Preparing for Your Long-Distance Snowmobile Trip
Snowmobiling has great range as a sport. You might be a recreational rider, where you spend a few hours tearing up powder-fresh snow. You might need your sled for work, trekking across winter terrain without much thought for fun. However, you might aspire to become a more experienced and accomplished rider by completing a long-distance journey on your snowmobile.
Cross-country sledding is not for the faint of heart, and it take extensive preparation. Extensive trail systems are across Canada and the Northern United States. If you want to have success on your first long ride, this guide can help you know what you will need.
Improve Personal Fitness
You might not think about your fitness level being a factor when riding your sled. However, snowmobiling can be physically taxing, and you need both strength and endurance to handle your machine when you are far away from outside help. You'll wind up very tired and quite sore after only a few hours on the trail, to say nothing of several days.
First, improve your core stability. Spend time improving your abdominal strength with long-holding poses like planks. You'll also want to increase your back strength through rowing and pull-ups.
Next, strengthen your legs. You use your legs during technical maneuvers, and sometimes you need some real explosive power to manipulate your sled. Squats, deadlifts, and lunges will give you the power you need to survive on the trail.
Cardiovascular conditioning is also important for technically difficult trails. Trails with steep downhills, jumps, and climbs coated with a few feet of powder need a rider with that won't get tired too quickly. Running, biking, and swimming will improve your heart and lung conditioning.
You also can experience grip fatigue on long trips. Wrist curls with small weight can help improve your forearm and hand strength. You can improve your grip endurance by simply holding heavy weights in each hand for as long as possible. Start grip training a few months before your trip, or your arms will burn out within hours of hitting the trail.
Make Safety Your First Concern
Next, you need to prepare for your personal safety. Your biggest enemy during a long-distance trip will not be animals or even other riders; it will be exposure. For snow to be maintained throughout the winter, the weather must be consistently cold. The cold is a friend to your sled, but it can be deadly for you. Make sure you:
- Have clothing designed for sledding. You might have gotten away with a basic parka and snow pants for short recreational rides. But for long rides, you need a snowsuit that is lightweight, warm, and ventilated. It will need to perform well in sub-zero temperatures and in areas with high altitudes.
- Pack warmers for your boots and hands. You can get boots and gloves that warm themselves with battery power, but if these run out or stop working, you'll need some warming packs as a backup.
- Have supplies for sleep. Ideally you'd plan your route with stops in towns for sleeping, but if inclement weather arises and you have to hunker down, you'll want a warm sleeping bag and the ability to build a fire and a makeshift shelter.
In case you are in an area without cell service, you will want a means of contacting others. Have a satellite phone or radio that doesn't need connection to phone network to use in case of emergency. Also, brush up on your first aid; get certified before you make your trip.
Plan for Basic Needs
You will need to make provisions for food and water of course. Water will freeze on your trip, so you might need a warmer to melt and purify snow for drinking. Pack high-energy foods, like trail mix and beef jerky. Plan stops for food along the way so you get a little variety.
The most overlooked need, however, is fuel for the sled. In order to avoid carrying tons of extra fuel, you need to have a machine that can go the distance.
Most performance snowmobiles have two-stroke engines for greater power and better handling, but they burn through fuel very quickly. The best choice is to get a two-stroke or four-stroke SDI engine. SDI, or semi-direct injection, results in much better fuel economy for longer rides.
If you do have an SDI sled for your ride, pack an extra battery just in case, because the SDI models cannot run without battery power. Have your sled completely tuned up and all worn parts replaced before starting out. A broken down sled in the middle of nowhere will leave you stranded with minimal supplies.
Map Out Your Route
Finally, you should have a detailed route map. Plan stops, mileage per day, and the number of days you will need food, fuel, and water for. Give a map of your route to a few friends or family members in case something should go wrong so people can know where to look if you don't arrive at your destination on time.
You should also budget to pay for trail and riding permits. These costs go to help maintain snow trails for riders like you.
For more ideas on getting the right gear for your trip, contact Bob's Cycle Supply.