Snowmobiling tips for late winter riders


BOZEMAN, Mont. - Schools around western Montana are starting spring break this week. Some people may take advantage of the time off and head for the backcountry.

Experts at Big Boys Toys tell NBC Montana the most important thing to remember is to ride within your limits and ability.

"If you feel uncomfortable, don't go there. There's nothing worth risking your life. If you're with a group of experienced riders and you don't feel comfortable doing something, say something. I'm sure nobody's going to ridicule you," said Jeb Hodges, a manager at Big Boys Toys.

The latest numbers from the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center show out of the 29 avalanches counted since November, 41 percent involve snowmobiles. A separate reports point out Cooke City as the deadliest place for snowmobiler. There have been 14 snowmobiler avalanche deaths in the last 15 years.

Hodges recommends checking the avalanche advisory before you leave your home. Early spring snow melt means rocks and tree roots may become exposed at the base of the mountain. Wearing a helmet and goggles may help protect you if you get knocked off your sled.

Packing a shovel, beacon and probe in case you have to dig out a partner after an avalanche is advised. So is practicing you skills with them beforehand.