the best way to experience unfamiliar terrain is to hire a professional guide see more
Often, we are contacted at the BCSF by riders looking for trail information or where to stage. What we rarely get contacted for is to recommend a guide for their group. We believe that the best way to experience unfamiliar terrain is to attend an organized club event or to hire a professional guide. This is because mountain riding in BC almost always occurs in the open backcountry and not on a clearly marked trail. This makes it easy for a group to get lost in unfamiliar terrain or to expose themselves to risks they may not be aware of. It really brings to light the importance of hiring a professional guide when riding new areas and some of those reasons to hire a guide may surprise you!
Here are ten great reasons to hire a professional guide:
- A ride day customized for you: You’ll be guided into terrain that matches your personal skillset. Upon orientation with your guide, you’ll be asked to fill out several forms including one that asks questions pertaining to your skill level. Your guide will take you into terrain that provides ample fun while avoiding areas that could be too complex for your skillset. It’s important to be honest and humble when evaluating your skill level, to ensure safety and enjoyment.
- Find terrain that matches your snowmobile: Your guide will also want to know what machine you will be riding on your adventure to make sure both you and your machine are capable of navigating specific terrain in the area. This is an important factor to consider, for trail-specific snowmobiles and mountain-specific snowmobiles differ greatly in set up and the terrain they are meant to navigate. If your machine isn’t capable of performing in the mountains safely and effectively, your guide may be able to provide a rental or point you in the right sled-rental direction. This is especially relevant for our friends who live in the prairies.
- Local knowledge brings the goods: Secret stashes of snow, and treasured honey holes in particular. Your guide will have the inside scoop and can take you to untouched fresh snow, even when there are drought-like conditions.
- Invest in your ride skills: You should consider that hiring a professional guide is a good investment because while out riding with them you will learn new skills and knowledge that can be applied everywhere you ride. Let’s face it, this is your guide’s day job and they will most certainly be advanced in skillset, so don’t hesitate to ask for tips and pointers.
- Spend more time riding: You’ll spend less time trying to find the areas to ride, and more time riding! This includes staging areas, because you know that if you’re new to an area the staging areas may not always be easily found.
- Ability to change the plan: If you’re thirst for adventure changes mid-ride, your guide can adapt, and find you those tight trees, or mellow meadows quicker and safer than blindly trying to find additional snow to use up.
- Your personal safety: Your guide knows potential hazards that have caused other unsuspecting riders to become lost or stranded, and will not only keep you safe, but make you aware of these hazards. This deep insight into the area’s terrain management will help keep you safe should there be a time you ride the zone without a guide. The guide you hire today could make all the difference for the trips you take in the future.
- Ability to handle the unexpected: Your guide is highly trained and certified professional prepared for many situations. Your snowmobile guide should have in-depth wilderness first aid, avalanche skills training, and hands-on machine operation training to facilitate your safe and fulfilling adventure. Your guide should also be a legally tenured professional that ensures they have a safety/rescue plan in place and will have appropriate insurance for their operations. With the abundance of self-proclaimed guides out there lacking in appropriate credentials do not be afraid to ask to see your guides credentials and insurance.
- Peace of mind for you family: The peace of mind not only for the riders, but family members waiting at home is another great reason to hire a guide. No one likes to worry, and with any adventure sport, risks are ever-present. Hiring a guide will help to mitigate these risks allowing you to come home safe and sound at the end of the day which makes everyone happy.
- Affordable: Hiring a guide is affordable when split between your ride crew. Splitting the cost of a guide between four or five riders makes hiring a guide very affordable.
We cannot stress enough that it is important to do your research when hiring a guide. There are some out there without certification, training, and the skills needed to guide a group safely and responsibly. Ask for credentials from those you are looking at hiring. If there is any hesitation to produce proof of training and certification, walk the other way, quickly.
For more information on hiring a guide you can visit the British Columbia Commercial Snowmobile Operators Association (BCCSOA)
No matter the technology advancements there is still the human factor to consider! see more
As we reflect upon technology advancements, especially over the past decade, it is awe inspiring to see how far we have come. Get the gear, get the training, get the forecast....then you are good to go, right? Wrong, for no matter the technology advancements there is still the human factor to consider.
The avalanche transceiver, which is sometimes referred to as an avalanche beacon, has evolved tremendously since the days of the analog single antennae models. While you should buy the latest and greatest it isn’t the only factor to consider when it comes to transceiver safety.
- Can you use it effectively? Having a transceiver is totally pointless if you have no idea how to use it. Practice with your equipment frequently to keep your skills sharp and be sure to perform a range test for effectiveness at least at the beginning of each season to ensure the transceiver is not compromised. You will become familiar with how to use your transceiver when you take your two day avalanche skills training level one class (AST1). An AST1 is the bare minimum of training recommended for backcountry recreation in the mountains.
- Did you turn it on? You’d be surprised by how many forget to turn on their transceivers on at the beginning of a ride. Here is a great video on doing a trailhead transceiver check. It demonstrates a quick exercise that everyone in your group can do to make sure everyone is turned on, transmitting and ready to roll.
- Has it sustained an impact? Perhaps while practicing your scorpion or superman on your last ride you may have landed on your transceiver. Any nice solid whack to your transceiver could damage internal components of your transceiver rendering it ineffective. Doing you trailhead transceiver check every ride will help catch this.
- Do you have any electronics or magnets that could be interfering with your signal? A minimum of 20 cm distance from any electronics is recommended to prevent electronic noise from compromising your transceivers effectiveness.
- Are you using the wrong batteries? Many are unaware that lithium batteries negatively affect transceivers and create interference. To read more about why you should not use lithium batteries and only alkaline batteries please read more.
- Did you leave the batteries in it over the summer months resulting in corrosion? After each season be sure to take your batteries out of your transceiver before you put your gear away for the season.
