How To: Ride A Snowmobile
Without Getting Bucked
You just dropped into the biggest love/hate relationship you’ll ever have. Riding a snowmobile is exhilarating and can take you to insane terrain and powder possibilities-but it can also leave you fiddling, fussing, and stuck all day without a single pow turn. So, the better you can handle your sled, the more pow shredding you’ll do.
Throttle Or Not
“When in doubt, gas ‘er out” is the general rule for handling the throttle. You can’t maneuver your sled without giving it gas, and as hair-raising as it is, staying on the throttle will keep the track spinning, giving you more control over the snowmachine. Remember: the second you let go is the second you lose control. In powder, gently finesse the throttle to stay afloat and avoid burying the track.
For better turns, throw your weight and lean the sled into the turn, but steer the skis in the opposite direction. This creates a balance point and heaves the machine into a more controllable position. You’ll have to constantly adjust your weight and steering throughout the turn. 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. Initiate this technique by countersteering, leaning heavily into the slope, and anchoring that inside ski into the hill. Keep your weight transfer smooth, avoid jerking, and stand with one or both feet in the hillside running board. Resist grabbing the handlebar strap, instead, hold the handlebars like normal and adjust your countersteer. Be sure to scout a line across the slope that offers a downhill exit spot if you have to bail and point it back down.
Getting your sled stuck is inevitable, but you don’t have to exhaust yourself to dig it out. First, pull the skis and rotate the sled toward the downhill slope and give it a little gas. Still stuck? Have a friend pull the skis while you apply a little throttle. If you can’t get it moving from here, get a friend or two to help you lift up and rotate the rear from the pit you buried it in. If all else fails, you can just roll it down the hill or set it on fire.
- Ride “Canadian style” with the passenger standing on the left running board and the driver on the right.
- When descending, stay balanced and make sure to keep the track spinning so it doesn’t lock up and start sliding.
- When riding in powder, stop on an existing track or flatter area to avoid getting stuck.
- Snowmobiles and their weight are more prone to triggering avalanches, so take extra caution, check the avy report, bring your backcountry essentials, and never go alone.
ILLUSTRATIONS: Shawn O'Keefe