Our favorite off-road navigation app is launching a new feature designed to make snowmobiling more accessible. Snow Mode helps riders find trails and parking areas, highlights avalanche terrain and warnings, displays local weather conditions like snow data, and guides snowmobilers through whiteout conditions.
Riding snowmobiles has been on the list of hobbies I’d like to get into since I moved to Montana three years ago. I’d only been once before, 15 years ago, so to call me a beginner would be an understatement. But despite sub-zero temps and a dicey avalanche season, I rented a machine and pulled off my successful day trip last week. How? Using OnX Offroad.
The first hurdle to riding a snowmobile is figuring out where to go. Toggling the app into Snow Mode reveals 140,000 miles of public lands snowmobile trails across 30 states. Pinching and zooming around the map revealed a trail system that runs through the area where I hunt elk. I figured that’d be cool to see during winter. Tracing that trail from the backcountry to the highway led me to a snow parking lot—a place I could safely unload the machine without taking it across pavement. Tapping the trail brought up weather conditions, as reported by the nearest station. It was nine degrees below zero in town, but it looked like there was a temperature inversion in the mountains; high temperatures there were reported in the teens. But what really sealed the deal was 20 inches of fresh powder.
All that sounded good, but the entire mountain range was under an avalanche warning. Dangerous snow conditions have otherwise kept me out of the backcountry this winter, but on a snowmobile, it’s possible to have fun in mild terrain. Snow Mode includes a slope angle overlay, and toggling that on made it easy to plan out a route that entirely avoided avalanche terrain, giving all slopes 30 degrees or steeper a wide berth. I hit the button to save the map for offline use—OnX saves navigation info, but will also keep weather and snow conditions and alerts up-to-date until you lose cell service—invited a friend, and went to bed at 9 P.M. so I’d be ready for a pre-dawn start.
The day was a success. My friend and I rode a total of 48 miles, were able to find the spot where I missed a 20 yard shot on the biggest bull I’d ever seen, and put fresh tracks down in a backcountry bowl we had entirely to ourselves. We had bluebird skies, but if a storm had rolled in, using the app would have made it easy to retrace our path. The best part: I only fell off once. I was pretty beat when we got back to the trucks and realized I had no idea how to load a snowmobile onto one, but otherwise lived through my first self-guided snowmobile trip in one piece.
Snow Mode is included in OnX Offroad’s premium subscription ($30/year), so if you’re already using it to guide your 4x4 or dirt-bike trips, just make sure your version is up-to-date, then slide up from the app’s bottom menu and you’ll see the big purple button. That’ll add value for users in snowy states, extending your ability to benefit from the app’s guidance year round. Snow Mode is also a preview of what’s to come from OnX, which launched as hunting navigation service in 2009, and acquired the Adventure Projects network of apps and websites late last year. Expect to see new apps or features targeting other sports, like backpacking and climbing, roll out in the near future.