Read more about Transceivers here: Essential Gear
A tether is a cord between the snowmobile and its rider that acts as an engine kill switch in the event that the rider and machine should become separated. It is an essential piece of safety gear and must be used at all times. Skidoo is the only manufacturer that provides a tether from factory and for all other snowmobile manufacturers the tether must be purchased as an aftermarket option.
- Is your tether attached to your person? To have a tether installed and not have it attached will not shut your snowmobile off. You should always attach your tether before you start your snowmobile. Many riding gear companies have a D-ring on the bottom of your coat to attach your tether. Why use a Tether
- Was your tether professionally installed? As was mentioned previously only one manufacturer offers a tether from factory. So if you ride one of the other brands please order a tether and book an appointment to have it installed at your local snowmobile dealer.
Your outerwear for backcountry riding isn’t simply a fashion statement, it is safety gear that could save your life should you spend the night in frigid temperatures. It must include a waterproof and breathable outer shell paired with moisture wicking base and mid layers.
- Is cotton one of your layers? The saying is “cotton kills” and for good reason. Cotton absorbs moisture like a sponge and will hold it to your skin keeping you wet and cold which can cause hypothermia. Only utilize breathable wicking fabrics for your internal layers including socks. Read more here: Dressed for Success
- Are your boots or gloves too tight? Restricted circulation will make for cold hands or feet and could set you up for frostbite. Make sure your boots and gloves fit well but leave enough room to facilitate circulation or perhaps accommodate a thicker set of socks on very cold days.
- Are you dressed for the conditions? Remember temperatures can fluctuate during the day as can your level of activity. Ensure you dress in layers and have a dry place to store unused layers throughout the day. Over dressing results in excess perspiration and can cause your gear to get wet which is never a good scenario for backcountry survival.
Helmets and Goggles
There are several factors to consider when it comes to helmets and goggles.
- Do you have the right lens for winter riding? Summer moto goggles are normally a single lens with foam that isn’t nearly as thick as winter goggles. Winter goggles are a double lens and usually have an anti-fog treatment. They also come in many different lens colours with each offering a different advantage. Colours like amber, rose and blue tend to enhance terrain features on flat light days, while mirror lens options give you a bit of respite from the sun and glare off of the snow. Read more on choosing your goggle and lens
- Do your goggles fit your face and your helmet? That is a huge part of goggle performance. You’ll want to take your helmet with you when picking out new goggles to be certain that they fit both on your face without allowing for gaping holes, and they fit inside of your helmet comfortably.
- Does your helmet fit comfortably? A helmet that is too tight will cause headaches. A helmet that is too big will create strain on muscles being utilized to prop the helmet back into position plus compromise your vision.
- Is it time to retire your helmet? Should there be any significant impact on a helmet, it should be thrown into the garbage immediately to ensure it will never be in circulation again. Helmets, over time, do deteriorate. Glues and resins will become compromised and foam will compact losing the ability to protect. Be sure to replace your helmet every three to five years or immediately if it has sustained impact. More: When to upgrade your snowmobile helmet
- Are you considering buying used gear? We do not recommend buying used helmets. You cannot tell just by looking at a helmet if it has taken a hit or is compromised. You are better to buy a new helmet and look to other areas of your gear to save money by buying used.
Stay tuned for part two of the human factor of safety gear failures. Owning the gear is simply not enough. You must be able to use the gear proficiently to be safe in the backcountry.
We want you and your entire family or ride crew to stay safe this winter! see more
With much focus on avalanche awareness and training, which of course is a must, some may be unaware of other factors to consider while riding in the British Columbia backcountry. We want you and your entire family or ride crew to stay safe this winter, so we’ve compiled a list of suggestions that will help to ensure that you and your entire crew have an epic adventure safely in the backcountry
Speed: While navigating groomed trails some tend to want to ride like "Ricky Bobby", holding it wide open with very little concern of others. Yes, the trails are smooth and may invite excess speed, but remember, you are not the only individual using these trails. Perhaps by holding the throttle to the bar you can save ten minutes on your trail ride in, but realistically riding at a responsible speed is worth it, especially if it means preventing injury or worse. Many enthusiasts, including youth will be riding, so please slow down and ride responsibly.
Tethers: A tether is a valuable accessory for your snowmobile, that will instantly shut the motor off when it is pulled. Only one manufacturer (Skidoo) provides a tether from factory but there are a variety of after market models to choose from for any ride. You get what you pay for when it comes to tethers, so do your research because they range anywhere from forty dollars to one hundred twenty dollars and are worth every penny. If you are not a super handy person, have it professionally installed so that you do not create electrical gremlins for yourself later. The other thing with tethers is just installing one is not enough...you have to wear it. So be sure you connect your tether every time before you start your snowmobile to prevent your beautiful ride from taking a "ghost" ride without you.
Ice: Frozen lakes and rivers can create hazards, even in mid season. There have been reports of riders busting through the ice even in the month of February when the ice still has not set up sufficiently enough to ride. Snow can act like a thermal insulator preventing the lake from fully freezing to safe thickness. No matter what time of the season it is, please be cautious around frozen water sources such as lakes, creeks and rivers. If you are heading across a lake or river as a group be sure to stagger the snowmobiles, for if one has an issue with ice depth, the other riders will be aware, and be in a better position to offer assistance. Creek or river inlets and outlets to a lake generally have a thinner ice depth or open water, so please avoid riding over these terrain features.
- Clear blue ice is usually strong ice.
- White or opaque ice is weaker, often about half as strong as blue ice.
- Grey ice and slushy ice should be avoided.
If you find yourself on thin ice, open water, or suspect the ice may be giving way, do not stop. Keep your momentum going and get to solid land...a stopped snowmobile will sink.
The Buddy System: Making sure you have a sled buddy watching out for you at all times is an extremely important point to discuss It truly doesn’t matter the skill level of the rider, stuff can happen and your buddy is your safety plan. Take two minutes in the parking lot for a pre-trip meeting to pick your buddy for the day, ensure that you can communicate with them through radios, know what gear they have on them, communicate the trip plan and be sure to tell them that your expectation, as their ride buddy, is that you will be eyes on each other all day.
