How to Ride a Snowmobile: Snowmobile Basics for Beginners | Composit Tracks (2023)

Riding a snowmobile is a fun way to spend your free time either alone or with a group of friends. In any case, it’s this rare type of leisure activity that can definitely give you many exciting memories. Even if one doesn’t own a snowmobile, they can always give it a shot during winter vacation. Now after deciding to ride a snowmobile for the first time comes a logical question – is it hard to ride?

What To Do Before Riding a Snowmobile

Complete beginners will indeed find riding a snowmobile a bit challenging, but it always gets easier as one gains enough experience steering and maneuvering the vehicle. Still, there are a few essential things you should know and do before advancing into this entertaining action.

Get To Know the Features of Your Snowmobile

For amateur snowmobile riders, it’s crucial to acquire some basic information on the sled and gear. One can become familiar with the functionality of their vehicle by simply reading its manual. Usually, it contains the fullest info on its features, controls, and maintenance. You can also check out the stickers – there are many of them present on your sled – they may also contain some helpful tips about how to have a smoother ride.
Last but not least come the safety issues. Experienced snowmobile drivers know for sure that choosing the right type of tracks for the vehicle may save their life. That’s why we strongly recommend selecting only trustworthy brands with immaculate reputations, such as:

  • Arctic Cat tracks
  • Polaris tracks
  • Ski-Doo tracks
  • Yamaha tracks

Important! Never skip the simple step of warming up the sled before you go.

(Video) How to drive a snowmobile

Take Care of the License

Getting a snowmobile license is a good idea, especially if you are interested in getting a better understanding of the driving basics. The process of acquiring a license assumes that you complete a safety course, which is mandatory in most countries. Even if the governing laws of your place of residence don’t require you to get a license, you should seriously consider this option. At the very least, consider that some insurance companies offer good discounts for licensed snowmobile drivers.

Comply With Local Laws and Regulations

Obeying all applicable laws and regulations when riding a snowmobile helps you stay safe and legal, and it protects the lives of other people. However, the great variety of rules might be a bit overwhelming to process, especially for beginners.
Riders should follow federal, state, and sometimes even city-specific regulations. By the way, most trails also have their own rules. The abundance of laws might seem a little extra, but they were accepted for a good reason – to ensure everyone’s safety.
Important! Avoid riding on private properties. Show some respect to local landowners and always stay on the trail.

Keep an Eye on Other Drivers

When riding on a trail, it’s critical to pay attention to what is happening around you. It would be best if you refrained from riding side-by-side with other members of your group. Try to keep to the right and always ride at a safe distance; otherwise, you can crash into other sledders, which is not cool.
Look ahead; don’t waste your time watching the ground in front of your vehicle, and carefully plan the route inside your head.
Important! Learn the hand signals. They will come in handy when you have to communicate with your riding buddies on the trail.

Take Full Control Over Your Sled

Sledding is not about how hard you hammer the throttle or how quickly you move the handlebar. Riding a snowmobile involves perfect continuous control of speed, proper steering of the vehicle, and rapid shifting of your body weight forward and backward.
Surprisingly to most beginners, applying some throttle at the right time can help you maneuver the snowmobile like a pro. However, you should be careful not to overdo it!
Another vital thing to remember is that you should always keep a finger on the brake, just in case you have to use it immediately.

Set Your Limits

Both amateur and professional sledders should be aware of generally accepted limits and soberly assess their physical condition and abilities. Due to the obvious safety reasons, complete beginners are recommended to practice on trails, even if they are tempted to go wild and try off-trail riding. Once you get enough experience, you are welcome to experiment with different terrains, but not sooner.
While you are still at square one, it’s better to avoid riding at night or with a passenger. Even the slightest change in weight changes the center of gravity, and you risk losing control of the vehicle.

Driving on a Powder Day

Deep powder days attract experienced snowmobilers who seem to live for this moment. Usually, they use mountain sleds designed to withstand the harshest weather conditions. As for newbies, powder days often deprive them of joy: it’s very difficult to pick up and hold the steady speed that is necessary to control the sled, especially for those who have just started learning how to drive. That’s why snowmobiling through the powder can be pretty frustrating for beginners. Still, if you know the basics and devote some of your time to advancing your riding skills, everything becomes possible.
Remember that even the best riders find themselves stuck in the snow one day, so if it happens to you, it isn’t the end of the world. Still, this is a reason why novice sledders are advised to drive with more experienced snow riders. Keep it in mind!
Make sure you are well aware of the weather and avalanche conditions on all riding days, with a particular emphasis on deep powder days.

