Discover The Art of Snowmobile Pathfinding…

Snowmobile Pathfinding in Heavy Snow

Photo © by Craig Nicholson


Related: Tips For Staying On Trail


Why snowmobile pathfinding tips in heavy snow? Because riding on well-marked, groomed trails on a snowmobile tour or snowmobile vacation may dull our innate path-finding sense. We can easily rely too much on man-made indicators or GPS on snowmobile tours. So what happens if your snow trails disappear and you have to go snowmobile pathfinding in heavy snow?

You can pull through with good instincts and a strong sense of direction. Plus the ability to recognize and correctly interpret numerous clues. While I don’t recommend snowmobiling when Mother Nature acts up horrendously, here are a few practical tips if you get caught on tour…

How To Ride Deep Snow

Snowmobile pathfinding will be easier if you already have some experience handling your snowmobile in deep snow. Check out this video for some of the basics.

Practical Tips For Snowmobile Pathfinding in Heavy Snow

  • If you haven’t set out yet, decide if you should go or stay in warmth and safety until conditions improve.
  • If you do go, inform both your departure and arrival destinations of your schedule and proposed route, That way, if problems arise, help will arrive sooner than later.
  • Before setting out, talk to locals. Study trail, highway and, if you have them, GPS or topographical maps. Get familiarized with the general direction, the route, and such landmarks as towns, rivers, lakes and intersections.
  • When in doubt, stop at every intersection to re-orient yourself using GPS and maps, available signs and shared common sense. This way, you keep your group together. And at least know that you’re on the right track up to that point if you have to backtrack.
  • In the absence of regular snowmobile trail signs, watch for any snowmobile-related markings. If there are none on your side of the trail, look back frequently to spot any markers facing the opposite direction. Often, you can judge where you should go by figuring out where oncoming traffic is going.
  • As a general rule, if you’re sure the trail you’re on is the right one up until now, don’t turn off it without a very good reason.
  • Be sensitive to any changes in trail characteristics — such as width, feel, elevation or direction — that may help guide your way.
  • When there is fresh snow and no signs, watch for visible indications of a groomed trail. These include the defined edge left by the drag, a smoother surface than surrounding terrain, or bordering trees and branches pruned by trail clearing. Also watch for breaks in a bush or tree-line that may indicate a trail opening. You may also spot rippled shadows or ridges caused by an underlying mogul pattern or previous track marks.
  • Sometimes, you just have to drive by feel. A previously groomed or well-used trail will be hard-packed underneath fresh snow. In most cases if you ride slowly, you will feel the difference through your track, skis or handlebars when your sled starts to slip off the hard pack.
  • Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for help or admit you’re wrong. And always carry a SPOT unit or satellite phone.

Check out more riding tips!

The tips and advice in this blog are the opinions of the author, may not work in every situation and are intended only for the convenience and interest of the reader, who has the personal responsibility to confirm the validity, accuracy and relevancy of this information prior to putting it to their own use.

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