Snow Bike + Avalanche Advice

Safety Tip of the Week
Snow Bikes: The Hazards & Joys

A snow bike can take you to fresh powder on mountain slopes in a primeval wilderness. And just about every part of that sentence can be a hazard as well as a joy. Fortunately, despite this paradox, a few things can increase your odds of staying safe.

Be sure to follow the instructions when you use a conversion kit. If you’re not mechanically gifted, get someone to help you. (It’s probably best to pay someone who has the tools and the know-how rather than to invest in tools and then worry that you made a mistake.)

Practice on level ground—like in an empty parking lot—until you’re sure you can ride well.

Whenever you go into off-road, be sure people know exactly where you’re going and when you expect to return. Let them know that it’s okay to notify authorities if you’re late and to share your route with them.

If you’re going into snowy mountains, be aware that an avalanche can happen anytime. Do heed any avalanche warnings. Timbersled includes information about avalanches in its user manual and strongly recommends that you take an avalanche safety training course.

Your user manual should detail what spare parts and tools you should carry in case your machine breaks down. In addition, you should carry on your person: a digital avalanche beacon with new batteries; an avalanche probe, compact shovel, and hand saw (the avalanche safety course will show you how to use them); a backpack—make that an avalanche air bag backpack—with: extra gloves and socks, first aid kit, tow rope, map, compass/GPS, lighter or waterproof matches, bottled water and high-calorie snacks, signal mirror and whistle, and compact emergency blanket.

Ride in a group and be sure that you and all the members of the group know how to use all the emergency gear.

Dress in layers. Remember that wind chill (which includes your own speed) drastically lowers the ambient temperature. Hypothermia kills people every year.

Don’t count on streams, rivers, or lakes being frozen to a safe depth. Streams and rivers freeze unevenly, depending on current flow and bottom depth. Lakes often have spring-fed areas that don’t freeze or don’t develop enough ice for safety.

Again, this is just the beginning of the things that should become second nature before you head into that snowy wilderness.