It’s that time of the year when it’s time to release that pent-up energy and put some miles on the trails! Early season can be great, but it also has a lot of extra things to look out for. Ridding early season snow conditions requires you to be extra cautious and be a bit nicer to your machine. As big proponents of safety and control, here are some essential things you need to look out for, especially if you are new to the sport.
1. No Base
Chances are there will be no base when hitting the trails right as they open. That means if you open up the throttle, chances are you’ll trench straight down to the bare ground. Trails are littered with rocks, and you do not want to make contact with a spinning track. Larger rocks can also get pulled up into your track and put a hole in your front exchanger. We follow a simple rule: no base, no hole shots.
2. Open swamps
When everything is covered in snow, it looks firm and ridable. Many trails go through swamps, and in early-season riding, they have yet to have time to freeze up. These open swamps present numerous hazards. They can create open water in the middle of the trail. Sometimes, they can generate sinkholes you will see at the last minute. Always be aware of what time of land you are currently riding in, and take extra caution if an area looks like a swamp. Cattails are a dead giveaway!
3. Downed Limbs
Most snows early in the season are heavy, and despite snowmobile clubs doing their best to clear trails before they open, you can count on tree limbs obstructing the trails. Most of the time, the limbs will be small and only scratch your new sled, but a windy storm can take down larger limbs and make trails impassable. You may want to be first to hit the trails but be prepared with a saw!
4. Thin Ice on lakes and rivers
Most trail systems make use of waterways and can even depend on them. Each lake or river has unique hazards; in the early season, you can guarantee thin ice is one of them. Each season is different, and it will take additional time for ice to be safe. This is especially true if the snow comes early before a good freeze! If you travel north, don’t take a climate you don’t live in for granted and get confirmation from locals on safety. It’s not wise to assume the Northwoods is always cold and has great ice.
5. Reroutes and new trails
Every season each club experiences trail closures and reroutes. It’s an unfortunate scenario in the sport as landowners become annoyed or change hands. You’ll want to familiarize yourself with the trails and look for any changes. In some areas, one wrong move can leave you stranded without gas.
Each season is different and will require different levels of caution. Winter can have a slow or fast build making the same trails vary widely in experience. With all that in mind, some of the best riding can be had early in the season. Crowds are slim, and groomers are out frequently to establish a base. Enjoy, and be safe!