Snowmobile Racing Star Shares 5 Terrain-Reading Tips

Cross-country snowmobile racing on trails, lakes and ditches more closely resembles the riding most snowmobilers do than any other form of sled racing. In some cases, the races even take place on trails that regular snowmobilers ride on every other day of the season — except on race day, when the trail is closed for the event so the racers don’t face oncoming traffic or endanger regular trail riders. The snowmobile manufacturers learn a lot from cross-country racing, but so can the rest of us. We asked multi-time cross-country and enduro champion Gabe Bunke for his terrain-reading tips for Joe Average snowmobilers. They were featured in the Spring 2013 issue of Snow Goer magazine, and make up today’s Friday’s Fast Five. Enjoy.

1. Nothing Beats Experience — I guess the biggest thing is riding thousands of miles. The best thing is to ride, ride, ride. I’ve found that years when we have great snow and I can ride every day, I ride well. Keeping an open mind and learning from whatever you’re doing will improve your riding skills.

Gabe Bunke
Multi-time 500 winner Gabe Bunke.

2. Use Common Sense — It’s impossible to predict what’s under the snow for hazards, but using a little common sense when riding goes a long way. For example, presume there is always a culvert in the middle of every road approach, and little humps in the snow usually mean there’s a dirt clump or rock. Tall grass is usually not always safe, either. Sometimes it’s tall because there’s a log or rock, which made it impossible mow.

3. Square-Up — The best way to hit a road approach that has big bumps preceding it is to not hit the bumps. This way you’ll have a better chance of coming off the approach squarely.

4. Look Ahead — Don’t watch only the terrain right in front of the sled, but be sure to look far enough ahead so you can choose your line before you get to the bumps.

5. Work With The Snowmobile — For the most part, trying to muscle things causes more crashes than it prevents. Let the snowmobile do what it wants to do and try to move with the sled through rough terrain.

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