Chase the Midnight Sun: Iceland and Canada tours available now!

Snowmobiling for Beginners: Ultimate Guide

Everything You Need to Know About Snowmobiling to Get Started

|October 19, 2023
Anhelina is a wanderlust-fueled soul who is also a cat mom, amateur cyclist, and painter in her free time. She believes that every location, no matter how remote or obscure, has a unique charm that deserves to be shared with the world.

Setting out on your first snowmobiling journey is undoubtedly thrilling, but it poses some challenges for beginners. Before you even think of revving up that engine, it's crucial to understand the basics to ensure your safety and boost your confidence on the machine.

Setting out on your first snowmobiling journey is undoubtedly thrilling, but it poses some challenges for beginners. This winter sport, known for its excitement and navigating vast snowscapes, demands a solid grasp of the snowmobile and its surroundings. Beyond the adrenaline, it offers a unique opportunity to bond with nature, unlike most other activities.

Before you even think of revving up that engine, it's crucial to understand the basics to ensure your safety and boost your confidence on the machine.

Person preparing for snowmobiling tour on Langjokull Glacier

Getting ready for an exhilarating snowmobiling adventure on Langjokull Glacier.

Introduction to Snowmobiling for Beginners

Snowmobiling is an experience that continually captivates enthusiasts worldwide. Imagine gliding over untouched snow, steering a powerful machine, and feeling the exhilaration of the cold wind. 

As you dive into snowmobiling, you're not just learning a sport; you're connecting with nature in a way few get to experience. And that adrenaline rush? It's significantly unmatched when you're cutting through snow at full throttle. Moreover, snowmobiling is an entry ticket into a passionate community where shared experiences become lasting memories.

There is a lot to know for those just starting before hopping on a vehicle. But with the right gear, knowledge about your route, and adherence to guidelines, you're set for an experience of a lifetime. This guide is your first step, covering the essentials from understanding the sport's basics, getting to know your equipment, and ensuring safety on the trails.

Snowmobiles in line on Langjokull Glacier

Snowmobiles aligned, ready to conquer Langjokull Glacier.

The Evolution and History of Snowmobiles

From its humble beginnings to modern high-tech machines, snowmobiling has transformed over the decades, adapting to the changing times and demands of the riders. Whether for work or recreation, the snowmobile's journey is a testament to human innovation and the passion for snowy adventures.

Early Beginnings

Picture the late 19th century, particularly the 1880s and 1890s – the age of steam and iron. As the world buzzed with the invention of cars, motorcycles, and bicycles, a few daring inventors pondered: “What about snow transport?” That curiosity laid the ground for a revolution in snowmobiling.

The 1920s: Pioneering Innovations

Enter the 1920s. Carl Eliason crafted something remarkable – the "motor toboggan". This brainchild used a propeller instead of wheels or legs, making it glide effortlessly over icy terrains. Around the same corner of history, Joseph-Armand Bombardier was also stirring the pot. By 1922, he had his version of a snowmobile though it would be almost unrecognizable today.

The 1930s: Patents and Progress

1937 was a hallmark year – Armand Bombardier, a snow trailblazer, patented his snowmobile. His designs became the foundation for decades of snowy innovation. Calling Bombardier as just an inventor would be an understatement. He was, in many ways, the very spirit of early snowmobiling.

1943 Bombardier B8 snowmobile at the Museum of Armored Vehicles

Vintage 1943 Bombardier B8 snowmobile on display at the Museum of Armored Vehicles.

The 1950s: Birth of the Modern Snowmobile

Fast-forward to the 1950s, the canvas of modern snowmobiles started to take shape. Three masterminds - Edgar and Allen Hetteen and David Johnson from the chilly terrains of Roseau, Minnesota, reimagined the snowmobile between 1955 and 1956. Their genius discarded old propeller models, integrating features that became the golden standard.

Canada also played a pivotal role in snowmobile history. In the heart of 1950, George and Allister Ingham, from Lanigan, Saskatchewan, unveiled the first uniquely Canadian snowmobile – the Ingham Motor Toboggan. Their creation is a testament to snowmobiling's universal magnetism and potential.

