Choosing The Right Winter Vehicle: Snowmobile

choosing-the-right-winter-vehicle-snowmobile

The snowmobile was first patented around 1927, but it has probably existed a bit longer. In this article we are going to look at a few things to consider before you invest in a snowmobile as a winter vehicle on your property…as a work tool.

A snowmobile goes by other names than snowmobile. It is sometimes called a “snowmachine“, other times a “sled“. It also comes in many different shapes, for a lot of different purposes. You get snowmobiles designed for speed, uphill driving,  for use in deep snow, for more than one person, or even for preparation of trails or slopes. In the last category you can even get a 4-stroke 1.6L engine with double tracks (Alpina Sherpa from Alpina Snowmobiles). If you want to read more about snowmobiles, you can i.e. go here.

For the purpose of this post, I am only going to think about a snowmobile for what I would use it for: a benefit for my wife and I on our property. We never buy anything, unless it actually has a good purpose in helping us out as landowners.

Ok, let’s look at some of the things you might want to think about before purchasing a snowmobile.

  • Where to buy? You most likely know many of the places already, but in case you don’t, here are a few hints/ideas:
    • Dealer: If you want to make sure you get good quality, and have get good warranties, you might want to consider buying through a dealer. Just know that the price will be pretty high…
    • eBay: You can buy a lot of stuff on eBay, including vehicles like cars…and snowmobiles – used.
    • Classified Ads. You can find a lot of used stuff through your local newspapers, and many newspapers have their own “Classified” section online. You can also use i.e. Craigslist, or similar services. In addition, there are many classified ads papers that can be picked up at local stores.
    • Rental or touring places: Many might not think about this, but there are many places that rent out snowmobiles and/or have guided touring on snowmobiles. These places many times have snowmobiles for sale. My wife and I actually purchased a touring snowmobile (seats two people) through a place like this. We paid $1,400 for it, and it was in decent shape. Some of these companies maintain their snowmobiles well. But, you can also drive home with a “lemon”.
  • Speed: A snowmobile is by far the fastest of snow transportation of the snow vehicles we are discussing in this series. You can easily get snowmobiles that has an average  top speed of 85-90mph. Just think through your need when it comes to speed. Also, if you i.e. have to drive through on a privately own (by others than you) or a public road to get to your cabin…there might be speed limits for winter vehicle driving. So, just because you purchased a snowmobile “Porche”, you might have to keep the same speed as the snowmobile “Lada”.
  • Reverse: Today, probably most snowmobiles come with a reverse. A reverse is definitely a good thing to have. Let us say you have to go through a very tight switchback on the road to your cabin/homestead, and the 2-3 feet of new dry snow just makes it so that you cannot make the curve. If you have a reverse, theoretically you can just “throw” it in reverse, back it a few feet, and then cruise up the road. Just know that with a snowmobile there are many factors involved when backing. Things like the incline, the type of snow (dry, wet, loose, hard, etc.), if you ended up outside the track you usually go, etc., etc. If you have ever used a snowmobile, and have gotten stuck uphill in loose dry snow…with the back part of the tracks a bit dug down…you will know exactly what I am speaking about.
    Also…are you pulling a load behind you..and got stuck? Totally new rules will apply. Been there, done that. That is often when the words you try to keep out of your vocabulary comes out.
  • Fuel / Fuel Consumption There are much you can say about this, but I would suggest that you look online to see what is an average fuel consumption for a snowmobile you would like to purchase. Just know that the fuel consumption will be different based on the speed you are traveling, the type of snow, the hardness of the snow, the maintenance of the machine, if you are pulling something behind, the incline you are using the machine, etc., etc.
  • Towing /pulling: You might have seen people even drag big “huts” for ice fishing behind a snowmobile. There are lots of different “tow-behinds” available for a snowmobile. Personally I have a medium size plastic / polyethylene sled that actually comes with wheels for summer uses. If you search on Google for i.e. “snowmobile pull behind sleds”, you should get a lot of ideas. Just know that a snowmobile also is called a “sled” itself..so it can be a bit confusing sometimes. Many people also make their own tow-behind sleds. When it comes to capacity, meaning what your snowmobile can pull behind, you will have to look at the specs for your snowmobile (horsepower, type of tracks, etc.) as well as the type of hitch you would choose. A lot of times you can pull heavy loads on a hard surface, especially when you get some speed on your machine, but just know that where people are going snowmobiling you will almost never find totally flat an smooth surface, so your tow-behind sled can easily tip over. It has happened to me m-a-n-y times. It is fun when it happens uphill in the dark and you have to look for your stuff further down with a flashlight.
  • Turning Radius: The turning radius definitely will vary with your experience of using a snowmobile, and your technique. Normally when you turn with a snowmobile, you would lean over hard to the side you are turning to. Some people even stand with both their feet on one side when they turn. But, again…for landowners that really are using a snowmobile as a “tool” – new rules will apply. The lower your speed is, the less the “lean-over-and-turn” technique will work. And, if you have a passenger that is not a mind reader…the turn might not go as you though it would. If you are pulling something behind you, things definitely change. Not just when it comes to technique, but also in how the tow-behind sled will glide. What I mean is that if you go 99% of the times around a turn without anything behind the snowmobile (using the “lean-over-and-turn” method), it will cause the path to slope down towards the inside of the curve. The 1% of the times you need to tow something behind, you might then end up with a tipping sled.
    If you have a touring version (two seats) of a snowmobile, the turning radius will increase.
  • Season Usage: So, this is probably a question with an obvious answer…since it is called a snowmobile, but extremists even drive on the water with these thingys.. If you can afford to get a summer vehicle as well…just store away your “snowporche”, until next snowfall.
  • Maintenance / Repairs: After my opinion a snowmobile takes a bit of maintenance. Based on the age of your snowmobile, you have to constantly watch the oil level. Also, some older models of snowmobiles will overheat if you only drive them on hard surfaces. This is because it needs the cool snow to help to keep the engine cool. In newer models, with a decent cooling system, this should not be a problem. You will also watch your suspension, since a bad suspension on your snowmobile might make it so the rear of your machine will become a “low-rider” and more easily dig itself down in the loose snow.
  • Seating: Usually a one person vehicle, but the touring version comes with two seats. In extreme situations you can get a snowmobile with two belts, and multiple seats. See the link in the introduction to this post.
  • Weather Protection: Just know that if you use a snowmobile in a snowstorm, rain, strong wind, etc. you will have to dress appropriately.

Ok, so that turned out maybe a little bit longer than I had anticipated, but I just tried to give as much information as I thought I could.

The next snow vehicle we are going to look into is the UTV / ATV.

About TJ

A Senior Software Engineer - a software developer for almost 30 years. Supporter of use of sound logic, both in work and life situations. Eager to learn new things, and is not afraid of jumping into an excavator for the first time starting the work of making a three miles steep mountain road. Loves nature, and has his favorite times (when not with his wonderful wifie) in the shade during the summer listening to our Creator's nature-musicians - the song birds.
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