braking distance and fail to see obstacles. But amber- or rose-colored lenses enhance the shadows and help your depth perception. And in these light conditions, it’s even more important to slow down. So there you have it. We all know that part of the fun of snowmobiling is operating in different conditions.

Rob

But that doesn’t mean we have to leave safety behind. So whatever the weather and terrain may throw at you, stay safe.

How To Practice

  • You can improve your skills by practicing at a slow speed in a large, flat, snow-covered field with no obstructions. An experienced adult should be with you as you practice the following skills.
    • Start and stop at various speeds, and try a few quick stops.
    • Use hand signals as you turn in different directions.
    • Try all four riding positions.
    • Complete an oval and a figure eight. Also make tight, low-speed turns.
    • Slalom through traffic cones.
  • After you master the basics, go to a hilly area and practice riding uphill and downhill, as well as traversing the hill.
  • Watch experienced riders and learn from them.
Diagram of a Figure 8 path for a snowmobile
Diagram of a large oval for practice riding on a snowmobile