The 1960s: Commercial Boom

During the 1960s, snowmobiles transitioned from primarily utilitarian vehicles to recreational machines. With increasing interest and demand, production numbers surged. The '60s saw over a hundred manufacturers entering the market. Brands like Polaris, Arctic Cat, and Ski-Doo became household names. Bombardier's Ski-Doo, in particular, achieved significant commercial success, reshaping how people perceived snowmobiles from mere workhorses to recreational marvels.

The 1970s and 1980s: Technological Advancements

The 1970s were the golden age of snowmobiling, with sales reaching an all-time high. However, the energy crisis and subsequent economic downturn led to a shakeout in the industry, reducing the number of manufacturers. During these decades, snowmobiles saw considerable improvements in technology, safety, and environmental impact. Liquid-cooled engines, better suspension systems, and improved braking made rides smoother, faster, and safer.

Couple posing for a selfie while snowmobiling on glacier

Couple capturing a moment with a selfie during their glacier snowmobiling adventure.

The 1990s: Focus on Environment and Sustainability

The 1990s were marked by increased environmental awareness. Snowmobile manufacturers faced challenges concerning emissions and noise pollution. This led to significant research and development to produce cleaner engines and more sustainable models. The four-stroke engine, for instance, became more popular due to its lower emissions and increased fuel efficiency.

The 2000s: Modern Machines

In the 21st century, snowmobiling expanded its global reach, with more countries adopting this winter sport. Technology advancements led to more lightweight models, GPS-equipped machines, and even electric snowmobiles. The industry also witnessed growth in snowmobiling tourism, with many snowy destinations worldwide offering snowmobile tours, races, and events. Manufacturers continued to innovate, focusing on rider experience, safety, and environmental considerations.

Types of Snowmobiles

Choosing the right snowmobile is crucial. There are various styles, each tailored for specific terrains and riding preferences. Factors like engine type, seating capacity, and brand reputation also play a significant role in the selection process.

  • Trail Snowmobiles: These are the most common type of snowmobiles designed specifically for groomed trails. They are comfortable, easy to handle, and perfect for long rides. Their suspension is designed to handle bumps and dips on well-maintained trails.

  • Mountain Snowmobiles: As the name suggests, these are designed for mountainous terrains. They are lightweight and have a longer track to navigate deep snow and steep inclines. The narrow body and agile design allow for easy maneuverability in tight spaces.

  • Utility Snowmobiles: Built for work rather than play, utility snowmobiles are robust and versatile. They come with a wider track and are often used for hauling loads, towing, or even ice fishing. Their design prioritizes stability and strength.

  • Performance Snowmobiles: Performance snowmobiles are the way to go for those seeking an adrenaline rush. They are built for speed and agility, often used in racing. With a powerful engine and a sporty design, they promise an exhilarating ride.

  • Touring Snowmobiles: Designed for two riders, touring snowmobiles are perfect for longer journeys. They come with a longer seat, and backrest, and often have added features like heated hand grips and mirrors. The suspension is designed for a smoother ride, ensuring comfort for both riders.

  • Crossover Snowmobiles: A blend of trail and mountain snowmobiles, crossovers are versatile machines designed to handle both groomed trails and deep snow. They come with a medium-length track and suit riders who love exploring different terrains.
Red painted snowmobile parked in snow

Striking red snowmobile standing out against the pristine snow.

The type of snowmobile you choose should align with your intended use and the terrain you plan to explore. Whether you're looking for a leisurely ride through groomed trails or an adventurous climb up a snowy mountain, there's a snowmobile tailored to your needs.

How Does a Snowmobile Work

How do snowmobiles work? A snowmobile operates primarily through its engine, which uses gasoline as its fuel source. Initiating the engine triggers controlled explosions inside the engine's cylinders. These explosions are crucial as they push the engine's pistons to move with force. The movement occurs when these pistons, in motion, transfer their energy to a rubber track at the snowmobile's rear. As the pistons move, they drive the track, resulting in the snowmobile's forward motion.

There are two main engine types in snowmobiles: two-stroke and four-stroke. Two-stroke engines are lighter and provide quick power but are less fuel-efficient. In contrast, four-stroke engines weigh more but offer better fuel efficiency and are less environmentally harmful.

