If you are new to snowmobiling, you might have a lot of questions. You will have to find out where to ride, when you can ride, what sled you ought to buy, what sort ofsnowmobile shocks are right for you, and a whole lot more. What follows is a guide to some of the basics to get you started on your snowmobile adventures. From here you can keep going and be an expert by the end of the season.

Q: Where can I ride?

Anywhere you can find snow, you can probably find snowmobiling areas near by. It's pretty simple to find places to get started. Contacting local snowmobile organizations, clubs, or state forest or recreation departments is the quickest way to get started. Any of these can direct you to nearby trail areas.

You may want to start out with a guided tour on some well-groomed trails. You can even rent machines for such tours to get comfortable with the snowmobiling experience. If you are passed that point, you can find trail systems, back country riding areas, or longer trails. Make sure you don't get in over your head. Be careful not to overestimate your experience, and follow all safety rules. You can get maps of the areas you're riding from local visitors bureaus or chambers of commerce, and be sure to let someone know your plans before heading out so they know where to look if you don't come back in time.

Another thing to consider is joining one of the clubs in your area. North America has literally thousands of clubs spread across all of the Snowbelt regions. Find one in your area, and they will welcome you in. Most of these clubs do regular group rides, and many hold events year round. This is a great way to get to know the sport and meet others with the same interests. Who knows, maybe you'll meet your new best friend.

Q: Do I need a license?

Some areas require successful completion of a safety class. Even if not required, these classes are recommended for all new riders. There may also be other restrictions, such as age. Requirements vary between states, so check locally with the Forest Service, Motor Vehicle Division, or snowmobile association for details.

There are also registration requirements for your sled. Again, these vary state to state, so you'll have to look into the details for your area. Typically your machine will have to meet safety and emissions guidelines, and sound tests as designated by the Society of Automotive Engineers. Many places carry heavy fines for violating sound standards. You can also face considerable fines for riding an unregistered vehicle. Some of the safety requirements you may need to meet are steering, snowmobile shocks, and breaks.

Q: What should I wear?

This can be one of the most important questions, but it can also too easily be ignored. Everyone knows how to dress warmly, so beginning riders don't always pay enough attention to this detail. In reality, dressing the wrong way can really ruin your experience.

The key to any cold weather sport is to dress in layers. You'll want to wear long johns or similar as a base. This will help you retain your own body heat, so your body won't have to work as hard to maintain it's temperature. A pair of pants and long sleeve shirt on top of that gives you something to wear while your driving to and from or when you head into a cabin for a break.

Wear good warm socks and boots that will keep your feet warm and dry. A pair of bibs (snow pants that go part way up your chest and back) are important for keeping snow from getting in under your coat--or down your pants! Of course you need a coat and gloves that will keep you both warm and dry. To top it off, so to speak, you'll need a helmet to keep you safe. Snowmobiling can be hard work, but if you get stuck in the snow, you'll sure be glad you dressed warm.