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Snow Conditions

Loose Blowing Snow

Loose blowing snow kicked up from the trail causes dangerous conditions for snowmobilers. The action of the track kicks up a mini blizzard that coat the snowmobile tail light. Under these conditions, it is important to frequently clean your tail light lens so that riders following you can see your tail light, and, more importantly, your brake light.

Heavy, loose blowing snow also reduces visibility considerably. In these conditions, slow down and increase following distances. Be very careful to avoid hitting the snowmobile in front of you should that machine stop suddenly. And don't stop suddenly yourself.

Finally, loose blowing snow will coat your snowmobile's instruments. You may have to stop and clean away the snow build up so you can see the gauges. It is also drawn into the snowmobile engine air intake where it may literally suffocate the engine. You may have to stop and clean ice and snow out of the air induction route to maintain engine performance.

Deep Soft Snow

Be aware of where the snow may be softer and deeper than the surrounding area and try to avoid it when possible. It can hide serious obstacles like concrete culverts, large rocks, or tree stumps. Deep soft snow riding requires more power, which uses more gas, and requires more riding skill to avoid getting stuck.

The most obvious way to avoid getting stuck in deep snow is to stay on the groomed trail. But if you do get into soft, deep snow, keep up the momentum of your snowmobile. Don't let off the gas. Be careful about giving it too much throttle too quickly. If you do, the back end of the machine will dig down in and you will get badly stuck. If you do feel the back end starting to go down, lean up over the handlebars to get more weight on the front end. Be careful not to hit the kill switch or the throttle while doing this. Do not attempt sharp turns. Use body English to assist steering.

If you do get stuck, the first thing is to stop immediately. Gunning the throttle will only dig you in further. You may be able to get unstuck using the "bounce for traction" trick. If your snowmobile is equipped with reverse gear, backing up may work. If you are really bogged down, you may have to do some digging.

In an extreme situation, tie your tow rope onto the front of the snowmobile and have other riders use it to pull you out to more solid snow.

Ice Crusted Snow

Ice crust can occur when temperatures are fluctuating or after a freezing rain. In these conditions, traction balance is very important. Snowmobiles with carbide runners but no track studs can become very unstable on side hills and diagonals as the front end bites but the rear end breaks away and slide downhill. Slow down and ride very carefully in these conditions. Avoid diagonal slopes as much as possible.

Heavy Wet Snow

Heavy wet snow makes the snowmobile work harder than normal. Pay special attention to your fuel consumption and drive belt in these conditions.

Four Wheel
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Commonly found in swampy areas and on the surface of frozen bodies of water, getting through slush requires extra power. Try to avoid it if possible. If you do encounter slush and cannot avoid it, do not stop in it except to avoid going into open water. Do not ride in the exact same path as the machine ahead of you unless it is definitely the safest place to be. Stay on the throttle to get through the slushy area, and be prepared to pour on the power if needed to deal with deep slush, but be prepared to let off and use the brake if necessary when you clear the slushy area.

Be aware that slush can sometimes be hidden by a thin layer of fresh powder snow on top.

Marginal Snow Conditions

The generally accepted minimum amount of snow for snowmobile operation is three inches of cover. Riding in less than three inches of snow can be damaging to the environment, and to the snowmobile, so it should be avoided completely whenever possible. But sometimes snow conditions will change drastically in just a few miles on the trail, requiring that you negotiate an area of marginal snow cover. Riding in marginal snow cover conditions requires extra attention to the trail, as minor obstacles like logs, stumps, rocks, or ruts that can be covered up in better snow conditions will frequently present problems. Take it easy and slowly work your way through any obstacles that you may encounter.

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