Righting a Tipped Over Snow-Machine

Up on the trapline, moments before tipping over…again!

No matter how careful you ride a snow machine, unless you only ride on perfectly flat groomed trails, it is inevitable that at some point you’re going to tip over.

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It usually happens when you’re going too slow or sitting down when you should have been standing on one side or the other, throwing your weight around to balance the machine. Here’s how I unflip my sleds.

First off a warning: Proceed at your own risk. I am not a professional snow-machine flipper-back-overer, just a professional snow-go flipper. (All though each time I flipped my machine like a pro, I made it back home…) Use extra caution as snow-machines are extremely heavy and it is very easy to hurt yourself, especially your back. Always try to lift with your legs and not your back. If possible get someone to help you.

First turn off the machine immediately, before it floods or runs out of oil, and then check yourself for injuries. Unfortunately if you are riding alone even if you are hurt you will still need to roll the machine back over. But be careful because if you’ve injured your back in the fall, you could do more damage by trying to lift a machine back up.

Next if you are on a hill make sure when you flip your machine back over it isn’t going to continue to flip the other way. You only want to have to right it once and you definitely don’t want it to roll down the hill any further.

While I’ve never had that happen to me with my snowmachine, I have flipped my atv back onto its wheels, on a steep side hill, only to watch it do three complete summersaults and then smash into a tree.

Now that atv landed on its wheels after doing three flips and the other atv I rolled, did multiple flips before landing right side up, but it’s probably fair to guess that most machines wont actually do this so you shouldn’t rely on that happening!!

Ok so if you’re on a hill set the parking brake so your machine doesn’t keep rolling down hill when the track makes contact with the ground when it is halfway flipped back over. Believe me it sucks to get almost flipped back over and then have it roll out of your reach and back onto its side or all the way over again.

The easiest way to flip the machine back over and not have it slide or roll, is to start with the nose heading down hill if you are heading down hill, or heading straight up if you were heading up already, so if there is room, grab the nose of the machine and pull it so the machine is heading up or down hill which ever way is easiest to do.

 Of course every machine and every hill is different. With my trapping machine, a 2016 Skidoo Expedition Sport 550F, which is the one that I tend to tip over the most as it’s the one I ride off trail and on hills, has a tall handle bar tower and that is the best place to grab onto and lift from/push from.

Stand with your back to the seat, squat down, and grab onto the handle bars and rear rack if reachable then stand up lifting with your knees.

The machine doesn’t always flip back over at this point, so it is sometimes necessary to balance it halfway up and then to turn around and bench press the machine the rest of the way over. Whenever possible lift with your knees and not your back.

Here I’ll note another technique that is useful if your sled is not completely rolled. If your machine is just tipped on its side you can sometimes stand on the edge of the track and grab the end of the handlebar and the rear rack then lean backwards while pulling.

A note of caution, if you’ve tipped over on the uphill side of a hill do not use this technique as you will be hangin and pulling down hill and when the machine rights itself it may continue over, rolling down the hill on top of you which may or may not hurt like heck.

Revision to post: Today I tipped and rolled over while heading up the hill to check traps. Ok ok I’ll admit I may tip over more than some but…

A: I’m disabled so I don’t have the best upper body strength with two bad arms, and you really have to throw your body weight around to ride hills.

B: I’m riding through narrow trails, up steep hills, while dodging trees.

C: In today’s instance, last night it got down to -22°F. At that temps the willows bordering all the trail will frost up and then lean further down across the trail. While I was ducking under a tree the sled started to tip, I decided to give it more gas which usually pulls the machine upright. I tried to plow my body through the 1.5″ willow tree, steering and giving it gas with one hand while the other arm tried lifting the tree out of the way, but wouldn’t you know it that tree wouldn’t give!!! Well actually it sprung me back and I landed on my feet but the machine tipped and I swore.

In this instance the way the sled was situated between trees and on the hill, I had to pull the rear around so it was heading straight up and down. It was still too steep to lift the machine or stand on the track so the only way I was able to flip it upright was to put all my weight on the lower ski, grab onto the upper ski, and lean backwards.

A note of caution: by doing this the upper ski ends up laying on top of you but in this instance the machine was laying at so steep an angle that once it was mostly upright I could balance the machine and then slide from laying down to sitting and then swing my legs out from under the machine and then push down on the ski while standing up and then grab the handle bar to keep it from tipping back over. It actually worked!

Once the machine is back upright check to see if anything is broke on the machine, check that the throttle isn’t bent and that it still works/isn’t stuck wide open. Make sure anything you’re carrying is still safely secured and all bungee and ratchet straps are tight.

I only ride 2-strokes so any 4-stroke owners should check their manuals to see if there’s anything special they have to do when they flip a 4-stroke over (you may need to wait for your oil to settle before starting up again but I dont know!)

When a 2-stroke machine has rolled it usually floods so if it doesn’t start right away then you may need to hold the throttle wide open to start it.

Once your machine is back running don’t forget to release the parking break before taking off again and then try not to roll it again.

I just wrote this an hour after rolling my machine, for the second time in three days, so believe me when I say it can be a real pain to flip them back over, especially if you’re hurt or disabled. That is why with my big heavy Skandic SWT work machine, that weighs close to 900 pounds, I always carry a Maasdam Pow’R Pull A-50 3/4 Ton Capacitty Rope Puller with 50′ of 1/2″ dia. Rope. Rope-a-long and a couple hundred feet of 1/2″ BLUE STEEL Rope.

I also carry a couple 1/2″ snatch block pulleys and a couple hand made chokers for tying off to trees. With a big machine you’ll bend the handlebars trying to right it from the handlebars and by yourself so mechanical or human help is highly recommend.

Another useful tool is the Snobunje 1001 Rattler Pulling Tool. Which can help you unstick your stuck sled when you’re by yourself and they also make another useful tool for pulling a stuck machine out with a second machine. That ones called the Snobunje 1002 Cobra Pulling Extraction Tool

Its always a good idea to carry a satellite phone or better yet a Garmin inReach Explorer+, Handheld Satellite Communicator with TOPO Maps and GPS Navigation so you can get help in an emergency. Remember a cell phone typically doesn’t get reception out in the Bush.

While I do not own a Garmin yet it is my next major purchase as a friend of mine wrecked his sled last Spring and would have lost his leg, and probably his life, if not for the Garmin inReach Satellite Communicator that another buddy riding with them was carrying. Not only can you reach help because it’s a satellite communicator that let’s you send sos messages and use your phone through it for txting but it is also a GPS so it gives your coordinates to rescuers as well. Every serious hunter, pilot, or adventurer should have or rent one for any off the grid, long wilderness excursions.

The best way to avoid tipping over when mounting a snowmachine is to always get on from the uphill side. If the sled is on just a tiny incline it could roll into you when you try to climb on it.

Another thing I should have mentioned is if you are towing a sled at the time, you more than likely will need to unhook the sled from the machine in order to flip it back over. You may need to tie the freight sled off to keep it from taking off down the hill while you tip the machine upright.

Speaking of sleds on hills, there is the reason that all of my freight sleds have tongues that can pivot 360°. If you’re going along and your freight sled rolls over, the pivoting tongue will allow it to roll completely over. If it was a stiff hitch, with a full heavy sled, it may have enough inertia to roll the snow machine or at least pull it down the hill with it, which is NOT GOOD!

After consulting some local Sourdough legends (wise old trappers & miners) they say tipping over your snow-machine is inevitable so I guess I wont give it up just yet.

Watch out for overflow and ticked-off moose!

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