Exceeding skill set: While it’s great to push personal boundaries while you continue to grow your sled skills, it’s also important to note that it can be extremely dangerous for a rider and their crew if a rider is pushed beyond their skill set. It is a great idea to set and communicate reasonable expectations to the riding group before you leave the parking lot so that everyone in the groups knows what to expect. This way the group lead doesn't head directly to the gnarly drop down into zipper mouth creek and the group spends the rest of the day dealing with an injured rider or trying to tow out a broken sled. You are only as strong as your weakest rider.
The more you know, the safer you shall go!
If you are a newbie entering the sport a mentor is a great resource. see more
Mentoring. It isn’t only About Seat Time
With so many changes to the sport of snowmobiling over the past few decades, we see many new riders getting into winter backcountry recreation with snowmobiles and snow-bikes. These newbies often reach out to seasoned veterans for help and this could either be a solid method of operation or horribly toxic. There are many amazing veteran riders in the sport that contribute much to the safety, stewardship and mentoring. They are solid riders who have transitioned with time, keeping up to speed with the latest technology, recommendations and mindset. But there are some who have no idea how much things have changed since they started riding decades before.
The snowmobiles themselves have evolved from short track, one cylinder utility type machines to powerful mountain machines with the ability to take riders deeper and farther into the backcountry. Rider forward designs introduced in the early 2000’s facilitated a more aggressive riding style, which allows for more technical and complex terrain to be accessed.
With so many advancements in technology, it is important to note how sled-culture has also evolved over the years.
Safety gear is a big one. Although the first avalanche transceiver was invented in 1968 by Dr. John Lawton at Cornell Aeronautical Laboratory, in Buffalo, New York, it’s only been the last decade that Avalanche gear has been actively recognized as a must have for backcountry riding. Some seasoned veterans may scoff at the idea of avalanche gear, training and practice because they’ve “ridden for 30 years” we also must keep in mind that the snowmobiles, terrain choices and the way snowmobilers ride have also changed. Avalanche training and gear are must haves for all mountain riders, no matter how long they’ve been riding, or how skilled the rider feels they are. Get the gear. Get the training.
Impaired is Impaired
Back in the day, it was commonplace for riders to have a beer, or several while snowmobiling. This is not the case anymore. Drinking and riding, and smoking pot do not belong out in the backcountry while you are operating high powered machines, in technical terrain or on the trails where other users could fall prey to your decreased reaction time, and impaired judgement. With increased accessibility to complex terrain you’ll always need to be sharp and on your A game. Should you need to perform a rescue, being impaired by alcohol or drugs could cost a friend or loved one their life.
Compliance is Key
This isn’t the wild west anymore. Those returning back into the sport were used to free reign and an anything goes kind of strategy when it came to choosing an adventure back in the day. Tundra’s and Phasers were all the rage back in the day, but that day usually consisted of punching in a trail for a few kms, before calling it a day, and heading back out the next to continue breaking trail into fun zones to play in. In today’s snowmobile world we have motorized recreation closures. No go zones, with many of them relating to Mountain Caribou recovery efforts. No go, means NO GO.
Aside from advancements in avalanche safety equipment that we’ve already mentioned consider other changes in technology from in comparison to even a decade ago. Smart phones that can be turned into a GPS trail navigation tool. Radio communication within your group, and communication devices such as InReach and SPOT have proven to be a life saving asset in the backcountry. Avalanche bags are another incredible advancement in snowmobile safety that can increase odds of survival if an individual is involved in an avalanche. Technology does come with a price, but realistically what is your life worth to you and to your loved ones? Invest in your life.
If you are a newbie entering the sport in search of mentoring remember, it’s not only seat time that counts. Consider all aspects visited in this article, and join your local club, who will be your greatest resource for enjoying the backcountry while staying safe at the same time. Ride on!
Here are some great tips to avoid being stranded this season from our friends at Never Lost Trail Ap see more
Here are some great tips to avoid being stranded this season from our friends at Never Lost Trail App.
Do Not Ride Alone
Do not ever ride alone. Anything can happen out there including mechanical failure, dropping into terrain without an out, even a simple stuck can be a catastrophe without an extra pair of hands to help you out. Riding alone has severe consequences especially in relation to avalanche safety. We’ve lost seasoned riders who chose to ride alone and succumbed to an avalanche being only inches from the surface.
Know Where You Are
Riding in unfamiliar terrain it can be common to end up somewhere unexpected. Just because you see tracks, that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to follow them. Many communities see their fair share of rescue call outs because riders follow tracks that leads them down into a basin they cannot get out of. In addition to the trail mapping offered by Never Lost Trails App, reaching out to those who are skilled and knowledgeable is a solid choice. Hiring a guide is money well spent, for not only will they help you ride within your skillset, they’ll be privy to secret honey holes with fresh powder when many riders are navigating tracked out terrain. If you choose not to hire a guide when navigating new terrain ride with a local who has the same value for safe backcountry practice as you.
Know your Riding Partners
It is important to know if your riding companions suffer from illness that could compromise their safety or yours when out in the backcountry. Do your riding companions carry an epi-pen? Do you know how to use one? Are they on medications? This is all need to know information that must be shared with the group. Injury can happen, and it is imperative that you have a group that treats safety as the number one concern. Many a rider has been left to fend for himself/herself with devastating consequences.
Keeping the Group Together
This is where communication and the buddy system comes into play. It is very easy to lose a rider without communication and eyes on your fellow rider. Stick together and keep each other in view at all times. The lines of communication should be open to prevent a rider from being separated or lost in the backcountry.
Blizzards and other extreme weather conditions can and will occur throughout the winter months. When you’re deep in the backcountry extreme weather can creep up on you in an instant if you’re not prepared. This has left many a rider stranded, for during severe blizzard like conditions it can be near impossible to follow your existing tracks, and very easy to become disoriented. Be sure to check not only the avalanche forecast before you head out, but also include the local weather forecast. For a list of items that should be in your pack please check out this article from SnoRiders Magazine.