(Video) Beginners : Trail Riding Tips

How to Ride a Snowmobile: Snowmobile Basics for Beginners | Composit Tracks (1)

Position Yourself Properly

While you warm up the engine and wait until it reaches the required temperature, you should position yourself comfortably on the sled. Proper positioning is essential to operate the controls of the snowmobile optimally, but more importantly, it helps avoid injuries while driving at high speed.
Ensure your feet are standing on the side rails and your hands are holding the handle. If you don’t feel comfortable sitting this way, you should consider changing your position.
In snowmobile driving, there are two basic techniques you will have to master to be able to ride on your own:
Riding uphill
When you need to сlimb up the slope of a hill or a mountain, make sure you ride in a kneeling position. Thus, you will have better control of the vehicle as you shift your body weight forward. It would be best if you didn’t stop on the slope, as it would be very challenging to continue riding until you reach the top. Trying to drive again in the middle of the uphill trail may damage the belt on the snowmobile.
Riding downhill
As for descending, many things depend on the terrain, but it’s generally recommended to ride down a sidehill in a sitting position. The farther back you sit on the saddle, the better. Avoid riding downhill at a recklessly high speed, and don’t expose yourself to life-threatening injuries.

Apply the Throttle

As an entry-level snowmobiler, you should acknowledge the fact that accelerating through the throttle is not a crime. You shouldn’t be afraid to drive faster! Even though it may seem that you play it safe choosing a slow driving style, in fact, you’re putting the riders behind you at risk. That can be especially dangerous if your riding buddies are also newbies who haven’t mastered complete control of the sled.
You might be tempted to drive like a snail due to safety reasons, and one can’t blame you for having a basic instinct for self-preservation. However, accelerating just in time is an essential skill you have to acquire.

Is It That Hard To Drive a Snowmobile?

Driving a sled is rightfully considered quite a difficult endeavor. However, is it really that hard? The procedure can undoubtedly go much easier if you follow the tips already mentioned above.
Nothing is impossible with a little bit (or a lot) of practice. Most beginners get used to riding a snowmobile after their 5th or 6th attempt. The riding experience is all you need to handle and steer the vehicle with ease. Over time, you won’t even remember how you struggled to operate the vehicle.

How Much Snow Do You Need To Snowmobile?

Before we wrap everything up, there is something you should know about the characteristics of snow – specifically, its height. Snowmobiles are vehicles that require specific conditions to be driven optimally. Probably the most critical conditions you should consider are the amount and the height of snow. There are no universal rules, and views on this issue may range.
Some people believe that even one inch of snow is enough to provide one with an excellent snowmobiling experience. While pros can successfully drive in such scarce conditions, it’s a no-go for amateur sledders. Driving through a small amount of snow can result in accidents and have drastic consequences, as you could damage your vehicle or even injure yourself or others. Too much snow (10 inches or more) also doesn’t favor novice snowmobilers. It’s hard and unsafe to steer a vehicle in such conditions as well because you might get stuck in a large snowdrift. So, what’s the perfect amount of snow for a newbie?
A fresh and fluffy snow layer will work even if its height is 11 inches or more; on the other hand, be aware that packed snow will influence your steering. For the best snowmobiling experience, make sure the minimum snow height ranges from four to eight inches.
In this article, we shared the most important information on how to drive a snowmobile like a pro, even if you have never done it before. Consider our awesome tips to simplify the process and make your first ride on a snowmobile comfortable and fun.

How to Ride a Snowmobile: Snowmobile Basics for Beginners | Composit Tracks (2)

(Video) Tips for Safe Riding


How Do You Ride a Snowmobile for the First Time?

To drive a snowmobile safely for the first time, there are just a few things you should keep in mind. Do not carry a second passenger on your vehicle, as the extra weight will affect the center of gravity and deprive you of the ability to steer effortlessly. Always obey the local laws, keep an eye on the surroundings, and use common sense – that’s how you protect yourself from troubles and life-threatening situations.
If you happen to get stuck in the snow, don’t try to rev the engine. Instead, try letting off on the throttle to avert further sinking of the vehicle.

