Any seasoned rider will tell you that planning ahead is critical to snowmobiling in Québec, not only to avoid minor mechanical or logistical issues, but also to ensure your safety. Being prepared for all possible contingencies before venturing out on the trails is the best way to reduce the risk of accidents.
The first snowfall marks the beginning of the best season of the year for snowmobile enthusiasts and is a great time to go over the basics of preparing for a trip. Read on to find out how to plan your snowmobile trips this season so you can enjoy your passion in complete safety and peace of mind!
1. Pre-season snowmobile maintenance
Start the snowmobile season on the right foot by inspecting and servicing your vehicle. We recommend having this done by a professional. Here are a few things to do and check out before your first outing:
- General snowmobile maintenance − Make sure the vehicle starts and electrical components, controls, and the reverse gear are working properly. Check for external leaks and make sure the headlights turn on.
- Carburetors – Remove and clean.
- Skis – Check alignment.
- Chain – Adjust tension.
- Engine and intake – Change filter and motor oil. Inspect and replace ducts, air filter, spark plugs, antifreeze, and pistons as needed. Remove and clean exhaust valves.
- Clutch, transmission, suspension, and battery – Inspect.
- Brakes, pads, discs, oil, and cables – Inspect and replace if necessary.
2. Essential equipment and accessories
Once pre-season inspection and maintenance is complete, it’s time to equip your snowmobile with everything you need for a safe and hassle-free trip. Make sure you have the following equipment and accessories:
- Warm clothing − Bundle up in layers and adjust your outfit according to the weather. Warm leather gloves, a helmet, balaclava, monosuit, and wool socks are a must to enjoy the ride without getting cold. Have a change of clothes on hand in case you get wet.
- Replacement parts − Bring a belt, spark plug, fuse, and jumper cables.
- A first aid kit
- A flashlight
- A rope, a pocket knife, a compact saw, and matches
- A cellphone with the iMotoneige app and GPS
- A trail map
- A small, basic toolbox with the tools to fix your snowmobile
- Food, water, and a blanket
3. Choosing a route
Proper trip planning is also a must for any successful snowmobile excursion. And there are plenty of trails at your disposal in Québec! Choose from among the best snowmobiling locations in the province based on your riding experience and expectations. Make sure there are restaurants, hotels, and gas stations along the way. Once you’ve chosen your route, share it with someone using the iMotoneige app. That will make it much easier to find you if anything happens.
4. Snowmobile rules and regulations
Whether you’re an experienced or novice rider, it’s always a good idea to review the snowmobile rules and regulations at the start of the season. Québec’s trails are patrolled, so it’s important to follow the rules. Here are some reminders that could save you a lot of trouble:
- You must have a valid right of access and a valid driver’s licence with you at all times when on the trails.
- You must also have your registration certificate.
- The minimum age for driving a snowmobile is 16.
- You must carry proof that you have $1 000,000 of liability insurance.
- In Québec, a rearview mirror must be securely mounted on the left side.
Did you know that the law is different in other Canadian provinces? If you venture outside Québec, make sure to check local regulations.
5. Driving safely: Dos and don’ts
When the season starts, review the signal code and hand signals. This will help you drive safely on the trails. To avoid accidents and other mishaps, follow these driving tips:
- Venture out onto unmarked bodies of water. Did you know that riding a snowmobile on a frozen stream or river is safe only if the ice is at least 12 centimetres thick? Don’t ride on ice unless the path is marked
- Go alone
- Drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Check the weather forecast before setting out
- Always keep to the right side of the trail
- Ride between 6 a.m. and midnight
- Stop in a safe spot with good visibility
- Stay on marked trails
- Obey signs and speed limits
- Stop at crossings and proceed carefully
- Maintain a safe distance between vehicles
- Slow down when you encounter other riders
- Use hand signals to communicate with other riders
6. Snowmobile insurance
As mentioned above, in Québec snowmobile owners are legally required to carry $1 000,000* in liability insurance. So if you want to ride, you need snowmobile insurance. If you violate this obligation, you’re liable to a fine of $375 to $750.
Here’s what you need to know about snowmobile insurance: there are two components—liability insurance and insurance against damage to your vehicle and its equipment**. FCMQ members automatically receive $1,000,000 in liability insurance. In that case, most insurers will only offer coverage for damage to your vehicle (e.g., collision, theft, fire, vandalism). Various types of coverage are available depending on your needs: comprehensive, collision or upset, perils other than collision or upset, and specified risks.
Be ready for the snowmobile season—get a snowmobile insurance quote
*Note that the government has introduced legislation to amend the Act respecting off-highway vehicles. This information is therefore subject to change if the bill is passed.
**To be fully covered, make sure you tell your insurance representative about any modifications or additions made to your vehicle.