Snowmobiling is an important winter activity for many Grey Bruce residents and visitors. Some people snowmobile for transportation or as part of their employment, while others enjoy snowmobiling in their spare time. Snowmobiles can be lots of fun – but it’s important not to treat them as toys. People who spend time around snowmobiles must be aware of the risks and understand how best to keep safe.
Snowmobiles are heavy and powerful, requiring physical strength and strong judgement to operate safely. The physical size, muscle coordination, and thinking skills needed to safely operate a snowmobile are not fully developed in children. Even snowmobiles marketed as ‘kid-sized’ are too big and strong for use by children, so child injury experts do not recommend them.
The Canadian Paediatric Society suggests that children are strong enough to ride snowmobiles as passengers at age 6, and do not recommend any riding for children under that age. It is safest for children to continue to ride snowmobiles only as passengers between the ages of 6 and 16. At 16, children are old enough to safely operate a snowmobile independently after taking a safety course.
Tips to Stay Safe While Snowmobiling
- Know the risks. Snowmobile-related injuries and deaths are often due to not wearing a helmet, driving while impaired, going too fast, on-road riding, and carrying multiple passengers.
- Inspect your machine before every trip. Be sure to have a full tank of gas.
- Check the weather before you head out. Prepare accordingly.
- Drive sober. Using alcohol, cannabis, or other drugs severely impacts your ability to operate a snowmobile safely. It’s also against the law and could result in the loss of all driving privileges.
- Be prepared. Bring rescue equipment (e.g., a rope, cellphone in a waterproof container, first aid kit, and high-energy food). See the Ontario Ministry of Transportation’s (MTO) What to bring for a complete list.
- Wear a helmet if you are a driver or a passenger. It’s the law.
- Wear the proper gear, including goggles, a waterproof snowmobile suit and gloves, and rubber-bottomed boots.
- Never ride alone. Always ride with a partner.
- Tell someone where you are going and when you expect to return.
- Towing behind a snowmobile is high-risk activity. Do not tow unless absolutely necessary, and only using an approved device with a rigid bar and hitch. Use a spotter. More towing tips here.
- By law, drivers must be at least 12 years old and have an appropriate licence (a motorized snow vehicle operator’s licence OR valid driver’s licence) to drive anywhere but private property. For safest operation, a driver should be at least 16 and a passenger at least 6.
- Take the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs’ (OFSC) Motorized Snow Vehicle Operator's Course regardless of driver’s licence status. It looks at safe operating practices, the law, first aid and more.
- For more tips, rules, and information about where you can drive, visit the Ontario Ministry of Transportation Snowmobile Safety.
Snowmobiles: Safety Tips for Families - Canadian Paediatric Society
Snowmobile Safety - District 9 (Grey Bruce), Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs
Go Safe - Safety Tips from the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs
Snowmobile Requirements & Safety - Ministry of Transportation Ontario
Snowmobile Driver Training - Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs
Parachute Canada – Children and Snowmobiles
Safety Tips for Families - Grey Bruce Health Unit
Cannabis and Snowmobiling - Grey Bruce Health Unit