Beyond the engine, the suspension system in a snowmobile plays a vital role in its operation, especially when navigating uneven terrains. The suspension absorbs shocks from bumps and dips, ensuring a smoother ride. A snowmobile typically has two suspension systems: the front suspension, which manages the skis and steers the machine, and the rear suspension, which supports the weight and absorbs most of the shocks.

Additionally, snowmobiles are equipped with skis at the front, which help in steering and provide stability. The skis glide over the snow, allowing the rider to maneuver the machine in the desired direction.

What to Wear for Snowmobiling

Person putting on gear for snowmobiling

Adventurer putting on a helmet and goggles, gearing up for a thrilling snowmobiling ride.

Snowmobiling is an experience. And like any grand experience, it requires preparation. Dressing right isn’t just about bracing the cold but also ensuring safety and optimum comfort. Here’s a comprehensive look at the essentials:

  • Helmet: This is your shield. A DOT-approved helmet is non-negotiable. It's your frontline protection against impacts and the harsh cold.

  • Goggles: Ever tried looking directly at a snowstorm? That's what snowmobiling can feel like without goggles. They guard your eyes from wind, snow, and the sneaky UV rays on sunny days.

  • Snowmobile Suit: Specifically designed for riders, this insulated and waterproof suit offers a blend of mobility and warmth. It's crafted to move with you, allowing you to easily navigate those snowy trails.

  • Boots & Gloves: Your extremities, especially fingers and toes, are most vulnerable to cold. Thus, picking the right boots and gloves is crucial. Go for ones that are well-insulated, waterproof, and provide a solid grip. You don’t want the throttle slipping from a frozen hand!

  • Layers: The key to staying comfortable is adaptability. Begin with moisture-wicking base layers to keep the sweat at bay. Depending on the cold, add insulating layers like fleece. And, of course, your snowmobile suit will serve as a sturdy outer shield against water and wind.

How to Drive a Snowmobile

People snowmobiling on glacier in pairs

Pairs of adventurers gliding across the glacier on snowmobiles.

Remember, riding a snowmobile for the first time is all about getting familiar and finding your balance. Start in a spacious, controlled environment away from the bustle of trails or challenging terrains. Feel the machine, understand its reactions, and slowly build that bond of trust and confidence.

Driving a snowmobile goes beyond just hopping on and off. It's a communication, a partnership between you and the machine. Feel its rhythm, anticipate its moves, and respond. The throttle, the brake, the roar, and the glide – they're not just parts and actions. They're an experience.

So, how to ride a snowmobile for beginners? For your inaugural ride, pick an open canvas – a broad, empty expanse where you and your snowmobile can get to know each other. Start, stop, twirl, race, and brake. Take it slow, enjoy every moment, and don't hesitate to ask or learn. Remember, every expert snowmobiler started with a single ride!

  • Ignition: Whether it’s a key start or a pull-start, this is where your journey begins. Before you venture out, take the time to familiarize yourself with your snowmobile's specific controls and features. Understand its responsiveness.

  • Acceleration: That’s the power at your fingertips. The throttle's on the right handlebar. Begin gently, savor the acceleration, and you can up the pace as you gain confidence.

  • Posture: Position yourself so that you're seated squarely, ensuring your feet are flat on the running boards and your grasp on the handlebars is firm yet relaxed.

  • Steering: Turn the handlebars where you want to go. When turning, subtly lean into the direction, balancing and, if needed, redistributing your weight for a smoother curve.

  • Braking: When you need to slow down or stop, engage the brake lever typically found on the left handlebar, and always maintain a considerable gap from fellow riders for added safety.

Snowmobiling Etiquette

People posing on snowmobiles

Adventurers in gear take a thrilling ride across the icy expanse, with snowmobiles ready to conquer the terrain.

Snowmobiling is not just about the thrill of the ride; it's also about sharing the trails responsibly with other enthusiasts. Proper etiquette ensures that everyone can enjoy the experience safely and harmoniously.


Uphill Riders: When encountering riders going in opposite directions on a slope, the uphill rider generally has the right of way. This is because it's more challenging for them to stop and then regain momentum on an incline. It's safer and more convenient for the downhill rider to yield and allow the uphill rider to continue.

Faster Riders: On flat terrains or wider trails, if you notice someone approaching from behind faster, it's courteous to move to the side and let them pass. This ensures smooth traffic flow and reduces the risk of accidents.

