Mountain snowmobiling is exhilarating, with the beautiful views and riding experiences you can’t get anyway else.  But often that riding takes place in avalanche areas.  If you are riding in these areas you need to be prepared to stay safe.  Snowmobile avalanche fatalities are dropping because riders are being both properly trained and equipped.

It is important to have the right gear.  It might not only save your own life, but your riding buddy’s.  Choose carefully.  Here is my list of essential gear items and some tips on how to choose the best stuff.

Avalanche beacon

This is the only way you can efficiently find someone who is completely buried.  Choose one that is digital 3 antenna, 457khz frequency, a proven design and that is easy to use. Carry spare batteries.  Most importantly, practice with it often.  Have a friend hide another beacon in your yard.  Then try to find it with your beacon.  Too many riders just wear a beacon – that’s not enough!  Have the skills to perform an effective rescue.


Choose one with a large metal blade, an extendable handle, and a solid design.

See in Ski-Doo store

Avalanche probe

This is the only way to find someone without a beacon (in case a beacon fails) or to locate the snowmobile. Choose one that’s eight feet, six inches (260cm) or longer with large diameter aluminum tubing or carbon fiber.

See in Ski-Doo store

Awareness and Knowledge

The right gear is great.  But the most important thing to have when riding in avalanche country is awareness and knowledge, especially:

  • Contributing factors to avalanches
  • Signs of instability
  • Recognizing avalanche terrain and terrain traps
  • Identifying trigger points
  • Escape routes / group dynamics
  • How to rescue effectively
  • Stability analysis
  • Knowledge of the area:  slide history, avalanche report, recent snowfall, wind loading, weak layers

I recommend that mountain riders attend an avalanche awareness seminar (like the ones BRP offers at Ski-Doo Parts dealers) and then more comprehensive training courses available from organizations like the Canadian Avalanche Centre.

In addition to purchasing good products, practice often and make sure your riding buddies know how to use their equipment. The life they save might be yours.

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