You can still remember the first time you went rushing through the snow on your snowmobile. Although you’re an adult, you felt the awe-inspiring wonder and excitement of a child. You’d like to introduce your own son or daughter to the joys of snowmobiling at a much younger age, buying them a youth sled. Which safety factors should the snowmobile have?
The safety factors of a child’s snowmobile are:
- SSCC certification
- Moderate engine power
- Easy start
- Safety tether
- Throttle adjustments
- Safety flag
Ahead, we’ll discuss these 6 safety factors in more detail, including why they’re so important. We’ll even share some youth snowmobile models to shop for from brands like Arctic Cat and Yamaha. You’re not going to want to miss it!
6 Must-Have Safety Factors of a Child’s Snowmobile
The first recommended safety factor of children’s snowmobiles is certification through the Snowmobile Safety and Certification Committee or SSCC. Since 1974, the SSCC has overseen the regulations for sledding safety, of which regulations are for manufacturers to follow. This ensures that snowmobiles produced for retail sale are safe to use for riders of all ages and skill levels.
The SSCC, besides creating snowmobile safety regulations, also tests snowmobile models for safety standards. They have a lengthy, in-depth process on which sleds meet compliance and which don’t that’s documented here.
Their testing procedures and specifications are detailed here on a separate page on their website. Such areas of snowmobile testing include:
- Exhaust system
- Identification numbering
- Controls and levers
- Capacity limit
- Headlamp beam switch and other lighting
- Drive mechanism
- Heat protection
- Guards and shields
- Fuel system
- Stop lamp switch
- Brake control system and service brake system performance
- Emergency shutoff switch
- Runaway prevention device
- Throttle control system
- Sound emission, including constant velocity
Since the SSCC is so thorough in their testing and compliance standards, it’s ideal if your child’s snowmobile is regulated by this organization. This will give you peace of mind as a parent that the youth snowmobile is as safe as it can be.
Moderate Engine Power
Child riders do not have to go nearly as fast as mom and dad on their snowmobile, nor should they be able to. That’s why many youth sleds cap the engine power. On the more moderate side, the engine may run at 120ccs to 123ccs. Some models speed things up to 192ccs, but that’s about the fastest you’ll see a child’s snowmobile go.
These are still powerful engines, often four-stroke, but they limit the speed to reduce the risk of accidents.
Of course, you don’t want your child’s first taste of the snowmobiling life to be boring, nor do you not want them to not be able to keep up with the rest of the family because their snowmobile is too slow. Youth snowmobiles will keep the kids moving at a moderate pace, but not go so fast that they lose control of the sled.
A child is still learning the ins and outs of a snowmobile at their age. They shouldn’t be discouraged in that experience by a sled that’s difficult to start. This is why many youth models feature an electric start. Your child won’t need mom or dad’s help to get ready to ride, and that can mean a lot to a kid.
Attached to the dashboard of most youth snowmobiles should be a safety tether. Often red and made of coiled plastic, the safety tether is a great stopgap. If your child happens to accidentally fall off their snowmobile, the safety tether cuts power to the engine automatically. The engine will stop as well if your child opens the hood of their sled.
These throttle controls are meant for you, the adult. You can adjust the amount of power your child receives on their sled at any one time by making simple shifts on the throttle.
The last important safety feature for children’s snowmobiles is a safety flag. This will be in a bright, noticeable hue such as fire engine red or neon orange. The flag is mounted to the rear of the sled and keeps your child visible even if the weather is very blustery and snowy. You can easily find them, as could a rescue crew if it ever came to that.
Looking for a Youth Snowmobile? Check Out These Models
Buying a child’s snowmobile may be even more nerve-wracking than your hunt for your first snowmobile. You want all the above safety features we covered, that’s for sure. You’d also prefer the sled be lightweight, easy to use, and fun to ride so you can foster a lifelong love of snowmobiling in your child.
Here are 4 youth snowmobiles we think more than fit the bill.
Arctic Cat ZR 120
The first sled to consider is the Arctic Cat ZR 120. Although it’s a youth snowmobile, this sled doesn’t skimp on the features. You still get in-seat storage, handlebar comfort grips with handwarmers, and halogen headlights with beams that switch from low to high settings.
The ZR 120’s four-stroke engine runs on 123ccs. A Cobra track features cupped lugs for optimal control and handling, even if the terrain is softer. This is due to the track’s impressive traction teeth and paddles, each an inch, that aide in grip.
The ski stance is adjustable between 29.5 inches and 31.5 inches so your child can learn how to turn and otherwise maneuver on their sled. The drive clutch is an Arctic Centrifugal. This sled’s suspension system includes adjustable torsion spring, slide-rail rear suspension and Arctic Wishbone front suspension.
The ZR 120 measures 73 inches long, 35 to 37 inches wide, and 34 inches tall. It weighs 167 pounds dry. You can buy this Arctic Cat youth sled starting at $3,245.