How Do You Ride a Snowmobile Faster?

First of all, you need to be aware of the factors that affect the speed of your snowmobile. They include characteristics of the gear, weather conditions, and many more:

  • Design of the vehicle
  • Type of engine
  • Horsepower
  • Applied modifications (e.g., turbos)
  • Amount of snow
  • Aerodynamic conditions (e.g., the direction and speed of the wind)
  • Weight of the rider
  • Experience of the rider
  • Peculiarities of the terrain

You should never pick up speed if you feel that it will hinder your control of the sled. Safety comes first!

What Can’t I Do on a Snowmobile?

Never overload your snowmobile. These vehicles are not designed to pull any heavy equipment or extra weight (e.g., sleds or skiers). It’s essential to read the owner’s manual to determine how many passengers your snowmobile can carry.
Never drive drunk or high. While this tip may seem obvious, you will be surprised to learn how many accidents were caused by impaired drivers during the past year.

What Is the Best Snowmobile for a Newbie?

A while ago, the high prices for top snowmobiles used to deter novel riders. Today manufacturers managed to solve this problem by building amazing entry-level vehicles that are both affordable and technologically advanced. Here are the top 5 snowmobile makes perfectly suitable for beginners:

  1. Polaris Indy Evo (starting from $6,200)
  2. Polaris Indy 121 (starting from $8,100)
  3. Arctic Cat Blast ZR (starting from $8,200)
  4. Yamaha SX Venom MSRP (starting from $8,299)
  5. Ski-Doo MXZ Sport (starting from $8,700)
(Video) Learning Backcountry Basics with Pro Snowmobiler Amber Holt


How long does it take to get good at snowmobiling? ›

Nothing is impossible with a little bit (or a lot) of practice. Most beginners get used to riding a snowmobile after their 5th or 6th attempt. The riding experience is all you need to handle and steer the vehicle with ease. Over time, you won't even remember how you struggled to operate the vehicle.

What should you not do on a snowmobile? ›

Do not operate at high speeds, especially when near houses, buildings, livestock, wildlife, trailheads, or other recreationists. Do not use alcohol or drugs. Do not engage in reckless, careless, or inappropriate behavior. Do not overload a snowmobile or ride double unless the snowmobile is designed for 2 passengers.

What is the easiest snowmobile to ride? ›

5 Great Beginner Snowmobiles For 2022-2023
  • Arctic Cat Blast ZR $8,699. The Blast is back for the 22/23 season! ...
  • Polaris Indy Evo $7,399. ...
  • Polaris Indy 121 $8,999. ...
  • Ski-Doo MXZ Sport $8,999. ...
  • Yamaha SX Venom MSRP $8,999. ...
  • Ski-Doo MXZ Neo MSRP $6,399.
Apr 25, 2022

What snowmobile skill should you practice only after mastering the basics? ›

After you master the basics, go to a hilly area and practice riding uphill and downhill, as well as traversing the hill.

Do you lean into a turn on a snowmobile? ›

Even when turning on a groomed trail, be sure to slightly lean into the turn so the track doesn't catch and buck you. Riding your sled perpendicular to the slope (side hilling) is an essential skill for navigating backcountry terrain.

Is snowmobiling easy? ›

Riding a snowmobile is relatively easy and super fun! The best tips for new riders are to practice throttle control and balance, otherwise the best way to improve your riding is to go out and get after it! If you're ready to ride, even as a beginner we've got a sled for you!

What is the safest way to cross a hill on a snowmobile? ›

Crossing a Hill

The kneeling position is a good choice, but make sure you kneel with your downhill leg. Also, always keep your bodyweight leaning towards the uphill direction. If you lean downhill you are going to roll. Beware of hard-packed snow while crossing a hill as it can cause your snowmobile to slide.

What is the safest way to stop a snowmobile on ice? ›

Maintain a slow, steady speed. Don't speed up or apply the brakes abruptly. To stop safely, release the throttle and coast to a stop.

Is it OK to snowmobile alone? ›

Never Ride Alone

It is strongly recommended that you always use the buddy system and never snowmobile alone.