Trail Signs and Signals

Understanding Symbols: Trails are often marked with various signs indicating directions, warnings, or points of interest. Familiarizing yourself with these symbols ensures you navigate the trails correctly and safely. For instance, a diamond shape with a snowmobile icon usually indicates a designated snowmobile trail while a triangle might warn of an upcoming intersection.

Hand Signals: Effective communication is crucial, especially when riding in groups. Hand signals convey intentions to other riders, helping to prevent misunderstandings and collisions. Some common hand signals include:

  • Left Turn: Extend your left arm straight out.
  • Right Turn: Extend your left arm and bend it upwards at a 90-degree angle.
  • Stop: Raise your left arm straight up.
  • Slowing Down: Extend your left arm and move it up and down.

Additional Etiquette Tips

Noise Levels: Be mindful of noise, especially when passing through residential areas or near wildlife habitats. A quieter approach is respectful and reduces disturbances to animals and residents.

Leave No Trace: Always carry out what you bring in. This includes any trash or equipment. Leaving trails clean ensures they remain beautiful and accessible for everyone.

Respect Private Property: Some trails may pass through private lands. Always stay on marked paths and avoid trespassing.

By adhering to these etiquette guidelines, snowmobilers can ensure a positive and safe experience for themselves and others on the trails.

Snowmobile Riding Tips for Beginners

People taking a break in the middle of snowmobiling tour

Two friends enjoying a break in the snow, with their snowmobile parked nearby.

As you embark on your snowmobiling journey, the blend of thrill and novelty can be overwhelming. To navigate this new adventure with confidence and safety, you must arm yourself with some foundational knowledge. Now, let's delve into some practical tips tailored for beginners to ensure your rides are both exhilarating and secure.
Here are a few snowmobiling tips for beginners:

  • Trail Adherence: It's paramount for beginners to stick to marked trails. These paths minimize risks and guide riders away from potential hazards.

  • Companionship: Always ride with at least one other person, particularly when exploring unfamiliar territories. There's safety in numbers.

  • Weather Awareness: Ensure you're aware of the latest weather forecasts. It's wise to avoid outings during storms or in compromised visibility.

  • Stay Relaxed: A firm but relaxed grip on the handlebars will prevent early fatigue and give you better control.

  • Focused Vision: Direct your attention ahead, planning for where you aim to be rather than fixating on your current position.

  • Balanced Turns: As you make turns, subtly lean your body in the desired direction, assisting with stability.

  • Safety Buffer: Keep a generous distance when trailing another snowmobile. This provides ample time to react to any unforeseen stops or changes in direction.

  • Controlled Speed: It's natural to want to feel the rush, but measured acceleration is crucial to maintain control and safety.

  • Practice Makes Perfect: Before exploring trails, hone your skills in open areas with minimal obstacles.

Now that you're equipped with these essential snowmobile riding tips, you're one step closer to mastering the art of snowmobiling. By incorporating this advice into your rides, not only will you enhance your safety but also significantly enrich your overall experience. So, gear up, respect the trails, and embrace the snowy adventure ahead with newfound assurance.

Snowmobile Maintenance and Care

A snowmobile, like any machine, demands consistent care and attention. Proper maintenance doesn't just prolong the life of your snowmobile; it ensures that every ride is as safe and exhilarating as possible. Here's a more detailed look at what you need to consider:

Snowmobile rests beside a frosty cabin as dusk paints the sky

A silent snowmobile and a cozy cabin under the twilight glow.

Pre-Ride Inspection

  • Engine: Before you head out, give the engine a quick once-over. Listen for unusual noises when you start it up, and check for fluid leaks.

  • Brakes: Your brakes are your primary safety feature. Test them at low speeds to ensure they're responsive and effective.

  • Lights: Visibility is key, especially in low-light winter conditions. Ensure your headlights, brakes, and signal lights are functioning correctly.

  • Skis and Track: These components significantly affect your ride's smoothness and ability to navigate the snowy terrain. Look for any signs of wear, damage, or misalignment.

Post-Ride Care

  • Cleaning: Snow and ice can accumulate on your snowmobile during a ride, and left unattended, they can cause corrosion or damage. Use a soft brush to remove snow and ice, and consider giving your snowmobile a quick wash to remove any dirt.

