Northern America and Canada’s country-side is a winter wonderland; its wilderness trails covered with snow attracts millions of snowmobile addicts and fanatics. Snowmobiling, also known as boon-docking, carving, and ditch-banging can be enjoyed by people in all age ranges. Nothing compares to the exhilaration of the high-speed adventures found in the snow covered wilderness.
Most of these sleds reach speeds between 55 and 100 miles per hour (mph) or 90 to 160 kilometers per hour (kph), depending on the weight of the sled and the rider. Other conditions affecting the speed are the cubic centimeters (cc), which affects the horsepower of the sled, ice covered waterways or snow covered trails, and the skills of the driver. Turbo boosters can push these sleds closer to 150 mph or 240 kph on ice covered waterways. Many icy ponds, lakes, and rivers become speedways for many enthusiasts, both sanctioned and unsanctioned.
Snowmobiling is a billion dollar industry that employs hundreds of thousands of people. Last year in the US snowmobile sales increased by 9.2 percent over 2013, marking the fourth straight year of 9 percent or higher sales. Original parts and clothing and equipment sales outpaced machine sales at a 20 percent increase. There are nearly a million and a half registered snowmobiles in the US, coupled with more than 600,000 snowmobiles registered in Canada. Canada enjoys yearly sales of nearly 50,000 vehicles; after all it is a Canadian invention.
That’s right, the first one was built by a 15 year-old Canadian Quebecois named, Joseph-Armand Bombardier, using a Model-T frame. He attached a four-seat sleigh and a wooden propeller, and the rest is history. Look how far we’ve come, with thousands of kilometers of groomed trails, thousands of clubs, and warming stations. It’s not just a means of transportation, but a way of life to millions of enthusiasts.
Despite manufacturers like Polaris, Arctic Cat, and Yamaha’s active involvement in promoting safe behavior while snowmobiling, thousands of brochures and videos, groomed trails, and enforcement officers on sleds, thousands of snowmobilers are hospitalized every year due to snowmobile accidents.
The leading cause of injury to snowmobilers are mostly preventable (the majority happen off-trail) including:
• riding while impaired, a major factor in 50 percent of accidents
• excess speed
• unauthorized use of highways and roads
• unfamiliar terrain
• riding during the hours of darkness
• failure to wear protective helmets & eye protection
In spite of the presence of thousands of law enforcement officers on snowmobiles, snowmobile accidents cause injuries to even the safest riders. Law enforcement can’t be everywhere, and as stated above, the majority of these accidents take place off-trail. Whereas, it is fun and exciting to travel unfamiliar territory, wild animals, barbed wire fences, and drunken riders are more often met off-trail than on readily available groomed trails.
Enjoy one of the fastest growing winter sports, safely!