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Ask The ATV Safety Institute: Ways to Stay Safe In Cold Weather

January 31, 2014

YOU ASK: I’m normally a fair-weather rider but this year I plan to do some winter riding. What should I do to stay safe?

THE ASI RESPONDS: Riding in the cold and snow can be great fun, as long as you consider trail conditions, ATV preparation and clothing selection.

Choose riding areas and trails with firm snow—riding on soft snow can be damaging to the soil beneath it and increases the chance of getting your ATV stuck. Be aware that while a trail may be firm and frozen at the beginning of your riding in the morning, a few hours later the trail could be warmed by the sun, making it unusable for an ATV.

Check with local law enforcement to see if ATVs are legal on the snowmobile trails in your area. Snowmobilers become annoyed when ATVs make tire ruts in the slushy snow and ruin their carefully groomed trails. 

If you need to ride across a frozen lake, be sure to check the ice thickness first. There needs to be enough ice present to support you and your ATV.

Watch for areas of open water and thin ice markers on these lakes. Go slowly and be very cautious in order to reduce the chance of skidding or sliding out of control. Respect the rights of others—avoid ice fishermen and skaters.

Make sure your ATV is prepared for cold temperatures. Check the owner’s manual to ensure you have the right engine and transmission oil, and the proper blend of antifreeze and water if your machine is liquid-cooled. Confirm tire pressures.

Dress for the weather. Keeping dry and warm on the winter trail is essential—your entire trip can be miserable if you aren’t wearing the proper clothing.

Your hands and feet are out in the airstream and can become chilled very quickly. Cold hands and feet may not be able to manipulate the ATV’s controls accurately.

Be sure to account for the wind-chill factor, which indicates the cooling power of cold air on exposed flesh at various wind or ATV speeds.

To enroll in an ATV RiderCourse near you, visit www.atvsafety.org or call (800) 887-2887.

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