  • Drying: Moisture is an enemy of machinery. Before storing, ensure your snowmobile is completely dry. This prevents rust and keeps the machine in top condition.

  • Storage: Always store your snowmobile in a dry, sheltered place. If you're putting it away for an extended period, consider using a snowmobile cover to protect it from dust and other environmental factors.

Periodic Maintenance

  • Oil and Fluid Checks: Regularly check and change the oil. Ensure that other fluids, like brake and coolant, are at the recommended levels.

  • Belt Inspection: The drive belt is a critical component. Check for signs of wear, cracks, or fraying and replace if necessary.

  • Battery Care: If your snowmobile has a battery, ensure it's charged and in good health, especially before long rides.

Remember, a well-maintained snowmobile ensures safety and provides a more enjoyable ride. Treat your machine with the respect it deserves, and it will reward you with many thrilling adventures on the snow!

Snowmobiling Safety Practices

Guide briefing customers before snowmobiling tour

Before we carve our path through the snow, safety first! A moment of guidance ensures a journey of thrill without the accidents.

With the thrill comes responsibility. Before even starting the engine, it's vital to understand the inherent risks associated with snowmobiling. Like all motorsports, snowmobiling can be dangerous, especially with high speeds and unfamiliar terrains. Being well-prepared and knowledgeable about safety practices is not just advisable – it's essential.

Here are some foundational safety principles:

  • Awareness: Understand the potential dangers. Being mindful of your speed and actions will significantly reduce the chances of mishaps. Avoid taking unnecessary risks, especially in unfamiliar territories.

  • Helmet Use: Never underestimate the importance of a helmet. Protecting your head is paramount in snowmobiling, where riders can be thrown off their sleds.

  • Buddy System: The beauty of snowmobiling often lies in its remote trails, but this also means help isn't always around the corner. Always ride with a companion or in groups.

  • Avalanche Preparedness: In mountainous regions, avalanches are a genuine concern. Equip yourself with knowledge about assessing avalanche risks and carry essential tools like beacons and probes.

Before hitting the snow, a few steps can ensure you're setting out safely:

  • Equipment Examination: A quick but thorough check of your snowmobile ensures everything's in order, from brakes to lights.

  • Weather and Trail Update: Glancing at the latest weather forecast and the trail's status can help avoid storms or challenging terrains.

  • Training and Licensing: Enrolling in a safety course and obtaining a snowmobile license educates you on best practices and often provides insights into understanding the machine better.

Additionally, take these steps during your ride to ensure safety:

  • Distance Matters: Just like in driving, maintaining a safe buffer can give you precious seconds to react to unexpected stops or turns by the snowmobile ahead.

  • Stay Alert: Snowmobiling requires constant attention. From the changing terrain and unexpected wildlife to other riders, being alert can prevent unforeseen accidents.

  • Preparation for Emergencies: A basic first aid kit, emergency signals, and even a whistle can prove indispensable in case of accidents or getting lost.

  • Ice Caution: Riding over frozen lakes or rivers can be tempting, but it's a risk not worth taking unless you're certain of the ice's stability and thickness.

Environmental Considerations

Snowmobiling, while an exhilarating winter activity, does have environmental implications. As sports enthusiasts, it's crucial to recognize these impacts and take proactive steps to mitigate them. By being environmentally conscious, snowmobilers can ensure that they enjoy the sport without causing harm to the environment.

Person posing for a selfie next to snowmobile

Capturing a selfie moment beside the snowmobile.

Eco-Friendly Riding:

  • Stick to designated trails. Riding on designated trails is essential to prevent damage to pristine and untouched areas. Off-trail riding can lead to soil erosion, damage to vegetation, and disruption of natural habitats. According to the Snowmobile Safety and Certification Committee, sticking to marked trails helps preserve the environment for future generations.

  • Proper maintenance. Ensuring that your snowmobile is well-maintained is good for the machine and the environment. A well-maintained snowmobile operates more efficiently, emits fewer pollutants, and is less likely to leak oil or other harmful substances into the environment.