Never Lost Trail App
The Never Lost app is a great resource. It was created when founder Allan Bouchard realized too many snowmobilers succumb to exposure being only 100 meters from a lifesaving shelter, or the main trail. Realizing this tragedy could be avoidable he started creating a user-friendly trail navigation app which turns your cell phone into a valuable trail navigation tool that works even where cell service is unavailable and in airplane mode. Features include ATES ratings where available, skill recommendations, key points of interest and common danger zones to avoid. You can find Never Lost Trails on both the iTune and Google Play platforms. Allan not only supports the sport with his multiple club membership purchases throughout the season, but also giving back to the hard-working clubs sponsoring signage and being a sponsor for the BC Snowmobile Federation.
Nothing brings us greater joy than to share our amazing backcountry with others! see more
Nothing brings us greater joy than to share our amazing backcountry with others from around the world. There are a few things to know before you head out on your snowmobile or snowbike adventure. Preparation truly is key.
Many parts of British Columbia have the potential for Avalanche hazards. It is important to prepare by ensuring you have the appropriate equipment and training. Avalanche Skills Training Level 1 is recommended as a minimum level of education for riding in the mountains of BC. Many educators are circulating through the prairie provinces and states offering classroom portions of AST 1 and avalanche awareness seminars with several dealerships hosting free events. This is a great way to prepare for riding in BC while meeting other like-minded riders. To help familiarize yourself with avalanche safety Avalanche Canada offers an online tutorial to walk you through the basics.
The basic necessities for backcountry riding in BC are an avalanche transceiver, shovel and probe worn on your person. Your backpack will have what you need to survive overnight, including hydration, food rations, extra gloves, a saw, and multiple ways to start a fire. Here’s an excellent article from our friends at Zacs Tracs What to pack in your snowmobile backpack
Equipment can be rented from several locations the province, and hiring a guide is always a great idea when traveling in unfamiliar terrain. Certified guides will keep you safe and sound, and probably take you into some secret honey holes where you’ll find fresh untouched white gold.
Plan a Successful Adventure
Trip Planning is also a key component to adventuring in BC. Avalanche Canada is a wonderful resource for not only checking the avalanche forecast before you head out for the day, it also has numerous resources including an interactive trip planning app to guide you through the process. It’s imperative that you notify someone not in your riding group of your plans, when to expect you home, the area you are riding, and who is in your party. Should you be delayed it will give Search and Rescue volunteers a better chance of finding you in a timely manner. In addition to checking the avalanche forecast, check the weather forecast which will also provide vital information for planning your ride. The Never Lost Trails app is a wonderful resource for planning your trip and backcountry navigation. This app will turn your cellular device into a trail navigation tool even where cell service is unavailable.
What to Wear
Layering is incredibly important, for certain parts of our province like the Kootenays, Vancouver Island, Vancouver Coast and Mountains, and the Thompson Okanagan areas can have mild temperatures year-round, while our northern areas can experience colder temperatures with beautiful blower powder to enjoy. Cotton is a huge no-no, for it will absorb sweat like a sponge leaving you cold and damp for your day’s adventure. Here is a great article on layering. Dressed for Success
Crossing the Border into Canada
For those of you visiting from out of country it’s important to have your passport, and proper documentation for your truck, snowmobile and trailer. You’ll need snowmobile registration, trailer registration showing proof of ownership. Keep all the documents together in your vehicle making it easy to access upon border crossing. If you have any criminal history including DUI’s, you’ll need a pardon before entering the province. Don’t even try to sneak on through, for you’ll be red flagged and denied entry if the officers find you untruthful. Here is a great resource with more information on crossing the border into Canada ezbordercrossing.com
Snowmobile Registration and Insurance
While BC is known as the wild west we do have some laws that everyone must abide. You must wear a helmet while operating your snowmobile. There are requirements for third party liability insurance in some cases and your snowmobile must be registered in your home province or state. If you cannot register at home than you must be able to provide proof of ownership of your snowmobile. Finally, you must have picture ID on you at all times while snowmobiling. More information can be found in this FAQ Document.
Wildlife of British Columbia
We have an abundance of wildlife in our backcountry. It’s important to not only enjoy the beauty of these animals, it’s also equally as important to stay safe in their vicinity. Here is an article to help you and our wildlife stay safe during your adventures. Wild Adventures. It is your responsibility to what areas are closed to snowmobiling in BC. Many parks do not allow snowmobiling and we do have several areas closed to protect Mountain Caribou Habitat. Please research the area or reach out to the local snowmobile club for background if you are not using a guide.
Support Organized Snowmobiling
Support the sport and one of our hard working clubs with either your membership purchase, or a trail pass. These British Columbia Snowmobile Federation Clubs (BCSF) are the backbone of organized snowmobiling in BC. They groom and maintain trail systems and cabins, and they are the driving force to prevent land closures. Your dollars are vital for their success. Online memberships are available on the BCSF website. www.bcsf.org/clubs
Here are some additional links to help you plan your British Columbia Adventure! Thank you for staying and playing in BC.
Riders in their trip planning meeting before heading out for a ride in Valemount, BC
If you’re brand new to winter adventure here are a few things to consider. see more
Welcome to the sport Snow Bikers! If you’re brand new to winter adventure, there are a few things to consider before heading out into the backcountry.
Winter is a different beast than mild weather dirt adventures. Consequences are much higher when dealing with sub zero temperatures and terrain hazards such as avalanches. While most clubs are called snowmobile clubs, you are now a part of motorized winter recreation, and face the same land access challenges, safety concerns and need for representation in the eyes of government your snow machining friends continually face.
Avalanche Training: Unlike Dirt riding, your snowbike will take you into terrain that could have potential for avalanches. The first thing on your list of “to do’s” should be an Avalanche Skills Training Level One (AST1) Class. There are a variety of skilled providers out there who offer 2 sometimes three day classes consisting of classroom and field time. Get the training and get the gear. This is where the saying “know before you go” comes into play. Avalanche Canada provides a wealth of information and resources to help you along the way. Before every ride it is imperative to check not only the avalanche forecast, but also the weather forecast so you can make solid and safe plans for your day’s adventure.
