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Snowmobile Trail Ethics: How to be a Considerate Sledder


The time has come to get your gear packed up and prepared for another killer season out on the snowmobile trails. You’re probably most looking forward to the rush you get when you hit the trails for the first time this season and cut through the chilly winter air while enjoying the great outdoors. But of course, while it’s important to have a fun time, it’s also important that you considerate of others sharing the trails with you.

Just as there are some “rules of the road” (both written and unwritten) for drivers and motorcyclist, there are also some standard trail ethics you should be sure you follow. If you’re new to snowmobiling or just need a bit of a reminder about these standards, here are some quick tips to make sure you’re being responsible and respectful while out on your excursions.

Snowmobile Trail Ethics

Stay on designated trails

You should only ride your snowmobile in areas where snowmobiling is legally allowed. This means avoiding any designated wilderness areas, or any spots where motorized vehicles are not allowed.

In addition, make sure you stay off of private property, and stay on marked trails as much as possible unless there is an area off the trails designated for snowmobile usage. Make sure any area on which you’re riding has sufficient snow cover—any areas with inadequate snow could result in damage to the earth or to your vehicle.

Minimize noise and air pollution

Do your part to make the trail experience just as pleasant for other people enjoying the wilderness as it is for you. Cut down on any unnecessary noise, and avoid staying in high-traffic areas for too long. Try to cut down harmful emissions as well. Make sure your engine is in good condition and operating efficiently. Use all the proper oils, fuels and additives to keep your engine tuned up appropriately.

Take all trash out with you

Do not litter or bury any trash you create in the wilderness—bring bags so you can easily pack it out and take it with you. With regard to sanitary waste, you should either bury it in the snow or pack it out.

Dealing with animals

More than likely, you will encounter wildlife while you’re out on the trails, especially if you’re in an isolated area. There’s also a good chance you’ll come across some farm or domestic animals. They may run away, or they might watch you. Avoid harassing them or doing anything that could cause them distress. If you see particularly large animals like moose or bears you should be particularly careful. Do not encroach on their territory—if you pick a fight with them, you’re most likely going to lose.

Watch out for groomers

Keep an eye out for trail groomers, who will be out on the trails to make sure they are in good condition for all riders. They should be well marked with warning lights and bright colors, not to mention their own headlights and rear lights, but it’s still important to keep an eye out for them because they’ll probably take up most or all of the trail. They move very slowly. Give them plenty of time to notice that you’re coming before you try to pass them—they’ll pull over for you and let you by as soon as it’s safe to do so, just be patient and polite.

Respect other people on the trail

You’re going to probably run in to other people using the trail, including hikers, skiers, snowmobilers, horseback riders and snowshoers. Treat all of these people with respect, making sure you stay on the right side of the trail or, depending on the circumstances, slow down to let them pass you by. Make sure you stay up to date with all of the laws and regulations in your area regarding how you operate your snowmobile and the “rules of the trail” you need to follow to give other people the best experience.

Follow all of these rules, and not only will you give yourself a great time out in the wilderness on your snowmobile, but you’ll also give other people a great experience as well.

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