As a rule of thumb, most riders say that -20F (-29C) is too cold for snowmobiling. However, hardcore riders argue and claim that it’s never too cold to ride a snowmobile. What’s the truth? Although it’s basically up to each rider’s personal preference, snowmobiling in freezing weather always carries some risks.
If you want to find out more about these risks and learn how to stay safe out there in cold weather, this post is for you.
We at PowerSportsGuide have compiled all you need to know under one roof!
How Cold is Too Cold to Snowmobile?
Let’s face it; snowmobiles can only be used for a very limited time each year. Because of this, owners want to ride their machines as much as possible throughout the short winter months.
But unfortunately, riding conditions are rarely ideal.
Therefore, riding in challenging weather is part of snowmobiling, as it always has been. According to SuperTraxMag, it wasn’t uncommon decades ago to ride in extremely cold weather. Despite that most vintage sleds came without heated grips and throttle!
But today, there are many convenient features available for snowmobiles, from heated visors to high-quality clothes because not all riders like to ride in cold weather.
It’s safe to say that the best temperature for snowmobiling is about -10F to +30F (-23C to -1C) before windchill. This temp range is best for the sled and the snow as it’s still not considered extremely cold.
But how cold is too cold for snowmobiling?
Although many riders find -20F (-29C) too cold for snowmobiling, others do not stay home even in -40F weather.
They say that you can feel comfortable with heated grips, seats, and the proper accessories, even in extremely cold weather. What’s more, the harder you ride your sled, the warmer you get!
On the other hand, don’t forget that snowmobiling is not only about riding, as you will have to stop sooner or later. And many riders say the biggest drawback of snowmobiling in cold weather is that stops and chats are not very pleasant outside.
Besides resting brakes, don’t forget that you have to stop for other reasons like fueling up or loading/unloading the sled onto the trailer.
As you might assume, these activities are much less pleasant in extremely cold weather.
Snowmobiling in Wind
We can’t forget to mention the wind, which can make rides much more chilly. Unfortunately, snowmobile clothing and gear are not completely windproof, so the windchill factor always has a significant effect.
If you have doubts, just take a look at this windchill chart below!
Wind not only pulls heat away from your body but also causes blowing snow, resulting in visibility and control problems.
Because of this, many riders consider wind to be a more significant consideration than low temperatures.
But even if you feel you can ride in cold weather without any issues, you also have to be sure that your sled can handle these conditions.
Can Your Sled Run in Extreme Cold?
There’s no question that snowmobiles are built for cold weather. However, if the temperature is really low, your sled has to face various issues, such as:
- Air can be much denser (carb rejetting may be needed)
- Oil is much thicker
- The seat can become stiff and cold
- Other components (suspensions, track, controls) are stiff
- Starting issues
The density of the air changes with the temperature, so you may have to rejet the carbs per the temperature. Most snowmobile engines are jetted to run properly above -20F (-29C), but the exact specification is clearly stated in the owner’s manual.
If you ride your sled in extremely low temperatures without adjusting the carbs, the dense air could cause engine issues, especially at WOT. Sure, snowmobiles can run better at colder temps thanks to the denser air, but you also have to increase the fuel to avoid operational problems.
For more information about jetting for cold temps, don’t hesitate to check the owner’s manual or contact your dealer. If your sled is EFI you won’t have to deal with this of course.
Another problem with cold weather is that it makes the oil really thick. And the thicker the oil, the harder it flows through the engine.
Because of this, you have to be sure that you warm up your sled properly. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not only the engine that requires a warm-up, but also the track, suspensions, and other parts of the sled.
Best practice is to go slow for the first few miles to let these components warm up properly.
Unfortunately, not all parts of snowmobiles can be warmed up. Unless your sled features a heated seat, be prepared for a stiff cold seat, especially if the temp drops below -20F.
Around this temperature, the seat’s foam becomes stiff and uncomfortable, but riding in a standing position is also not advisable because of the cold wind.
Finally, keep in mind that extreme cold can also cause starting issues. Therefore, common sense says if you can’t start the engine, it’s too cold to ride your sled.
The Risks of Snowmobiling in Extreme Cold Weather
Let’s face it, riding a snowmobile in extremely low temperatures is not risk-free.
If you get a little airflow through your clothing or helmet you may quickly get frostbite. To avoid these issues, make sure to dress up properly and don’t leave any open areas.
It can also be a serious issue if your sled breaks down and you have to come back on foot. Therefore, it’s highly recommended that you never ride a snowmobile alone, especially on cold days!
You don’t know when your sled will leave you stranded, so riding solo in extremely cold weather is never a good idea. If you are looking for a partner, beware that finding someone for these trips could also be an issue.
Many riders say that the best temperature for riding a snowmobile is between -10F and +30F (-23C and -1C). While few riders go out regardless of temperature, most of them find that -20F (-29C) is too cold for riding.
Low temperatures can be challenging in many ways, so if you’re considering riding your sled in extreme cold, make sure to get the right gear and plan a short trip.
Keeping safety in mind, it’s also essential not to ride solo, especially in isolated areas. If your sled leaves you stranded, you will need immediate help, as being outside for a long time in the cold can be risky in many ways.
Because of this, you need to think twice before heading out in extreme weather!