Snowmobile in snowbank

Getting Unstuck

Getting stuck in deep snow can be a common occurrence for avid snowmobilers and is not normally an emergency – but could be if you're riding alone or overexert yourself while trying to get your snowmobile unstuck.

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Getting Unstuck

How to free your snowmobile from a snow bank
You may be able to prevent getting your snowmobile stuck by learning how to read the type of snow you're riding on. Your heavy snowmobile can easily sink if the snow is loose, light, or deep powder. Keep your engine RPM's and power high enough in these snow conditions to maintain momentum, but don't overpower the machine to the point it causes the snowmobile's track to spin out, which will result in your getting stuck. It can sometimes be more effective in loose snow to lightly 'feather' the throttle rather than trying to overpower with the throttle.

When riding in deep or loose snow, never park or stop pointed uphill or without a clear, compacted path in front of you. It may be helpful to first drive in a short circle and then stop in your track or someone else's snowmobile track to help avoid becoming stuck after stopping.

If you get stuck: When you lose momentum and are stuck, let off on the throttle versus continuing to rev the engine since doing so will often cause your machine to sink even further into the snow. Be cautious when assessing your situation or trying to move your snowmobile by yourself. If you're on flat terrain, wait for other riders in your group to come assist you. If you're stuck on a steep hillside, it is generally unsafe for others to come up on the slope to help you (can often trigger an avalanche) so you will have to get yourself unstuck.

Getting unstuck when on flat ground
  • While standing with your feet flat on the running boards, rock the snowmobile slowly from side to side while gently feathering the throttle
  • If rocking the sled doesn't work, shut off the engine, clear snow away from the track, and then try to pack the snow under the track into a firm base; have other riders help lift the rear of the snowmobile up and over a bit so the track is out of the rut it dug
  • Trample a path in the snow ahead of the machine to help reduce drag on the machine
  • If you have a shovel, use it to dig snow out from around and beneath the snowmobile, as well as to shovel a path in front of the machine
  • Once snow has been packed or shoveled from around the snowmobile, have riders from your group pull on the ski loops (while standing clear from the path of the snowmobile) while you gently feather the throttle
  • Repeat until sled is unstuck
Getting unstuck when on a hill or steep slope
Snowmobile crashed into tree on slope
  • If you're in avalanche terrain (slopes between 30 and 60 degrees) remember that half of all avalanche fatalities are triggered when a rider goes up to help other riders stuck on the slope— so always 'One at a time on these slopes'
  • Shut off the machine and get off on the uphill side to keep the machine from rolling onto you
  • You will need to turn the snowmobile around, so assess which direction is the safest and easiest to turn it downhill
  • Trample or shovel snow from the side of the snowmobile you choose to turn it toward; also dig out the ski loop on that side to gain a good hand-hold
  • Grasp the ski loop on the side of the snowmobile you are turning toward and begin pulling the snowmobile around; use extreme caution when on steep slopes to ensure the machine does not roll over onto you or take off uncontrolled downhill; also remain aware that your actions could potentially trigger an avalanche in the snowpack around you
  • Continue to turn the sled 180 degrees or until it's pointed toward a clear downhill path
  • Start the snowmobile and drive it back down the hill while using a combination of engine RPMs (to keep the track engaged versus allowing it to free wheel) and light manual braking (by pumping the brake versus keeping the brake fully engaged which will lock up the track) to control the snowmobile’s descent safely into the run-out zone below the slope