"What I enjoy the most about snowmobiling is the camaraderie you find among snowmobilers and visiting areas that are not accessible otherwise," says snowmobiler D'arcy Chenier.
Snowmobiling is an exciting sport or recreation. It combines the thrill of riding sophisticated machines with the pleasure of being close to nature.
People ride snowmobiles on snow-covered ground and even frozen lakes. The snowmobiles themselves are in many ways like motorcycles, but have a large tread instead of two wheels.
There are about 2.4 million registered snowmobiles in North America. The average snowmobiler rides his or her snowmobile 1,202 miles per year. That's according to the International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association.
Snowmobiling is an outdoor activity that is often enjoyed out in wide-open wilderness areas. There are over 230,000 miles of groomed and marked snowmobile trails in North America. Snowmobilers often travel in groups, and sometimes ride great distances. Going alone is not recommended.
"The greatest snowmobile ride and event of mine was PowerStreak Rendez-Vous'98 which I organized and was the lead rider. It was a ride across Canada from Newfoundland to British Columbia over 45 days," says Donald W. Lumley.
Like many things these days, the trend in snowmobiling is definitely towards the newer and more sophisticated machines. They are quieter, more comfortable, and perhaps most importantly, more reliable! After all, the last thing you would want is to break down in the middle of nowhere on a cold winter day. The newer machines are also less polluting, and therefore less harmful to the environment.
"The big trend in snowmobiling is more towards the family and touring aspect of the sport, where we go away for overnight trips. These can be for just one night as a short weekend outing or up to 10 days for a full-blown snowmobile holiday," says Lumley.
Snowmobiling can be a lot of fun, but it can also be dangerous. There are many common injuries associated with this sport, many of which can be avoided by using common sense.
Falling off machines at high speeds can cause broken arms, legs and ribs. Many people also get sore arms and hands during long rides. There is also the cold to deal with. You always need to be aware of hypothermia and frostbite.
You don't really need to be in great shape to go snowmobiling, but it sure couldn't hurt! For the most part, no special skills are really required. Most people, young and old, can learn to ride in a few hours.
However, you must remember that snowmobiles are very powerful machines, and they can take some time to fully master. Training courses are more than just a good idea. They are available just about anywhere.
Snowmobiling can be a physically demanding sport. Driving the machines requires a certain amount of upper body strength and arm use. Heavy lifting sometimes becomes necessary when you get stuck in deep snow and have to turn your machine around.
However, physically challenged people can still enjoy this sport. It just depends on the challenge. Generally, anyone with waist-up use of his or her bodies can control a snowmobile.
"We have some friends that are in their 80s and travel 1,500 to 2,000 miles a year. One of the riders that crossed Canada in '98 was a paraplegic," says Chenier.
Hang on to your wallet! This sport isn't cheap. Snowmobiles are expensive, and so are the clothes you need to keep warm.
According to the International Snowmobile Manufacturer's Association, the average suggested retail price of a new snowmobile sold in 1999 was $5,780. That's in the U.S.
In most places, you will need a driver's license or a snowmobile license to operate a snowmobile. If you're touring, you'll need permits from each state you plan on riding in. Costs can vary anywhere between $25 and $170.
When touring, you also have to consider the cost of food and accommodations. Snowmobiler Marg McCarthy also points out another cost associated with touring. "If you want to tour you will need a truck and trailer -- $30,000 to $60,000," she says.
Ask some friends to take you out when they go snowmobiling. That way, you can get a good feel for the sport. If this isn't possible, you may want to go somewhere you can rent a machine for a few hours, and take one out for a spin.
Once you're past that hurdle, check out some local snowmobile clubs and see what's involved. Most clubs and associations will be able to give you good advice on just about every aspect of the sport.
"The best way to see if you like it is to go rent a machine with clothing and go out on a guided trip. Then all you have to worry about is enjoying yourself," says Pete Greenlaw. He is president of a snowmobile association.
"It takes very little to get started beside the equipment," says Chenier. "If you have a driver's license, you do not need any courses. But we still recommend the courses to everyone that has never ridden a snowmobile before."
"Joining and participating in a snowmobile club is the only true way to experience all the aspects of the sport to a maximum," agrees Lumley.
Most people snowmobile for pleasure. But it is certainly possible to find work associated with this recreation. Employment can be found in selling new or used snowmobiles. As well, there is always demand for snowmobile mechanics.
Maine Snowmobile Association
P.O. Box 80
New York State Snowmobile Association
P.O. Box 62
Snowmobiling: The Sledders Complete Handbook,
Dave Hallam and James Hallam
Jay Lemke and Edgar Hetteen
The Complete Winter Sports Safety Manual: Staying Safe and Warm Snowshoeing, Skiing, Snowboarding, Snowmobiling and Camping,
A site loaded with all kinds of snowmobile information
The Antique Snowmobile Club of America
A historical site dedicated to old snowmobiles
America's Best Online Snowmobiling
Back to Career Cluster
A guide to the best snowmobiling areas in the U.S.