Good Habit, Bad Habit
Sledders are creatures of habit, whether they realize it or not.
Some habits are good, some are bad; but all can have a resounding effect on your day as a sledder. Habits can make the difference between a great day on the mountain and a disappointing day sitting at the trucks while your buddies rip it up. Nobody wants to be that guy who forgets his avalanche beacon at home and has to miss the deepest day of the season; so let’s go over some good habits to get into!
We all know and have heard this a million times, but the fact remains; the most common bad habit a snowmobiler can make is to not be fully prepared for any scenario that mountain travel may throw their way. Always ensure that you and everyone in your group is packing all the necessary equipment such as first aid kid, tow rope, flairs, etc. To turn this bad habit into a good habit, start by writing down a list of all the safety gear you may need to survive any emergency you might face. Then do your packing the night before riding so you don’t get to the hill only to realize that you’re missing an integral part of your equipment.
One of the best and least practiced habits it to leave a travel plan with a spouse or friend in case of an emergency. The purpose of the travel plan is so that Search & Rescue (SAR) will have some sort of reference as to where to start looking. The more detail you can leave, the better. Ensure that you are using the correct and official naming of the location so SAR can identify the right search area (for example, don’t tell your wife that you’re riding Cougar Lake when you’re really at Cougar Creek). Ideally, leave a map or Google Earth image with your specific route and timeline with someone so that if you aren’t heard from by a certain time, your spouse or friend will know when to call for help.
Breakdowns are a part of snowmobiling, and they can happen to anyone. A great habit to get into is to check on any sled you might see with a hood off—or that otherwise looks to be broken down—to see if you can help in any way. If we pitch in where possible, we can help make someone’s day a little more fun. In sledding there is a general understanding that we all in these mountain adventures together, and we need to keep any eye out for each other. So, whether it’s a blown motor or a blown-out knee, when someone is in need you are there to help.
A habit that should never be skipped is a parking lot discussion about avalanche conditions. This ensures that everyone in your group is aware of the snowpack stability. It only takes a few moments to highlight the details of the snowpack, just in case one of the group missed the reports that morning. It’s also good to go over the travel plan you left with your spouse or friend the night before so everyone is one the same page. Another great habit that fits well in your morning talk is to designate a meeting spot that everyone is familiar with in the case of someone getting separated the group. It’s good to have a “home base” or “muster point” for every ride, especially if you have a large group or have newcomers to a particular riding zone.
Good Habits, Good Days
By developing good habits in your regular sledding routine, all your days on the mountain will run more smoothly. This allows you to ride harder and longer than ever before. Your preparation habits will have you ready to deal with any problem that may arise, and will also allow you to help others on the mountain. Being prepared and helping others creates a strong sense of community and friendship amongst sledders, which will allow the sport to grow and prosper. Your loved ones will feel better knowing where your group is headed and feel more comfortable knowing that they can assist SAR with useful information in the case of an emergency. These good habits don’t take long to integrate into your routine and once you do, you’ll wonder why you didn’t start these earlier!