Respecting Wildlife:

  • Avoid disturbances. Wildlife can be sensitive to the noise and presence of snowmobiles. It's essential to keep a safe distance from animals to prevent stressing or causing them to flee, which can expend vital energy reserves, especially in the cold winter.

  • Understand migration patterns. Being aware of local wildlife migration patterns is crucial. Some trails may be closed during specific periods to protect migrating animals, ensuring their safe passage. Respecting these closures is vital for the conservation of local fauna.

In addition to the above, snowmobilers can consider participating in environmental awareness programs and joining local snowmobiling clubs promoting sustainable riding practices. By being informed and responsible, snowmobilers can enjoy the ride's thrill while preserving the natural beauty of the landscapes they traverse.

Kickstart Your Snowmobiling Journey with Guided Tours

Person taking a group picture of snowmobile riders

First-time snowmobiler capturing a group moment before embarking on a guided journey through breathtaking trails.

If you're new to snowmobiling and eager to experience the thrill firsthand, guided tours are the perfect way to dive in. Not only do they offer a safe environment for beginners, but they also provide an opportunity to learn from experienced riders and explore some of the most scenic snowmobiling trails in the world.


For those looking to start their snowmobiling journey amidst the ethereal landscapes of glaciers and volcanoes, Iceland is the place to be. With vast expanses like the Vatnajökull glacier awaiting exploration, beginners can taste the true snowmobiling experience while guided by seasoned professionals. Start your Icelandic snowmobiling experience.


If the dense forests and vast snowy plains of Canada call out to you, then embarking on a snowmobiling tour in regions like Ontario and Quebec is a must. These tours are specially tailored for beginners and ensure you get the right mix of adventure and learning. From understanding the basics of handling a snowmobile to exploring well-groomed trails, Canada promises a comprehensive introduction to snowmobiling. Discover beginner-friendly snowmobiling tours in Canada.


Experience the magic of Nordic winter in Finland, a perfect place for first-time snowmobilers. Glide through the beautiful arctic nature, exploring vast subarctic wildernesses like Lapland, known for its uninterrupted beauty. Finland's snowmobiling tours are beginner and family-friendly, ensuring everyone can enjoy this exhilarating activity. Dress warm and embark on an adventure through regions like Rovaniemi and Levi, capturing the essence of the Finnish winter landscape. Browse Finland's snowmobiling tours.

Person driving a snowmobile up the snowy slope

Even if you're new to snowmobiling, our tours cater to all skill levels.

Even if you're new to snowmobiling, these tours cater to all skill levels. Before you begin, expert guides will introduce you to the snowmobile and provide driving instructions. You can stop at scenic lookouts as you navigate the trails, capture photographs, and spot wildlife. And if you're looking for a comprehensive winter experience, some tours even combine snowmobiling with other activities like dog-sledding or spa sessions.


Snowmobiling is a captivating blend of adventure and nature, uniting enthusiasts from around the world into a passionate community. This guide underscores the significance of acquiring comprehensive knowledge, both for personal safety and for the preservation of the environment. As you delve into this thrilling winter sport, it's essential to be well-prepared, to respect the pristine landscapes you traverse, and to cherish the camaraderie and memories you'll create. Equip yourself with knowledge, respect the environment, and, most importantly, enjoy every moment on the snow!

Snowmobiling for Beginners - FAQs

How do you snowmobile for the first time?

For first-timers, it's essential to learn how to ride a snowmobile in a safe, open area to familiarize yourself with the controls. Wear appropriate safety gear, ensure the snowmobile is in good condition, and gradually increase your speed as you become more comfortable. Taking a beginner's course or having an experienced rider guide you is also recommended

Is snowmobiling hard?

Snowmobiling can be challenging for beginners, especially in tough terrains or harsh weather conditions. However, with proper training, practice, and safety precautions, riders can quickly become proficient and enjoy the sport.

How do you get in shape for snowmobiling?

Snowmobiling requires strength, endurance, and flexibility. Incorporate strength training exercises focusing on the core, legs, and arms. Cardio workouts like running or cycling can improve endurance, and stretching exercises enhance flexibility.

Is snowmobiling hard on your back?

Snowmobiling can be strenuous on the back, especially during long rides or on rough terrains. Proper posture, regular breaks, and strengthening core muscles can help mitigate back strain.

Related Tours

Recommended Blog Posts