Terrain can be quite varied – one of the biggest rewards of snowmobiling. On a groomed snowmobile trail the terrain is generally a smooth path that can go across flat areas or traverse up and down gentle hills. By virtue of being groomed, the path is generally packed and cleared but there can still be hazards to look for like sticks, rocks, ice chunks and terrain irregularities. A snowmobile trail is not a perfect surface like a paved road, it’s always changing so one must always be prepared and alert.
Since you sit “on” the machine instead of sitting “in” the machine your body position and weight greatly influences the stability of the machine. For example, leaning into a corner greatly adds to the stability of the vehicle. You will find yourself naturally leaning forward and into the direction of the corner, making the ride experience more active than simply sitting there like in a car. Moving forward on the seat also improves the cornering capability (more of your weight on the skis), where sliding back on the seat will improve the traction (more of your weight on the track).
If the machine is being operated off the groomed trail and in open terrain, the required rider skills greatly increase, as do the hazards. In this terrain, riders will often stand up to better control the machine and for better vision. Here, leaning with your body will influence the machine. With practice this skill will become one of the most exciting aspects of snowmobiling.
Where the groomed path packs the snow down and reveals hazards, riding a machine in deeper snow can hide hazards from your view and requires a greater level of experience to recognize such hazards and risks. Small bumps in the snow can indicate a buried hazard like a rock, stump or post. Learning to ‘read” the terrain is an acquired skill that comes with experience.