Webster defines a snowmobile as an open vehicle for usually one or two persons with steerable skis on the front and an endless belt at the rear used for travel on snow. However, if you ask any snowmobile owner, they’ll tell you it’s much more than that. They describe it as an exhilarating ride on top of the snow where you experience all the elements of nature with cold air and snow brushing against your face.
Used for either pleasure riding or work and hauling, snowmobiles are powered by gasoline engines that propel them over the snow. There are numerous types of snowmobiles for youth, performance and utility use. Although most snowmobiles are designed for a driver only, some models are equipped with a seat large enough to accommodate a passenger behind the driver. All riders are required to wear a helmet, and there are full face coverage and open face helmets as windshields on snowmobiles are an option.
You can choose an electric start model, one with a reverse option or a model with studs on the track, enabling you to travel on ice. When choosing your snowmobile, you can add numerous options and customize it by choosing the color and the type of seat you want, as well as racks, bags or a windshield. Snowmobiles are equipped with headlights and taillights, which enable you to ride at night, and disc brakes for stopping.
In order to ride, there must be at least 4-6 inches of snow and long-track models are best for deep snow. Some snowmobiles can reach speeds well over 100 mph and a tank of gas can go far depending on the snow conditions and how you use the throttle. Most people tow their snowmobile on a trailer to the area where they intend to ride. Snowmobiles are technically not allowed to use streets and highways and each vehicle is required to be registered with the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles or equivalent state bureau for out-or-state visitors. There is no age requirement for passengers, thereby allowing the youngsters in the family the chance to experience a fun ride.
When you purchase a snowmobile, the dealer will review all the controls and the engine with you before you start out. If you already own a snowmobile, be sure to check all fluids and refill anything necessary before your first ride of the season.
There are designated snowmobile trails in numerous Ohio State Parks, including Alum Creek, Barkcamp, Buck Creek, Deer Creek, East Harbor, Geneva, Mosquito Lake, Punderson, Salt Fork, Sycamore and West Branch. The trails range from 3.5 miles to 20 miles in length. In addition, snowmobiling may be permitted on the frozen surface of many state park lakes in designated areas when the lake is posted for snowmobiling. Hours are limited to 6 am to 11 pm. In Ohio State Parks children under age 12 must be accompanied by an adult, and youth ages 12 to 15 must be closely supervised by an adult when operating a snowmobile within the park. For Ohio State Park locations and additional information, see their website at http://ohiodnr.gov/winter.
The Ohio State Snowmobile Association (OSSA) has several individual clubs in the area. This organization supports many local charities and even offers a charity-matching program to member clubs. The OSSA periodically holds free snowmobile safety classes for riders ages 10 years and older. They are also involved in the 2017 Ride-In, a weekend event scheduled for January 26-29 in Chautaugua, New York. For more information about this organization, see www.snowmobileohio.com.
For those wanting more challenging terrain, the Pennsylvania State Snowmobile Association offers maps and updated local conditions for trails through Pennsylvania’s State Forests including the Allegheny National Forest, Northcentral Mountains, Laurel Highlands, Central and Southcentral Mountains, and Pocono and Eastcentral Mountains. Consult their website at www.pasnow.org.
Some ski resorts offer visitors the option to rent a snowmobile. What a great way to try the sport before purchasing your own snowmobile. In our area, Bair’s Powersports has numerous snowmobiles on display and can answer your questions about the best model for your intended use. Visit their showroom at 4617 Emmett Boyd Circle in North Canton, Ohio, or check their website www.Bairspowersports.com.