Gear: Transceiver (sometimes referred to as a beacon) Shovel and probe are the bare minimum must haves when riding in mountainous backcountry and must be worn on your person at all times. Don’t cheap out on your safety gear, for it could be your life, or a friend or family member’s life depending upon it. Old school analogue transceivers are often put up for sale on your local buy/sell page, or ebay. They are past their prime and could potentially hamper a rescue, as the technology is outdated and obsolete. Invest in the best equipment, and if you do buy second hand, purchase your life saving gear from a reputable source or individual.
Terrain Choices: As we’ve mentioned, an AST 1 is a must have if you are riding in the BC backcountry, also keep in mind how your snowbike differs from a snowmobile as it relates to terrain choices. Snowbikes are incredibly agile, often able to access terrain choices that are not easily accessible by snowmobile. This is great if you are looking for hours of fun in fresh powder, but not so great if you are in need of a helping hand and your crew on sleds can not get to you. Keep that in mind when choosing your terrain. You will horizontally navigate steep terrain across open slopes rather than going straight up in some situations. In the wrong conditions, this will trigger an avalanche, which takes us back to our first point. Avalanche Training, for in your AST training they will address terrain choices and ways to prevent exposure to avalanche dangers.
Support your sport: Your membership will help preserve and protect riding areas and help fund club and provincial federation initiatives that help secure a solid foundation for our sport in British Columbia. Snowmobilers and yes you, snowbikers help to contribute over 299 million dollars to the British Columbia economy. Be a part of the solution and join your local snowmobile club. Let’s face it. You really do enjoy accessing the backcountry on a groomed trail, rather than a rodeo ride on a whooped out trail. Get your membership.
To find a full list of Snowmobile specific Instructors please go to the Avalanche Canada website.
The BC Snowmobile Federation preferred providers of sled specific training are:
Tips to help prevent some stucks, or to help you get stuck smarter. see more
Getting stuck is simply a part of the sport of snowmobiling, especially if you’re a newbie. Here are some tips to help prevent some stucks, or to help you get stuck smarter.
1. Step one, don’t panic or let frustration get the better of you. Everyone gets stuck. Make sure you remove your helmet should you need to get yourself out of a predicament and avoid sweating profusely when unsticking your sled. You may have to layer down if it’s a doozy. If you avoid allowing your body to overheat this will prevent your goggles from fogging up, along with keeping you safe and dry when you continue riding for the rest of the day. It’s also a good idea to have an extra set of gloves or two as the gloves you use to unstick yourself may experience some wetness.
2. It’s a good idea to have two shovels if you are riding in Avalanche Terrain. One shovel, in your backpack is dedicated for avalanche rescues, while the other can be your getting stuck shovel stored in your tunnel bag. This will prevent you from losing your avalanche shovel or components of it, which would be a very bad situation to be in should the need arise to use it in a rescue.
3. Radio communication is extremely valuable should you become stuck. You can let your crew know where you’re at, and that you’re stuck which will help to keep everyone safe. You can request assistance, or simply give them the peace of mind knowing that you’ve got the situation handled.
4. Don’t stop facing uphill. This is a big one. When you stop on an incline, it is very difficult to get enough momentum to stay on top of the snow when you want to get back to riding. You’ll end up digging your track down into the snow, and having an epic stuck.
5. When starting off after being at a complete standstill giver mustard. This means you’ll need a little bit of momentum to ensure your sled stays on top of the snow, rather than digging a lovely trench creating an even bigger stuck. If you are stuck on flat ground expect some ribbing.
6. Listen to your snowmobile. If you’re climbing, and you can hear and feel the momentum draining out of your climb, turn out. Should you try to continue going up, you’ll most likely end up stuck, and it can be hazardous to expect help when you are stuck on a hill that has potential to slide. Only one person on the hill at a time is an excellent rule to abide by. You’ll have to dig out, and turn your sled around on your own, which takes a lot of effort and time. It’s simply easier to turn out, rather than setting yourself up for failure.
7. Tree wells could be one of the most cursed at feature in the backcountry when it comes to snowmobiling. Look where you want to go, rather than directly at the tree well for you’ll find you have an internal tree magnet that will suck you right in. Tree wells can be used to your advantage, so don’t fear them. As long as your track is on solid snow you can breeze right through them, and even utilize the wells to help you navigate thick tree riding. Keep your momentum up to carry you through the well’s vicinity, for the slower you go the easier you’ll tip over into the well. Not wide open throttle (WOT), just momentum.
8. Tethers are important for many reasons, but they also tie into the above point. Should you become stuck in a tree well and are physically unable to get your body out, exhaust fumes from your snowmobile could expose you to carbon monoxide poisoning should you be unable to shut your sled off. Your tether can simply be pulled, (if it already hadn’t been engaged) and your sled will shut down giving you time to safely exit the tree well.
9. Get stuck smart. There comes a time when you simply know you’re going to get stuck. Again, it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been riding, everyone gets stuck. If you can try to get stuck with your sled on edge, which will create an easier out for you. You avoid the whole dig to China factor, and you can then use gravity to your advantage and simply roll your sled out. Remove some of the snow on the low side of your sled, creating an even better gravitational advantage. This is a great tip for women. Many think you automatically must bust the shovel out if you’re stuck, but ladies you too can do this if you’re creative. Many women use the power in their legs to push the sled into it’s roll out position. Avoid rolling your sled in hard packed snow or you will crush your windshield. Powder stucks are when this technique is most appropriate.
10. If you find yourself in a tricky situation remember to breathe. Like Nemo’s keep on swimming, if you keep on breathing it will give you a better chance of navigating technical situations and hopefully avoid a stuck. Oxygen is good for the brain, so breathe.
