Quandary: Snowmobiles and the art of communication | SummitDaily.com

Quandary: Snowmobiles and the art of communication


Simple: through the art of dance. Wait, no, that’s somebody else — they use hand signals. Needless to say, yelling could get a little confusing, and throwing things is pretty hit-or-miss (get it?), but the tried-and-true method of pointing at stuff works just fine.

But just like with the Navy SEALs or cheerleaders in a dance battle, each hand signal has a precise meaning attached to it.

No need to waterboard anybody though, snowmobilers will readily explain their signals, as they are very useful for communicating with other trail users as well. For example, if you come upon a lone sled sauntering through the snowbanks, but the rider has his left arm in the air, bent at the elbow, with three finger reaching for the sky, this means there are three sleds following the leader. Each subsequent rider should hold up one less finger until you get to the end of the group, where the last rider will make a fist, with his left arm in the same position. If you see someone riding around with just a middle finger in the air, that means something else.

The other main reason snowmobiles communicate with each other is for navigation. If a GPS with a death-wish sends unsuspecting sledders towards their untimely doom, a simple hand signal from the front man could keep the rest from looking like little lemmings on a cliff side. These hand signals are the same as what was used when driving without turn signals. So when trying to picture these signals, go way back to the days when every yahoo with a Pinto had their arm out the window (the car may have had turn signals, but we all know they didn’t work).

If someone has their left arm straight up in the air and they look like they really want to high five you, just stop. I don’t mean run up and slap some skin, the signal itself means stop. If they are turning left, the arm will stick straight out to the left, and if turning right the arm will be bent at the elbow, with a high-five hand position. If you aren’t sure if five fingers in the air means that particular rider is turning right, or had five people following him, check for any motion. On a right turn, the arm will remain in position without moving, if the signal means the troops are rallying, the arm will move backwards and forwards.

If a left arm is out to the side but turned under so that the thumb is pointing down toward the ground, this means the snowmobiler is slowing down, or it can be a caution or warning about upcoming terrain for the sleds following (think lemmings). Snowmobilers can also signal each other that other sleds are coming at them. This is done by making half an ‘O’ over your head with your left arm. So next time you see a bunch of guys making tracks with their arms in the air, realize they aren’t prepping for a Village People tribute, they are letting their fingers do the talking.

Quandary, an old and wise mountain goat, has been around Summit County for ages, and has the answers to any question about life, love and laws in the High Country. Have a question for Quandary? Send an email to quandary@summitdaily.com

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