Snowmobile Safety

Snowmobiling is a fun outdoor winter activity, but remember there's always a danger.  A number of accidents are reported every year. Snowmobiling fatalities often involve alcohol, unsafe ice, excessive speed, and riding outside trails and rider abilities.  Accidents are preventable if proper safety precautions are followed.

police officer driving a snowmobile

The Ottawa Police Service would like to remind snowmobilers to be prepared and safe while enjoying the snow.

  • Machines should be carefully checked before heading out. Riders should read the owner's manual and make sure to get all the required permits and insurance.
  • Riders should wear the proper gear, including an approved helmet.
  • Snowmobilers should always ride with a partner. Stay on Police on snowmobileapproved trails and do not trespass. Riders are reminded that the maximum speed on trails is 50 km/h, and 20km/hr where posted.
  • Snowmobilers should plan their route, and advise someone of the plan and arrival times. Carry a cellphone, and GPS if possible.
  • Riders travelling across ice should also wear a floatation device or a floater suit in case they go through the ice. Always check ice thickness first.
  • Riders should also practice defensive snowmobiling techniques. Keep an eye out for obstacles on trails such as trees and tree branches, trail washouts,and snowbanks.

Snowmobilers should always carry a safety/survival kit. The kit can include a throw rope, ice picks, first aid kit, waterproof matches with fire starter, waterproof whistle, energy bars, water, fireproof container for cooking, survival blankets, a knife or multi-tool, wire and nylon rope, and a change of clothes.  Carry the kit in a backpack and wear it while you ride.

Police snowmobile

Ice thickness should be checked often. The rule of thumb is : If you are unsure, do not venture onto ice!

Frozen waterways can pose an extreme risk. With winter
temperatures that can fluctuate between below freezing and above, it's impossible to know whether a frozen body of water is actually strong enough to venture across by just observing it visually. Simply avoid going out onto the ice if you don't know it's safe.  As a guideline, clear blue ice is usually the strongest; white opaque or snow ice is half as strong as blue ice. Grey ice is unsafe. The greyness indicates the presence of water.


Before you set out:

  • Inform others of your destination and estimated arrival time.
  • Inspect your snowmobile for mechanical integrity.
  • Wear suitable clothing to prevent hypothermia - remember that children are particularly susceptible to the cold.
  • Carry first aid and survival kits
  • Have all permits/documents on hand
  • Plan your route and make sure you have ample fuel for your planned route and extra

On the trail:

  • Ride within your capabilities.
  • Use snowmobile trails whenever and wherever practical.
  • Stay on the right side of the trail.
  • Reduce speed in unfamiliar territory.
  • Exercise care when crossing roadways and railway tracks.

At night:

  • Slow down! Your headlight limits how far ahead you can see. The slower you are travelling, the less distance you need to stop.
  • Avoid driving along road shoulders where lights from either snowmobiles or vehicles can cause confusion.

Over lakes and rivers:

  • Be aware of ice conditions and, if in doubt, check with local authorities or your local club.
  • Wear flotation-type clothing.

Remember also to treat the outdoors with respect and be considerate of wildlife!


  • Never drive a snowmobile if you are impaired by alcohol or drugs. "Don't drink and drive" applies to snowmobiles as to any motor vehicle. The same criminal code charges apply as on the road.
  • Never ride on railway tracks.
  • Never ride alone.Don't Drink and Drive

The Ottawa Police Service reminds snowmobilers of the importance of making smart choices, like riding sober, avoiding lakes and rivers and using prescribed snowmobile trails. 

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