Four Steps To Getting Started Snowmobiling in Alberta
Dec. 04, 2017
It’s not quite winter, but the leaves are falling, reminding us that winter will be here before we know it. You might think that once the snow starts to fall it’s time to stay inside with cocoa and marshmallows, and there’s nothing wrong with that line of thinking, but you’ll miss out on some of the fun that comes with the snow—snowmobiling in Alberta!
For petrolheads, there’s nothing better in winter than getting on a snowmobile and cutting through the powder at speeds up to 150 kph. So how do you go about getting started in snowmobiling in Alberta?
- Know What You Need
There is more than one kind of snowmobile, and the first thing you’ll need to know is which kind you’ll need.
Entry-level snowmobiles typically have 60-70 horsepower engines and are fairly versatile- you won’t be able to go up a mountain, but you should be able to handle most basic conditions. There are higher-end snowmobiles with greater horsepower, and often, suspension and shock absorbers. Touring snowmobiles are built for comfort on long rides- they’ll have backrests, large windshields to keep wind and snow off your face and storage space for food and other supplies. They also have longer tracks to make your ride smoother.
Snowmobiles can be as little as $500 second hand or into the tens of thousands for a new, high-end model. What you need will depend on the conditions that you’re riding in- a snowmobile dealer or a local club will be able to advise you on which model works best for what you want to do.
- Get certified
Alberta’s laws regarding snowmobiles vary depending on where you’re riding. On your own private property, you don’t need a licence or insurance and there are no age restrictions- you can pretty much do what you like. On public land, like the Iron Horse trail, a rider has to be over fourteen to operate a snowmobile independently (younger children can still ride, but they will need to be supervised), they will need to register their vehicle and get insurance- a minimum of $200, 000 public liability and property damage insurance. Also, don’t forget that you’ll need to have your Alberta Snowmobile Association Trail Pass– which also goes to support the trail and your local club!
- Gear Up
There are no specific requirements for clothing and protective gear for snowmobile riders, but common sense dictates two basic rules: protect yourself and keep warm. Snowmobiles travel fast and are very heavy, so an impact between one and vulnerable parts of your body is likely to do a lot of damage. Protect yourself with a purpose-made helmet; bicycle helmets don’t provide enough protection and motorcycle helmets might not be made for the cold. Second-hand helmets are available, but it’s not worth the risk—micro-fractures could make them useless.
For clothing, you’ll also need to get specialist equipment rather than cobbling an outfit together from your winter clothes collection. Your Canada Goose jacket isn’t built to hold up to the conditions you’ll face on a trail, where the outdoor cold, wind chill and ice sprays will be too much for streetwear. You’ll need to layer up, starting with a bib- pants that go all the way to your chest. Your local snowmobile dealer should be able to supply you with everything that you need, and might offer a discount if you buy everything at once.
- Watching The Trailers
This part is essential but often overlooked. Unless you live right next to a trail you’re going to need to transport your snowmobile. A truck should be able to hold a good sized snowmobile, but getting a six-hundred-pound machine into and out of the truck bed isn’t going to be easy. You can buy tow-able trailers in open and enclosed variations for your toy hauling needs.
You could spend over $10,000 to get set up for snowmobiling in Alberta, so before you part with so much money why not rent a snowmobile for the day from a local dealer or borrow one from a friend and see whether it’s for you? Before you go you can also check out the Alberta Snowmobile Association, and then once you’re entirely ready the next step is to get onto the Iron Horse Trail’s three hundred kilometres of country, forest and urban trails and get ready for your adventure snowmobiling in Alberta!