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Winter Activities: Snowmobiling 101

The area snowmobile trails finally opened last week and you might be thinking….that looks like fun! Here are some tips for getting into snowmobiling from our snowmobile pro and team member, Kevin Barnes!

1. Rent or Buy?

I recommend you try snowmobiling first before you buy. You can do an area tour or take some slow runs around a flat field with a friend. If you are born after July 1, 1983, you will need a license to drive on a VAST (Vermont Association of Snow Travelers) trail in VT. That involves a class.

2. What to wear?

Make sure you dress warmly and I think layers are best. Even with today’s hand and seat warmers built into some of the new snowmobiles, nothing ruins a day on the trail like cold hands and feet. Helmets with face shields or goggles are top priorities. Remember, well-insulated boots are the only way to go.

3. What kind of snowmobile?

Snowmobiles come in many sizes, engine powers, and comfort accessories. They also come in 4-stroke (gas only like your car) or 2-stroke (gas and oil mix) engines. Most are 2 strokes but the 4-stroke models have caught up fast in the marketplace due to reliability and they run much cleaner. The newer 2 stroke engines burn cleaner than they used to, but your clothes will still smell like exhaust after a long ride whereas they will not after riding a 4 stroke. 4 strokes tend to weigh more and cost more than a similar powered 2 stroke.
Where to go? Vermont has an incredible trail network of mostly private land and state forests. Every year, local clubs contact landowners to get permission to continue to use their land for trails as 80% of the trails are on private land. The organization that helps manage all this is called VAST. It is not a government agency and relies on the members and clubs to maintain the trails. There are more than 5,000 miles of groomed trails as well as many miles of local feeder trails.

4. What do I need to go on the trails?

Once you are confident to ride some distance on a trail, you will need a VT registered snowmobile, a TMA (Trail Maintenance Assessment) sticker, and at least liability insurance on the snowmobile. There are big fines if stopped, and you are found without these items. The TMA fees help pay to maintain the trails and cost of running this nonprofit organization. I also advise you to have a paper trail map as well as download the VAST app on your phone. You will not always have cell service. It is best to also ride with a buddy and not alone. Especially if you are unfamiliar with the area. Snowmobiles can break down, run out of gas, or you can get stuck.

We hope this gets you started and you are able to enjoy the many miles of trails. Remember the snowmobilers code: Ride right, ride in control, keep your hands on the handlebars, and think snow!