Sherry King is an occupational therapy student at Salt Lake Community College. She has been
snowmobiling since she was seven years old.
Although it may seem that snowmobiling is not a very
physically active sport, anyone who has spent a whole day on the trail or in the
backcountry knows how sore you can feel the next day. There are many
opportunities for self-injury that can be avoided by using proper body mechanics.
First of all, as the winter season approaches, it can be
important to prepare yourself for the upcoming season. For younger riders or
people with weaker hands, using a stress ball is a good way to strengthen the
muscles in your hand for using the throttle and the brake. You can also
exercise and tone the muscles in your arms so that pulling the starter is
easier, too. Each season you have to tune up the engine on your snowmobile as
well as your body.
If you don’t have the luxury of an electric starter,
you will have to start the snowmobile by reaching down for the starter and
pulling back as fast as you can to get the engine running. Position yourself so
that when pulling the starter you aren’t twisting at your hip and waist and
instead are rotating your whole body. This decreases the chance of straining a
While riding on the trail on your snowmobile, sit so that
your hips and legs are at a 90-degree angle and your knees are bent at a 90-degree
angle while keeping your back straight as well. Sitting with good posture like
this will actually conserve energy as well as make your ride more comfortable.
If you like to ride off-trail, there is always a chance of
getting your snowmobile stuck in the snow. Sometimes it happens when you are
alone and you have no other option except to get it out yourself. A good idea
would be to keep a shovel in the back of your snowmobile, in case the need to
dig out arises. You have heard it time and time again, but lift with your legs
and not your back. If you need to lift the end of your snowmobile out grab a
hold of the bar in the back or a ski in front, keep your arms extended and
locked in position and bend your knees to move it up and out. Don’t lift with
your back and don’t twist your trunk.
Although these exercises and techniques may have been things
you have heard before, they are beneficial if they are followed. Most of the
injuries sustained from snowmobiling are avoidable and, depending on how severe
they are, can prevent you from riding. These exercises can help you enjoy
snowmobiling to its greatest potential.
If you do suffer an injury, an occupational therapy
practitioner can work with you to come up with techniques or modifications to
help you have a safe and comfortable ride on your snowmobile.