11. It doesn’t have to be all about back breaking lifting and digging. Sometimes you can simply tunnel under the front of your snowmobile either using your arms, or your legs to remove some of the snow around your belly pan hanging you up. After doing so you may be able to pop out of your stuck providing you use a little mustard, (see point 5). If this isn’t an option, a ski pull will usually do the trick. You can pull on the rider’s ski while they give a little throttle mustard or you can utilize a stuck strap or Snow Bungee to gain more leverage in the pull. Do not stand in the direct line of the snowmobile, for you’ll end up getting run over. Stand to the side if you’re on ski pull duty.
12. If you are colossally stuck in a trench chances are your running boards are creating a suction factor. You’ll have to not only remove snow from around your belly pan, but also remove the snow around your running boards to release the suction factor. If it’s a situation where a ski pull isn’t of help, you may have to recruit a couple buddies to lift the back end out of the trench.
13. If you’re down in a hole, and there is no way you can heave ho the back end up onto stable snow you can build a runway or platform to help you get out of your hole. It may take time, and you’ll only have one shot, so pack down that runway and platform as if your back depends upon it, then, you know the drill. Giver Mustard.
14. As always support the sport with your membership which will not only help fund club initiatives, but also will be a great place to meet like minded people who will help mentor your skill development, and will always be there for you should you need a helping ski pull.
For more information on the many BCSF clubs in British Columbia please visit www.bcsf.org/clubs
ArticleAvalanche Canada Launches New Mobile App see more
New Mobile App Ready to Download
It’s here! Avalanche Canada’s new mobile app is live and ready to download. If you’ve got the old app on your device, you’ll want to get the new one. We’ve made a lot of improvements.
- Easier access to the daily regional forecasts and avalanche advisories.
- Get hourly weather data from over 80 remote weather stations.
- Instant access to all submissions posted on our Mountain Information Network.
- Submit your own avalanche, weather and snowpack observations quickly and easily to the Mountain Information Network
- Receive instant notification of all Special Public Avalanche Warnings
Here are some great pre-season tips to help you prepare for the snowmobile season see more
Now that the temperatures have dropped, nights are shorter and the leaves are turning, excitement for the upcoming snowmobile season grows. While it can be an excruciating transition period while we wait for snow, here are some great pre-season tips to not only help you cope, but also prepare for this 2019/2020 season.
Transceiver Check: Test your Avalanche Transceivers for functionality. A range test is incredibly important, for sometimes the internal components such as antennae can become damaged from wear and tear out in the backcountry. Make sure your batteries are fresh (Alkaline never Lithium), and the internal battery compartment is clean and clear without any signs of corrosion from leaking batteries. Check with your manufacturer for software updates if applicable.
Avalanche Air Bags: Now is the time to test your air bag to ensure it will deploy when you need it most. We recommend a pre-season blow off of each air bag to ensure it’s integrity, which will also help you familiarize yourself with the muscle memory needed to deploy your airbag should you become involved in an incident
Shovel: Many Avalanche shovels have an aggressive blade to help cut through hard dense slabs of avalanche debris. Inspect your shovel for integrity and deburr any rough spots on your blade to prevent snags and damage to your backpack when you remove it and put the shovel back. Inspect tabs for damage and corrosion.
Storage Bags: You know that half eaten sandwich you forgot about in your tunnel bag? It’s getting pretty ripe now. Inspect the zippers on your bags and repair any damage that could affect your bags integrity during the season.
First Aid/Survival Kit: Now is the time to prepare your backcountry first aid and survival kits, and replace items that need replenishing such as waterproof matches, fire-starters, space blankets, flashlights (replace batteries)
Helmet Goggles and Gear:Inspect your outerwear including clothing, Helmet and other vital gear to insure it’s functionality. A good wash of NixWax tech wash goes a long way when it comes to re-waterproofing outerwear in preparation for the upcoming season.
Stay tuned for part 2 of Pre-Season Preparation
Here is a list of suggestions to help you be a valued sled companion for any crew you may join! see more
One of the most important factors snowmobilers face is choosing the right ride crew. Riding with like minded, prepared individuals is key for a safe, enjoyable experience. If you are new to the sport, or even if you’re not so new, we’ve got a list of suggestions to help you be a valued sled companion for any crew you may join.
1. Get the education. This is the first step to a solid sled foundation. Your crew has your life in their hands, and yours in theirs. Ensure you are a solid companion who understands Avalanche Safety, and how to navigate the terrain safely so as not to put your crew in jeopardy. Should it be needed your crew will be thankful for your AST training if an avalanche were to occur.
2. Get the gear. Transceiver, shovel, probe on your person at all times is a must. Train with your gear to ensure you know how to use it in a life or death situation. How are you to locate a buried rider in under 10 min without a transceiver? How will you dig them out? Can you use your transceiver effectively? These are all questions to ask a rider who shows up without the equipment intending on riding in your group. It’s also recommended to have your own radio to communicate to your group. For many this is now common practice, but if you are new to the sport it is a wonderful addition to your list of must have safety equipment.
3. Be humble and honest. Be honest about your skill set and ride within your limits even if the other riders are far more experienced. Keeping up is one thing but pushing so far beyond your skill level you put yourself or others in harms way is a recipe for disaster. If you need to say, “hey I’m not feeling this terrain I don’t think I can do it” it could save someone’s life. Maybe even your own.
4. Use your words. Like we’ve mentioned earlier communication is key for group dynamics. Sometimes pow stoke can get the better of us causing riders to disregard blatant signs of snowpack instability. Be the voice of reason and do not hesitate to share your concerns.
5. Be prepared. Not only with equipment, food and water. Prepare your snowmobile before you head out for the day and not in the parking lot. Nothing is more frustrating than a rider who shows up with his snowmobile still in parts, tinkering and tweaking, holding up the rest of the group. This type of pre-ride preparation will help you and your crew make the most of fresh powder and daylight hours.
