Jim Baird’s Arctic Adventure: How to Get Your Snow Machine Unstuck

Before we left the tree line, Ted and I experienced very deep-powder snow in the bush around Great Bear Lake. We were not used to riding snowmobiles in that type of powder and got stuck badly a few times--luckily we knew how to get ourselves free.

How It's Done: Getting stuck in deep snow happens when you cannot keep the machine level while moving. It's very important to center your weight and turn by shifting your weight from side to side. You also get stuck when you don't go fast enough through the powder, which causes your skis to sink in deep and the front of the machine to bottom out. After that happens the snow doesn't provide enough grip for your track to push your front end through the jam. Your track will just kick all the powder out from underneath it, and your machine just sinks deeper. Reversing is futile at this point as well.

Your only option is to get off your machine and into the waist-deep snow and get to work. But don't worry: With the steps below and the advice in the video--and a little (or a lot) of effort--you'll be able to get your machine out while maybe even keeping your language clean.

Plan A: Tamp It Out
1. Compact all the snow around your machine as much as you can by stomping it down with your boots. Don't get lazy here. Try to compact the snow under the machine as much as possible by getting your boots under the motor and track where you can, and stomp down the snow in front of your machine for a couple yards to give yourself an escape.
2. Pay special attention to the areas around and under your skis. This will often let the front of your machine drop down in the snow giving your track some grip and can be all it takes to get you out.

Plan B: Shovel It Out
1. Always carry a folding shovel. Get as much snow away from around and under your machine as you can. But don't go too crazy and work up a big sweat unless you are at camp and can get a fire going or feel like changing your cloths.
2. The area you will really need to focus on is under the front of your machine--everywhere from the front of the track forward. If you're stuck in a drift faced up-hill you may have a lot of snow to move.
3. If you're stuck really bad, you might have to dig yourself right down to the ground and dig a driveway out in front of your machine. It can take a while but it will work.
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Plan C: Pull It Out**
1. Still not out yet? There's more you can do besides waiting for the spring melt. Using a 30-foot length of rope, tie one end to each suspension bar between the ski and the engine. Tie the middle of the rope off to a hitch on another unstuck machine, put your machine in neutral or take off the belt and pull it out with the free machine. Sometimes moving the stuck machine just a foot or two forward will give it enough traction to drive it out. (If you know you will be traveling in areas with constant deep powder where getting stuck is a real threat, it would be a good idea to get a rear mounted winch on your machine.)
2. Now that you're out, ride like the wind into the summoning distance, and try not to get stuck again. If you do, at least you'll be able to get yourself out faster next time.