Sledders riding their snowmobiles

Riding Tips

This section covers a wide range of safe riding tips including: starting your snowmobile; riding positions and hand signals; common trail signs; riding in groups, with passengers, alone, and in varying snow conditions; getting unstuck; night riding; towing; and rider responsibilities. A section quiz is provided.

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Riding Tips


Starting Your Machine
First, read the owner's manual for your snowmobile to become familiar with it before starting it for the first time. This is the best guide to learn all the controls and adjustments for your particular machine.

Second, follow the pre-ride checklist for every snowmobile outing in the "Be Prepared for Your Ride" section to ensure your machine is ready for your trip and that you have all the gear you'll need to have a safe and enjoyable outing.

Once you have completed all pre-ride checks:
Starting your snowmobile via the pull method
  • Make sure the snowmobile is pointed in a safe direction
  • Be in a position where you can control the machine once it starts in the event the throttle should stick, meaning you should be holding the handlebar with one hand when starting it with your other hand. The best control positions include: 1) grasping the left handlebar with your left hand while kneeling with your right knee on the left side of the seat, so that you can reach across to pull the manual starting rope with your right hand; 2) sitting on the machine and grasping the left handlebar with your left hand so that you can use the electric start with your right hand; 3) standing on the right side of the machine so that you can grasp the right handlebar with one hand while pulling the manual start rope with your other hand; or 4) if using an electric start, standing on either side of the machine while using one hand to grasp a handlebar while using the opposite hand to operate the electric start
  • Check the throttle by depressing it at least once to be sure it isn't frozen; when released it should return quickly to the idle / starting position
  • Check the key to ensure it is in the 'on' position and that the emergency-kill safety switch is in the 'up' position
  • Depending on the machine, pump the throttle a couple of times and then choke or prime the engine, particularly if it is cold or the first time it is being started that day
  • If your machine has an electric start: turn the key to the "start" position. If the engine fails to start, immediately release the key so that you do not burn the electric starter out. Repeat until the engine starts and then release the choke as soon as the engine is idling smoothly
  • If your machine has a manual start: pull the recoil starter cord out slowly until you feel resistance, then pull firmly while using care to not overextend / pull the starter rope out too far. Do not let the recoil starter snap back or you risk damaging it. To avoid recoil damage, promptly extend your arm back toward the recoil mechanism at the end of each pull and to repeat the starting process until the engine starts. Gently return the recoil handle to its resting / start position once the snowmobile starts
  • Use caution to not flood the snowmobile's engine when starting it. If the choke is used and the engine fails to start right away, stop before too much gas is used. Wait a minute or two and then try to start the engine again
  • Allow the machine's engine to warm up after it's first started by allowing the engine to idle for a few minutes before leaving, particularly when it's cold or at the beginning of an outing.