6. Keep the booze off the hill. Again, your ride crew has their life in your hands. Reaction time, and discernment are key in the backcountry. The Boozy Rider is a long-rejected stereotype from the past. Keep a clear head and save the happy pop for when you’re off the mountain. Always ride responsibly.
7. Support the sport. Nothing irks a rider who gives their time, money and effort into their local club than a freeloading rider. If you are an individual who values the ability to enjoy the backcountry with your snowmobile, support the sport by buying your membership to the local club preserving, protecting, and maintaining the areas you enjoy.
8. Don’t be a wanderer. This has contributed to many a SAR call out, for many a rider absentmindedly has travelled so far from their group they become disoriented and are unable to navigate their way back to their group either because of dropping into terrain they can not navigate out of, or simply not being able to discern which track it is exactly that leads back to the group. Keep your group within eye shot at all times and use the buddy system.
9. Have fun! The Debby Downers and Droopy Dog Dougs need to really get a hold of their emotions and realize the good in the day of riding, even if there are some frustrations along the way. Everyone gets stuck. Everyone has frustrating moments. Don’t bring your group down with your bad attitude when you are fortunate enough to even be deep in the backcountry experiencing beauty most never get to witness in person. Take a deep breath and summon up those warm fuzzies, even if you seem to be a perpetual tree magnet.
10. Be helpful. Nothing is more frustrating than a crew member who will simply drive by a stuck rider without offering any assistance. Ladies that means you as well. While you may not have the body strength of Hercules, you can be of help unstucking a snowmobile, or helping get a damaged snowmobile out of the backcountry. This is a team effort, so be a positive member of your team.
Wilson Family posted an articleBCSF #sledsafer Safety Kits now available online. see more
This kit was developed as a fundraiser for the BCSF. It has some basic survival tools in it to help you survive and unexpected night out. Below is some basic info that the kit has and some suggested ideas for the items in the kit.
You can purchase online here in our store
Items in the kit:
Water bottle- Stainles steel used to melt snow over a fire, Will be hot. Holds your survival kit, (please do not put plastic top on if using over a fire)
Pencil - Can cut parts of it for lighting fire, and take notes DO NOT EAT THIS
Fire starter- Start fire with it, burn sled with it if needed
Tea bag- Alternative to warm water to drink
Sugar pkg – To drink alone or with bouillon to provide energy with hot water
Water proof matches- fire starting, ensure you strike these only on the supplied striker
Bouillon soup pkg- Alternative to warm water to drink provides more energy than tea
3 twist ties- Clothing repairs, hanging water bottle,
Razor blade- Used to cut material to inspect injuries, or remove broken plastic on sled
Candle - used for Heat in a snow cave, starting fire with damp wood
2 nails- Used to help build a shelter tie rope to trees with them,
2 fish hooks –Fishing,
5ft fish line-Used for fishing if open water, clothing repairs, machine repairs as well
Tampon- First aid, can also be dipped in fuel tank and lite with a match to make a fire starter
2 Safety pins – first aid, clothing repairs clean jets on machine if clogged up
2 alcohol wipes- Cleaning wounds, cleaning hands,
3 band aids- For small cuts and scrapes from wrenching on machine can also be used as a small clothing patch
Included with the whistle is:
Nylon rope- building shelter, towing firewood, used a clothes hanger; tie a arms in place if broken
Flint strip- Used to create spark for lighting fire starter or tampon dipped in fuel, located on water proof match container
Whistle- signaling device to ridding partners or SAR (remember 3 whistle blasts to signal help)
Compass- Do we have to tell you it points north?
Mirror- used to signal rescuers and aircraft, and to say “do I look great in this helmet or what?”.
To purchase online please go to our Online Store. It is ten dollars flat shipping per order.
Some of the Items in the kit were donated by: Northern Hardware and Save-on Foods
The BC Snowmobile Federation cares about our sledding family. This season we are planning a safety see more
The BC Snowmobile Federation cares about our sledding family. This season we are planning a safety campaign to reach as many sledders as we can and we need your help.
The goal of the program is to provide safety messaging and tips that all people riding in the backcountry should know. This is not an easy task. We all ride different sleds, are different ages, ride different terrain, have different risk tolerances, and have different levels of education and experience. We feel that no one person, organization or club can possibly reach everyone.
This is where we need you!
We need you to look at the topic of the week and make it yours. We want you to create your take on the message and push out to your friends and riding groups. Whether that is a quick tweet, a YouTube video, SnapChat, tailgate meeting, public presentations or Facebook. Even go back to your archives and share some of your throwbacks or images that you already have.
This has to be an initiative launched and supported by our community as a whole. Understanding that each of us, as part of that community has a role in creating and sharing safety messaging to ensure we all get home safe.
The BCSF sees many great messages from many sources throughout the season. The idea is that people will be getting the same message from several sources at the same time. That many voices can create change.
Please print out the attached calendar and be part of the #bcsf #sledsafer campaign
Request for Proposals for BCSF Safety Program Refresh see more
The BCSF is the leading organization in providing snowmobile safety training on snow in British Columbia. Our program is used by business, government, RCMP, Search and Rescue, and snowmobile clubs for training their workers on the use of snowmobiles in the workplace. Additionally, our program provides beginner operator training to people that are starting to use snowmobiles for the first time personally for recreation.
The BCSF Safe Operator Course is an on-snow course that was developed more than 15 years ago. We believe the course is still relevant but does require some areas to be updated and improved. It is our desire to remain the number one source for hands-on Snowmobile Safety Training in the Province of BC and therefore, we are undertaking a comprehensive review of our program with the expected outcomes of:
1. A comprehensive course curriculum that exceeds current legislated requirements and includes best practices from other jurisdictions.
