Group riding is by far the safest way to snowmobile. There is safety in numbers, as well as the companionship of others who enjoy the outdoors in winter. An organized group can cover ground easily, quickly, and safely without constant disruptions IF they make sure that everyone's snowmobile is in good operating condition and serviced properly, and IF they follow a few basic procedures.
Leader and Tail Rider
The first step is to choose a leader and a tail rider. The leader should be an experienced rider who best knows the area and the trail. The tail rider should be the next most knowledgeable and experienced. The leader and tail rider count and agree on the number of people in the group. This number should be checked periodically to make sure everyone is accounted for.
The group leader handles navigation, designates the road crossing methods (see below) and sets the pace for the group. He or she signals all turns and oncoming traffic to riders behind.
tail rider always rides last, insures that everyone is accounted for, assists
anyone who has a problem, keeps count of any departed riders, and never lets anyone
The group should stay together at all times, in single file. Riders should change positions in the line only with great care. No one should ever pass the leader or fall behind the tail rider. If riders leave the group, they should tell the tail rider, who can advise the leader at the next stop.
Riders should leave adequate following distance. Three or four sled lengths is a good following distance for normal trail speeds. Increase following distance as trail speeds increase.
All riders must relay hand
signals to the rider behind them. This is critical at turns. Make sure
the rider following makes the correct turn. If the following rider is
out of sight, stop and wait for the rest of the group to catch up.
Standard trail signals should be used to communicate within the group and to oncoming riders. Every snowmobiler should be familiar with these trail signals.
Road Crossings with a Group
The safest way is to cross a road with a group is to post a road guard. This person will dismount and take a position that permits sight down the road in both directions. The road guard's job is to signal the other riders when it is safe to cross and stop them when it is not.
Usually the rider immediately behind the leader becomes the road guard. When everyone has crossed, the road guard drops back into the group just ahead of the tail rider. The new second in line becomes the road guard at the next crossing. This method is called rotating road guards.
An alternative method of road crossings is to designate road guards. One or two of the most experienced riders are pre-designated as road guards for all the road crossings. When a crossing is completed, the leader must stop the column and allow the road guard(s) to pass the other riders and return to a position just behind the leader prior to the next road crossing. This method is best suited to riding with a group of beginners, children, or unusually slow riders.