We partnered with the Adventure Travel Trade Association to come up with tips to help you host a safe snowmobiling experience. These are best practices, but you’re the expert on the activities you lead. A great Host always thinks about what more they can do to keep everyone safe.
Set the right expectations
If there are health, fitness, or other requirements needed to safely enjoy the experience, make this clear in your experience’s description. This includes providing details about the length of time, exertion and fitness required, and skill levels needed.
Here’s a guide from the ATTA to help you communicate to guests what skill level is needed for your snowmobiling experience:
Beginner: Traveling on snowmobile trails on compacted snow in manageable climatic conditions. Trips are unlikely to last for more than a few hours. Group travel speeds are managed by the Host.
Intermediate: Traveling on a mix of dedicated snowmobile trails and backcountry routes. The condition of the snow and the gradient of the slope might vary. Group travel speeds are managed by the Host.
Advanced: Traveling routes into the backcountry away from any trails and far from help. Slopes, glacial travel is a possibility, and a variety of snow conditions will be encountered. Riders should have some previous experience and stamina to cope with handling the snowmobile over a variety of terrain, snow conditions and slopes for hours.
Communicate with guests often
Once someone books, you can use Airbnb’s messaging system to introduce yourself and help your guests feel welcome and prepared. Let them know that you’re available to answer any questions.
You should create an experience where your guests feel comfortable asking questions at any point. Try to anticipate common points of concern (such as how to use the bathroom on your experience, expectations for interaction with others, etc.). Address any concerns outright–and make yourself available to attend to these and any others questions throughout your experience.
Listen with patience and authentic concern, and try to put yourself in your guests shoes. This could include practical matters like if there will be food, snacks, or water provided, if they should bring their own water bottle, and what bathroom facilities are available. Try to address these concerns before guests have to ask. What may seem normal to you may be difficult or fear-inspiring for your guests, so your communication is key to a safe and enjoyable experience.
It may seem obvious, but confirm that all guests are open to taking part in an activity in winter conditions and that they will be responsible for driving a powerful machine that can travel at high speeds. Make sure to communicate that all drivers need a valid driver’s license, and anybody who is not qualified can ride as passengers. It is also important to communicate that guests are not to consume alcohol before or during a snowmobiling experience.
Follow local regulations & check forecasts
You should have the local knowledge to know if and when it’s acceptable for you to guide groups on snowmobile trails and in the backcountry, and what rules or regulations apply to areas in which you may snowmobile. You should know the weather forecast, and know the sites well enough to be able to anticipate harsh conditions and know evacuation options.
Set expectations with a pre-trip briefing
Before you start snowmobiling, take the time to teach or review the necessary skills with beginners, like operating the snowmobile correctly, keeping to safe speeds and body positions on certain turns or terrain. As a snowmobiling Host, you should be constantly assessing your guests’ skills and demonstrating the correct procedures and techniques both off and on the snowmobile. Once you’re riding, keep checking in: ask guests how they’re feeling and observe them to see if they’re comfortable and their skills match what you are doing.
For beginner and intermediate experiences, guests may have little or no experience in cold weather environments, and you should match the level of activity to their suitability to the conditions and the duration of the trip. It is advisable to set the correct and appropriate speed and guests follow behind leaving a set distance between each other depending on climatic conditions and experience levels. You can stop regularly and check and communicate with the guests, or describe what is up ahead, such as an obstacle crossing which might need a certain technique to cross.
For advanced experiences, the guests are likely to have previous experience riding in the backcountry and over a variety of conditions and terrain. You should be able to understand and communicate well with the guests to meet the expectations of their riding ability, but you should always ride well within their own experience level. It is advisable for guests to demonstrate their ability on less risk prone terrain, and also have a communication system such as radios or walkie talkies to allow Hosts to communicate with guests.
Provide the right gear
Let your guests know if you’ll provide any gear. For any level of activity, find out if the guest plans to bring their own gear. Any gear you provide for your guests should be in good condition, clean, and fit each guest properly. Here are some tips for preparing your snowmobiling gear:
- For every level, you should provide a clean, well maintained and regularly serviced snowmobile. The vehicles should also comply with current regulations, including on emissions and noise levels. For beginner and intermediate groups, the vehicles can be suitable for group use, but for more advanced riders the vehicle should be fit for purpose to the nature and level of activity, i.e if teaching freeriding and jumps the snowmobile should be set up for that style.
