What you need to know to ride a snowmobile safely.
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Snowmobiling is a popular winter activity in Ontario. You can have a safe and fun ride if you know how to operate your snowmobile and prepare for your trip.
To drive a snowmobile, you must carry with you:
- a valid driver’s licence, motorized snow vehicle operator’s licence (MSVOL) or a snowmobile driver's licence from your home province, state or country
- proof of insurance
- snowmobile registration permit
Drivers and passengers must wear an approved snowmobile helmet.
A MSVOL is a licence issued by the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs that allows you to drive snowmobiles on trails. Learn more about licensing, registration and other requirements to operate your snowmobile.
Where you can ride
Where you can ride a snowmobile depends on your age and the type of licence you have:
|Age||Licence||Where you can drive|
|16 or over||Valid Ontario driver's licence, MSVOL or snowmobile licence from another jurisdiction|
|12-15||Valid MSVOL or licence from another jurisdiction|
|Under 12||None||Private property only. Not permitted on public trails.|
Snowmobile trails are maintained by local snowmobile clubs and some require a trail permit. Check with your local snowmobile club to find out if you need one.
The Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs maintains trails — including trails on private property, municipal property and land owned by the government — where you must display a valid trail permit on your snowmobile.
You can ride alongside public roads, between the shoulder and fence line, unless prohibited by the municipality. Check your municipality’s snowmobile bylaws to see what roads are within the boundaries.
You can’t ride on:
- certain restricted high-speed roads such as 400-series highways
- pavement or plowed shoulders of roads and highways where vehicles drive
Lakes and rivers
Travelling on ice is risky and should be avoided. If you do plan to travel on ice, always check with your local snowmobiling club before leaving because conditions can change quickly. Wear a personal flotation device or floater snowmobile suit and carry ice picks that are easily accessible.
Safety tips and safety gear
Follow these tips to stay safe while snowmobiling:
Before a trip
- Get proper training by taking a snowmobile safety course.
- Let someone know where you are going and when you plan to arrive.
- Keep your gas tank filled.
- Check the weather, trail and ice conditions before you leave.
- Wear appropriate clothing to prevent hypothermia.
- Regularly inspect your snowmobile to make sure it is in good mechanical condition.
- Bring a first-aid kit and a survival kit.
- Always check trail availability before entering any trail.
When you are riding
- Stay on trails and use proper care and control.
- Ride on the right-hand side of the trail.
- Come to a complete stop before entering any roadway.
- Obey signs and signals.
- Slow down when on unfamiliar terrain.
- Be extra cautious when crossing roads and railway tracks.
- Never ride on private property without permission from the property owner.
- Do not leave children unsupervised with youth snowmobiles or young children unattended in snowmobile sleds.
If you are driving a snowmobile or riding one as a passenger, you must wear a snowmobile helmet that meets Ontario’s standards, with the chin strap securely fastened.
A helmet must also be worn by anyone who is riding a device towed by a snowmobile such as a sled or cutter.
When towing a toboggan, sled or similar device behind a snowmobile, be sure to use a rigid tow bar and safety chain. Towed vehicles must have reflective material on the front sides, rear sides and rear to make them more visible.
The maximum speed limit on snowmobile trails is 50 km/h, but conditions often require a slower speed. Adjust your speed to the weather and trail conditions. Alongside roads, speed limits for snowmobiles are not the same as the posted speed limits for other vehicles.
Here are the limits for different paths and areas:
|Where you are driving||Maximum speed limit for snowmobiles|
|Snowmobile trails||50 km/h|
|Roads where the speed limit is over 50 km/h||50 km/h|
|Roads where the speed limit is 50 km/h or less||20 km/h|
|Any public park or exhibition grounds||20 km/h|
It is dangerous and illegal to drive a snowmobile when impaired by alcohol, drugs or medication. You will face the same tough penalties for impaired snowmobiling as you would for impaired driving such as immediate licence suspension or losing your driving privileges.
If convicted, you may also lose your driving privileges for all types of vehicles — including cars, trucks and motorcycles — for at least a year.