Next is the Yamaha SRX120, another awesome youth sled that has more of the features you’ll love. Comfort-wise, Yamaha added padded handlebars, foam seating, and grip warmers to the SRX120. You also have a rear storage component sure to come in handy.
The four-stroke engine runs on 123ccs, making it just as fast as the ZR 120. Also improving the performance of this sled is a mechanical fuel gauge, which lets mom and dad quickly scope out how much fuel is left in this youth sled’s tank. The transistorized ignition gives kids the freedom to start their own snowmobile while the governor speed control lets parents set the max acceleration and speed.
Bumpers on the rear and front of the snowmobile can keep the chassis in better shape longer, and the bumpers could come also be useful if you’re towing this youth sled. The double-Wishbone front suspension and torsion spring rear suspension is like what you’d find in adult Yamaha snowmobiles.
Yamaha loads the SRX120 with safety features too, such as taillights and headlights that are always on so your child need not look away to adjust their brights. You also get a whip flag for visibility in snowy conditions and a tether switch. The SRX120 starts at $2,899.
Polaris 120 INDY
If you’re a fan of Polaris sleds, then your child’s first snowmobile might be the youth model called the 120 INDY. This snowmobile is ever so slightly less powerful at 120ccs, but the four-stroke engine won’t ever bore your child. They can even keep snacks and other gear close by with built-in storage.
The 120 INDY will impress you too with its safety tether and adjustable throttle. The IFS front suspension and Mini INDY rear suspension make for a solid suspension system overall. This youth snowmobile also has a very sporty look. You can get the 120 INDY starting at $2,999.
Arctic Cat ZR 200
The last youth snowmobile we want to cover is another Arctic Cat pick, this time the ZR 200. This trail-certified snowmobile is among the most powerful and speediest sleds at 192ccs with a four-stroke engine. Given those specs, this might not be your son or daughter’s very first snowmobile, but one they work their way up to.
With a turn-key start, your child will find it easy to get going on the ZR 200 and ride with the rest of the family. The ski stance on this sled, like the ZR 120, is adjustable, once again from 29.5 inches to 31.5 inches. The Cobra track is back as well, as is the slide-rail rear suspension and the A-arm front suspension.
The ZR 200 is 84 inches long, 35 to 37 inches wide, and 36 inches tall. Its dry weight is 214 pounds. This sled starts at $4,445.
Snowmobiling Safety Tips for Kids
To wrap up, we thought it’d be good to share some safety tips you should teach your children as they get out on their snowmobile for the first time and continue riding long into the future.
Don’t Show Off
Children tend to want to emulate their parents. If you’re pushing your snowmobile to the speed limit and beyond, or you’re doing tricks and other shifty maneuvers, you could inspire your child to try the same. This can increase their likelihood of injury, not to mention they could damage their snowmobile.
If you want to go wild on your sled, then ride with other adults. When you’re snowmobiling with the family, curtail the tricks and go slower and easier on your sled.
Stick to the Trail
One very easy way to get lost is to veer off the set path. When you ride on the path all day, you show your kids that the trail is there to be followed. They will do the same.
Even though all snowmobilers might not be traveling at the exact same speed the whole time, you don’t want to lose sight of anyone in your group. If you have to slow down to let someone catch up, especially one of the children, then that’s what you must do, even if you have to do it a lot.
Follow the Speed Limit
Like the trail is meant to be followed, the speed limit is meant to be abided by as well. This won’t be a problem for the kids now because their youth snowmobile speeds are curtailed. Once they graduate to bigger, faster, more powerful sleds though, they’ll need it reinforced that they shouldn’t speed.
Don’t Turn off the Lights
Since most youth sleds have auto-front and rear lights, this isn’t a problem now, but again, your child won’t ride a youth snowmobile forever. Their lights should always be on to illuminate potential hazards in front of and behind them.
Use the Safety Flag
Yes, some kids might grouse that the safety flag is embarrassing, but it could also save their life if riding in a bad snowstorm. Make sure the flag stays on the sled the whole time your child is using their snowmobile.
Avoid the Ice
This is a good one that you can teach your kids early. If anyone in your group spots ice, it’s a smart idea to turn around and find an alternate route. Youth snowmobiles don’t quite weigh as much as adult sleds, but you never want your kids to test their luck by riding across a sheet of ice. It could crack and lead to tragedy.
Know When to Go and When to Stay Home
Show your kids the importance of checking the weather, both the night before and the day of your ride. Use the radar feature on your weather app to track what weather might be coming in by the hour.
Even if conditions were clear last night, if things have since changed overnight, then the trip may have to be postponed. Remind your child that riding in inclement weather is dangerous for a bunch of reasons. Visibility is highly reduced, the trail becomes hazardous to traverse, and avalanches could occur.
If you’re thinking of buying a youth snowmobile for your child, besides making sure it’s cool-looking and affordable, get one that comes with all the necessary safety features. These are a safety flag, throttle control for adults, moderate max speeds, and a safety tether.
With the information in this article, you’re ready to enjoy a safe, memorable trip snowmobiling with the whole family!