Once you’ve become familiar with your snowmobile, it’s time to hop on and get to know the controls. The important mechanisms to understand are the ignition, throttle, brakes, steering, and fuel/cruising range.
Starting Your Snowmobile. You’ll use the ignition switch to start the engine and all the snowmobile’s electrical systems. Always carry two keys (keeping them separate, of course), and understand how to shut off your machine quickly in case of emergency, or if the snowmobile behaves erratically. While this sounds simple (and it is), keep in mind you may be in a situation you’ve never experienced. It could be anything from an emergency stop to help another rider to wanting to stop and quietly watch herd of elk.
Giving it Gas. The throttle will be mounted on the right handlebar grip. It will automatically return to idle if you remove your hand. Since you’ll be riding in cold weather, in snow, and perhaps in inclement weather, there’s a chance your throttle will become frozen or stick. Always make sure it turns freely before starting your machine, lest the machine lurch off unexpectedly because of a stuck throttle. This is a danger to you, bystanders and property. Then, before taking the snowmobile out on the trail, get familiar with the feel of the throttle and how the machine responds.
Stopping Your Snowmobile. Even more important than starting is stopping. The left handlebar grip controls the brake. When stopping a snowmobile always remember that you’re on snow and ice and adjust your stopping distance accordingly. You’ll need to leave a lot more room to stop than if you were on pavement. Remember–a snowmobile runs on sled tracks, not wheels. Err on the side of going too slow.
Steering Your Snowmobile. Your sled will have handlebar controls, much like a motorcycle, scooter or wave runner. One big difference is that a snowmobile relies on friction not just to slide across the snow and ice, but also to turn. So before heading off onto the trail, get used to turning your machine. Get a feel for how much body weight you need to shift to execute a safe turn.
Fuel. Of course, make sure your sled is filled with proper fuel before heading out. And be sure the battery has enough charge as well. Understand the cruising range of your machine as well, and don’t exceed it just to see what’s over that next hill. Important safety tip: do not, under any circumstances, use a match to check the fuel level in your gas tank or your battery. Both emit flammable fumes, and using a match could end in disaster.