2. A network of highly qualified BCSF Certified snowmobile instructors across BC.
3. Consistent curriculum and program delivery across the Province.
4. Increased program participation that results in safer snowmobile operators in the Province.
For full details please see the attached Request for Proposals
· Request for Proposals closes: July 31st, 2019
Canadian Snowmobile Safety Week is January 21 – 29, 2017 see more
For immediate Release
Canadian Snowmobile Safety Week is January 21 – 29, 2017
Organized Snowmobiling Associations Promote Snowmobile Responsibly Campaign
(Keremeos, BC, January 19, 2017) – Through the Snowmobile Responsibly campaign, the BC Snowmobile Federation and the Canadian Council of Snowmobile Organizations (CCSO) encourage each snowmobiler to take personal responsibility for his or her decisions and actions on the snow this winter. Canadian Snowmobile Safety Week is an timely opportunity to remind riders that you make many important decisions every day of snowmobiling that can impact your personal well-being and that of others. Snowmobile Responsibly promotes obeying applicable laws and rules, using good common sense, riding with care and control, and making smart choices. Here are a few tips to help riders to Snowmobile Responsibly and arrive home safely after each ride on the trails or in the backcountry:
Know the Scenario: Like other motorized recreational activities, snowmobiling poses certain inherent risks. It occurs off road in an unpredictable, uncontrollable and wild natural setting, so each snowmobiler must always expect the unexpected, be prepared and avoiding unnecessary risks.
Choose Your Time and Place: A traditional use and / or designated area, or a defined organized trail may be available, but it’s your choice whether to ride there or not. In a non-engineered setting, conditions change rapidly due to varying temperature, sudden storms, snow quality, terrain, heavy usage or variables like drifts and fallen trees. So do your homework before riding and make your own choice about if, when and how to ride based on the conditions at the time. If your decision is to go snowmobiling after carefully evaluating all factors and variables, you (operator and/or passenger) willingly assume any risks and all responsibility for what happens if you choose to proceed.
Choose Good Visibility: Just like with driving a car, your eyes provide most of the information your brain processes for good judgments and quick reactions while snowmobiling. But on the snow, many factors can severely limit your ability to see properly, including snow dust, white-outs, heavy snow or freezing rain, sun glare, flat light or fog; fogging or icing of visor and/or eye glasses, and darkness or over-riding your headlights. The fact that everything’s white can also hamper your usual depth perception or ability to identify or distinguish things quickly and easily. When visibility is less than optimal, it’s up to you to decide whether to go or whether to continue.
Spread Out: Too often, a group of snowmobilers ride so close to each other that it looks as if their sleds were linked together like a freight train. Whether you’re trail riding or backcountry riding, keeping a safe distance from other riders is the smart choice. Driving too close n the road is called tailgating and is against the law because of the associated dangers. When tailgating, you are totally at the mercy of the person ahead – how fast that rider can react to whatever’s ahead and how fast you can react to that reaction. Tailgating jeopardizes your own ability to make a quick choice and cuts your reaction time, leaving you vulnerable to the actions of others.
Be Vigilant: While riding, it’s important to practice 360˚ situational awareness. Simply put, you always need to know what’s going on around you to be able to properly assess your position and your next moves. Target fixation occurs when a rider’s eyes become locked on one object ahead, to the exclusion of everything else. This semi hypnotic state happens while tailgating, staring too long at one thing ahead or if everything is white on white. Being tired or impaired can play a role, too. Stay alert by moving your eyes around constantly and always checking around you, but if fixation persists take a break. When trail riding, you’re also responsible for the rider behind you, and the easiest way to keep track is using mirrors.
Use Hand Signals: Snowmobilers developed and adopted a set of hand signals to inform following and oncoming riders of our intentions. Habitual use of the hand signals is both the courteous and responsible choice, so get in the habit of using them. The hand signals can be found at www.ccso-ccom.ca/hand-signals/.
Keep Your Wits: Smart choices, good judgment, constant vigilance and sharp reactions are the four keys to snowmobiling without incident. It’s a proven fact that alcohol and drugs impair each of these key driving functions, so keep your wits about you by making the personal choice not to drink or use while sledding.
Keep Right: By choosing to deliberately and constantly keep your sled on the right side of the trail, you’ll dramatically increase your chances of staying out of harm’s way.
Stay on the Trail: Year after year, the statistics show that staying on the trail is safer than riding anywhere else. Yes, a trail is still a non-engineered, unpredictable place where anything can happen unexpectedly, but where an organized trail is available for riding, it’s generally a smarter choice than venturing off trail on fields or roads.
Know Before You Go: No ice is completely safe. If you choose to cross anyway, you can reduce the personal risk you are accepting. Always cross in good visibility conditions and try to follow a stake line and/or previously beaten track. Spread the sleds in your group out slightly more than usual so that riders behind have additional reaction time if someone ahead gets into difficulty. Don’t stop until you reach the far shore and then regroup to ensure that everyone made it across safely. Never cross alone. If you stray off the hard pack, you run a greater risk of encountering slush, hidden obstacles, ice huts, pressure ridges, thin ice or even open water. Keep a sharp eye out for ice heaves and ice roads. Above all, know before you go!
Avalanche Awareness: Backcountry snowmobilers must always know snow and weather conditions before going. The best tips for riding in avalanche terrain include always checking avalanche status reports, checking the weather, riding with companions that are properly trained, and carrying the right equipment. For more information on avalanche preparedness visit Avalanche Canada at www.avalanche.ca.
Be Prepared: The best plans will have you prepared in the event that an incident occurs. You can help ensure your personal safety with preparations like filing a ride plan before leaving home, carrying a reliable communications device and a personal tracking unit, always riding with an emergency/survival kit and to packing spare parts and a tow rope. Many of the safety tips are all about being prepared to the best of your ability and then to remember to have fun while riding within your capabilities – and not letting peer pressure lure you into poor choices.
Arriving home safely after each and every ride depends primarily on your own decisions and actions, so choose to Snowmobile Responsibly this winter. Remember, you are the one who can keep yourself out of trouble, so there’s no one else to blame if things go wrong.
and environmentally responsible snowmobiling in Canada.
For more information contact:
BC Snowmobile Federation
PO Box 277 | Keremeos, BC | V0X 1N0 | (877) 537-8716