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Riding Skills

Starting the Snowmobile

Make sure the snowmobile is pointed in a safe direction. If it has reverse gear, make sure you know what gear it is in. Make sure that the throttle and brake are working freely. Lock the parking brake. Make sure the "kill" switch is in the proper position.

Use the proper starting position. If the engine is cold, use the choke or primer to add extra gas. If the engine is warm, do not choke or prime it.

Turn the ignition key to the on position. On electric start machines, the start position is to the extreme right. On manual start machines, pull the starter cord with a quick, sharp motion. Don't let the cord snap back or it may damage the snowmobile. More than one pull will probably be required if the engine is cold.

Allow the engine to warm up a few moments before trying to ride. Clear the track by rotating it slowly with the rear of the machine up on a jack stand, or by driving the machine slowly around the immediate area until it is fully warmed up.

Riding Positions

There are four riding positions that are used on the trail. Each is particularly suited for certain situations. Remember to keep your feet on your machine at all times.


The most common and most comfortable position. It keeps the center of gravity low, and keeps you warmer down behind the windshield. It is the only position recommended for carrying a passenger.

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The position used for shifting weight to one side of the snowmobile, primarily for leaning into slopes while side-hilling. It gets the rider's head up higher for better sight so it is also useful for road crossings, moving machines around in parking lots, and other similar situations. It does take some getting used to, so it is a good idea for novices to practice this position in a safe, flat area before using it out on the trail.


This semi-standing position has the knees bent and the feet back on the running boards. It is the most tiring position, and is usually used only for very rough trail surfaces, fording creeks, and climbing steep hills.


This position has the primary advantage of getting the rider's head as high as possible for the best possible vision. It is useful for road crossings where the longest line of sight possible is needed.

Effects of Body Position

Since the rider is a significant portion of the total weight of the snowmobile / operator combined unit, the exact position of the rider on the machine has a big influence on how it handles. Experienced riders use their weight and position on the snowmobile effectively to help maneuver their machines.

Leaning into turns

Riders can get better, more controllable turning by leaning into the turns. Placing more weight forward and into the turn puts more loading on the inside ski, keeping it down and giving it a better bite.

Up and down hills

When climbing hills, make sure that your weight is centered side-to-side, and you are sitting well back on the machine for traction. Bend your torso forward to keep your center of gravity down. Give the machine enough speed to reach the top, but be prepared to stop at the top if necessary. Always stay well to the right of the trail when climbing any hill.

If you need to travel across a slope, lean your body weight to the uphill side. Kneeling with your uphill foot on the running board is the best position for this. This is called side-hilling.

Bounce for traction

Sometimes a snowmobile needs a little extra traction, particularly on ice. A rider can often create this traction by simply bouncing up and down on the snowmobile, preferably as far back on the machine as possible.

Field practice

If possible, practice riding a snowmobile in a large, flat, snow covered open field or parking lot before going out on the trail with a group. This area must be free of obstructions, other snowmobilers, people, and animals. Make sure an experienced adult snowmobiler is present in case you need assistance.

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