While early cold temperatures and snow in parts of the Minnesota have many snowmobile enthusiasts excited to take their first ride of the season, most of the state’s trails are not ready for riding, according to the Department of Natural Resources. Minnesota’s snowmobile trails officially open on December 1 each year. Regardless of the date on the calendar, several conditions must be met before trails are groomed and ready for travel:
The ground must be frozen. Where trails cross wetlands, 15 inches of ice is needed to support the weight of the trail groomers.
Adequate snow cover, about 12 inches, must be on the ground to allow for trail packing and grooming.
Trails must be cleared of fallen trees, signs put in place and gates opened. Snowmobile club volunteers and DNR staff are currently working on these tasks.
“It’s a big job for local volunteers and DNR staff to get the trail system up and running each year, especially with varying weather conditions,” said John Waters, state trails and snowmobile program consultant. “Crews are clearing brush, packing snow in wet areas, checking signs and tuning up grooming machines. We always hope for early cold temperatures followed by an abundance of fresh snow so snowmobilers can have a safe and lengthy riding season.” Even after a chilly start to November, ice on most lakes is not safe for travel. The DNR recommends a minimum of five to seven inches of new clear ice for snowmobiles.
While snowmobilers wait for the arrival of snow and cold temperatures, now is a good time to make sure registrations are current, snowmobiles are in good operating order, safety training is reviewed, and local trail maps are checked for route changes or new trails.
Registrations for new snowmobiles may be purchased in person at any deputy registrar of motor vehicles or at the DNR License Bureau in St. Paul. Renewals of registrations and out-of-state trail stickers may be purchased in person, or online at mndnr.gov/licenses.
Local trail conditions are often posted online by local tourism associations, chambers of commerce and volunteer snowmobile clubs. To find the nearest club, visit the Minnesota United Snowmobiler’s Association website at mnsnowmobiler.org.