- For every activity level a certified snowmobile helmet will need to be provided. These will need to be regularly inspected for damage and wear and tear. Depending on the climatic conditions and the level and style of the activity will depend on the type of helmet that is issued to the guest. If guests bring their own, these should also be inspected for suitability. Guests should be shown how to correctly size and fit their helmets.
- You should provide dedicated snowmobiling overalls which provide thermal insulation and a water and windproof outer layer. If guests choose to wear their own outlayer, advise them on the conditions that they might expect while riding, and help them evaluate if their own clothing is suitable for those conditions.
- For certain activity levels and climatic conditions, it may be appropriate to issue goggles, gloves and boots. If these are not provided to the guests and they should bring themselves, then this needs to be communicated to them in advance. All gear should be checked for suitability.
- For any level of experience, guests will probably need food and water and extra layers, so be clear about what food and drinks they should bring, or if you’ll be providing any. Will you be carrying emergency spare clothing, and if the guests are bringing extra layers, will then need a day sack or can they carry them on the snowmobile.
You should carry (and know how to use) a first aid kit for stabilizing an injured guest and safely evacuating them, even if they’re unconscious.
It’s a good idea to know if and where you have cell service coverage, and ensure you have the means to communicate with the outside world and to activate emergency services if needed. If you don’t provide gear in your experience, you’ll still want to check your guests’ equipment to make sure it’s not only in good shape, and that they’re using it correctly.
Choose the proper conditions
Talk with your guests about the range of conditions you’ll encounter, including what temperatures to expect, wind, visibility levels and any snow/precipitation. Let your guests know how these conditions will affect the wind chill factor, the snow and overall riding conditions, the avalanche risk and general climatic risk to the guest. You can also tell them how they can best prepare for these conditions, as well as unexpected but possible challenges.
You should be able to tell when conditions are too dangerous for your guest’s ability level. Don’t continue with your plan if there is an unreasonable or unexpected risk to your guests.
Keeping the ride fun: always choose safety
Make sure you have a clear itinerary that matches your guests, they understand, and they know specifically what to do if they become lost or injured. As a Host, you can help prevent some of the more common sources of injury for whatever kind of snowmobiling you’ll be doing by following these tips:
- For beginner and intermediate experiences, ensure guests match their speed with the conditions, their ability and experience level and also local laws and regulations, when riding on marked trails.
- Instruct and coach guests on correct techniques with body position when turning, crossing steep terrain and obstacles.
- Ensure there is an effective means of communication that guests can use to pass on important information, whether this be with hand signals, horns, walkie talkies or radios, and guests know how this is used.
- For more advanced experiences, if crossing glaciers, make sure the appropriate ice and crevasse equipment is taken and have experience using them. You should have experience on best routes, and understand what and how climatic conditions can affect the glacier.
- If riding in an avalanche prone area, you should use avalanche alert information and local knowledge to assess the risk, and determine if it is safe to conduct a snowmobile experience in that area. Be sure to have avalanche instruction qualification and be able to assess the risk, use associated equipment and teach your guests about the risks and use the equipment.
You want to have an emergency action plan that you have practiced before an experience, and the means to evacuate guests if the unexpected happens. If you’ll be more than an hour away from medical care, it’s best practice to have a Wilderness First Responder (WFR) or Wilderness Advanced First Aid (WAFA) and up-to-date CPR certifications. Find out more about making an emergency plan.
Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA): Courtesy of the Adventure Travel Trade Association. ©2021 Adventure Travel Trade Association. All rights reserved.
The Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) name and logo are used with its permission, which in no way constitutes an endorsement or vetting of, express or implied, of any product, service, person, company, opinion or political position. The ATTA does not select or approve, and is not involved in the selection or approval of, Airbnb Experiences or Hosts. For more information about the Adventure Travel Trade Association, visit adventuretravel.biz.