Snowmobiling in the mountains is much different than riding on trails. The terrain, thrills, challenges, and the snowmobiles themselves are all different.
If you’re taking up mountain and deep snow riding, here are a few things you should know. Note that this information is not intended to replace participation in safety courses.
Polaris offers an acclaimed lineup of mountain and deep snow snowmobiles with the RMK family. Properly maintaining your sled is a key component of mountain riding. You should perform pre-season maintenance and mid-season maintenance checks for optimal snowmobile performance. The Help! I Need a Snowmobile or Snow Bike episode of the Polaris Podcast can help you decide between a Pro-RMK or an RMK KHAOS. Listen to the Store That Sled episode of the Polaris Podcast for tips on properly storing your snowmobile in the off-season. For more podcasts, scroll to the end of this article.
Deep snow/mountain snowmobiles are longer and narrower and have a higher center of gravity than a typical trail snowmobile. These features make riding the backcountry a safer and more enjoyable experience, but it is important to note that a different build means a different riding style.
The mountain snowmobile is slower, has a larger turning radius and will overturn more easily than a trail snowmobile. The skis are designed to float and provide more lift than trail skis. The track features paddles that pack and shovel snow rather than dig in and grip the snowpack.
Because Polaris mountain snowmobiles feature tall track paddles, the rear suspension rails and sliders will sit above the snowpack on a groomed trail. Always deploy the scratchers and limit high speed operation when trail riding. DO NOT forget to retract ice scratchers when trailering, backing up, or in deep snow. Failure to disable ice scratchers in these conditions can result in damage to the scratchers. Do not rely on the engine temperature gauge to determine when to deploy rail scratchers. The rail sliders and track can overheat well before the engine temperature indicates the need for more cooling.
Always practice riding your mountain snowmobile in a safe, open, flat area before attempting your first ride in mountainous terrain. This is especially important for low-elevation riders who are not accustomed to riding a snowmobile designed for deep snow.
Dan Adams is a professional backcountry snowmobiler and Team Polaris athlete. Through his Next Level Riding Clinics, he teaches snowmobilers from all over the world the fundamentals of off-trail mountain riding. Each clinic emphasizes both the fun and dangers of mountain sledding to create a more rewarding and safe experience.
See the links below for more videos and more mountain riding tips from Dan Adams.
Mountain Riding How-To: The Throttle Blip
How to Get Un-Stuck
The Downhill 180
Snowmobile Sidehilling 101
For more advanced riding techniques, watch these videos.
How to Do a Hopover
How To: Sidehill in Ruts
How to Do a Re-entry
Before riding in the mountains, you must have the proper safety gear. Following the safety gear and apparel recommendations will increase your chances of survival if you encounter an avalanche or become stranded in the backcountry, but even experienced and properly-equipped snowmobilers, hikers and skiers perish in avalanches or succumb to hypothermia. Using a beacon or probe for the first time during an avalanche recovery operation or not knowing how to deploy your avalanche air bag backpack during a slide should be considered unacceptable to you and all members of your riding group. It's critical that you and all members of your riding group know how to use the safety gear.
Read Snowmobile and Snow Bike Mountain Riding Safety for more on proper safety gear.
How To: Maintain Your Riding Gear
Snowmobile Gloves: Is There a Perfect Pair?
My Riding Gear
How To Keep Your Goggles Fog Free
What's in My Backpack?
Even for experienced riders, mountainous terrain operation can present conditions and situations that could result in serious injury or death. It is important to know mountain riding safety procedures and the necessary gear required before setting out to sled a mountain and you should always be prepared in case of an avalanche. Learn how to prepare for an avalanche, to search for missing people and build a fire to sustain your group while mountain sledding.
Read more about avalanche preparedness in our Snowmobile and Snow Bike Mountain Riding Safety.
The Polaris Podcast
The Polaris Podcast is a monthly discussion of Polaris vehicles, including mountain snowmobiles. The Polaris Podcast provides expert advice on topics like daily maintenance, vehicle operation and off-season storage. So if you’re not an expert, it’s okay. Hear directly from our experts and keep your snowmobile in top condition. Subscribe to the Polaris Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn, iHeart Radio or wherever you get your podcasts.
To learn more about mountain riding, listen to these episodes:
Mountain Riding Guide, Part I: Gabrielle Hockley and Dan Adams
Mountain Riding Guide, Part II: Chris Burandt
Store That Sled
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