How much do you tip a snowmobile guide? ›

The average tip amount for an outdoor or backcountry guide is between 10% and 20% of the tour cost per person. For example, if the tour price was $1,000 per person, then the acceptable tip should be between $100 and $200 per person depending on the level of service provided by the guide.

What is better a long track or short track snowmobile? ›

A longer track remains afloat in powder-type snow conditions better than a short track, and as the snow builds up, long sleds get easier to navigate. A 153, 154, or 155 can be better to dig out than a 162 or 163.. They don't delve as deeply into the snow cover as a 162 or 163 due to their shorter length.

What is the most stable snowmobile? ›

What Is the Most Reliable Snowmobile Brand? Usually, Yamaha 4-stroke sleds are considered the most reliable sleds of all time. That being said, no matter how low their market share is, Yamaha is the most reliable snowmobile brand in the industry.

What is the most comfortable snowmobile? ›

BRP Ski-Doo

The Ski-Doo Grand Touring is probably the top in comfort. With the rMotion rear suspension and on the SE edition, with the Air Controled Suspension (ACS), (my highlight for this snowmobile), you can ride long distances in total comfort.

What is the first thing you should do before starting your snowmobile? ›

To start safely:
  • Point the machine in a safe direction.
  • Position yourself to control the machine when it starts.
  • Set the parking brake.
  • Make sure the throttle is not frozen. ...
  • Set the key and the engine stop switch (also sometimes known as a safety switch) to the “on” position.
  • If your engine is cold, choke or prime it.

What are the best exercises for snowmobiling? ›

The largest upper body muscle group that directly correlates with snowmobiling is the back; primarily the lats. Think about it, these are the primary muscles (besides your forearms) to hold onto your sled. The two most beneficial exercises that I recommend are pullups and seated rows.

What should snowmobile riders keep in mind when riding at night? ›

niGhT drivinG

Overdriving headlights can also be a serious problem, so slow down when snowmobiling after dark. Ride with individuals familiar with the area. Always wear outer clothing with reflective trim on the arms, back and helmet. Never ride alone at night.

Are snowmobiles easy to ride? ›

Riding a snowmobile is relatively easy and super fun! The best tips for new riders are to practice throttle control and balance, otherwise the best way to improve your riding is to go out and get after it! If you're ready to ride, even as a beginner we've got a sled for you! Contact us to learn more.

Are snowmobiles easy to use? ›

Follow the guide's instruction, point it in the right direction and turn the throttle to go. It's incredibly easy but a bit daunting if you've never done it before. There's no gears, an easy to use brake and a big red button on the dash board which you can press to stop the snowmobile quickly.

What should snowmobile riders keep in mind when riding at niGhT? ›

niGhT drivinG

Overdriving headlights can also be a serious problem, so slow down when snowmobiling after dark. Ride with individuals familiar with the area. Always wear outer clothing with reflective trim on the arms, back and helmet. Never ride alone at night.

Do snowmobiles shift gears? ›

Snowmobiles feature an automatic transmission that takes power from the engine and moves it to the wheels using a pair of pulleys connected by a belt. This continuously variable transmission (CVT) requires no additional gears and shifts itself automatically.

Can you go slow on a snowmobile? ›

Keep the clutch engaged to help you slow down. Pump the brake (alternately squeezing and releasing the brake) every few seconds to maintain a slow speed or stop.

How can I be a better snowmobiler? ›

Snowmobile Tips for Beginners
  1. Keep Warm. First of all, you'll need some good snowmobiling gear to keep the cold out. ...
  2. Know Hand Signals. Using hand signals is a great way to communicate with others while riding a snowmobile. ...
  3. Know and Obey Signs. ...
  4. Watch Out for Other Riders. ...
  5. Night Riding. ...
  6. Other Things to Remember.
Mar 2, 2017

What is the most important thing to do in order to avoid a collision snowmobile? ›

Maintaining a safe speed allows you to control your machine and stop in time to avoid a collision. The greater the speed, the greater the stopping distance. To determine a safe speed, you must know stopping distances and how to factor in sight distance and reaction time.

How do most snowmobile accidents happen? ›

Snowmobile accidents result in nearly 200 deaths and 14,000 injuries each year. Alcohol, excessive speed, poor judgment and driver inexperience are cited as the leading causes of crashes. Accidents occur on roadways, highways, and public and private trails.


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