Despite the recent snowfall throughout much of northern Minnesota, snowmobile trails are not yet ready for riding, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Minnesota’s snowmobile trails officially open Dec. 1; however, several conditions must be met before trails are open and ready for travel:

  • The ground must be frozen to allow for crossing of wet areas.
  • Adequate snow cover – about 12 inches – must be on the ground to allow for trail packing and grooming.
  • Landowner permits that allow trails on private land must be in place.
  • Trails must be cleared of dead falls, signs must be in place and gates must be opened; snowmobile clubs volunteers and DNR staff are currently working on these tasks.

“Although we have had a few cold days and many northern Minnesota lakes are forming ice, the ice is not yet thick enough on most lakes to support foot travel or snowmobiles,” noted Bob Moore, Grand Rapids area supervisor. “Ice thickness can vary greatly from one lake to another, and from different areas of the same lake.”

The DNR recommends a minimum of 5 inches of new clear ice for snowmobiles.

Snowmobile clubs and trails crews are preparing trails, but it could be a few weeks before those trails are ready. Work in many wet or swampy areas cannot begin until those areas freeze.

Many snowmobile trails cross private land. Landowners give permission for snowmobile use on the trails beginning Dec. 1. That permission is only for snowmobile use. Other uses are trespasses.

When the trails open, the DNR urges early season riders to use caution. Early season trails may have fallen trees or other debris across the trails, unfrozen areas, rocks or ruts, or standing crops and closed gates. Also, road ditches have obstacles to watch for under grass and snow, such as culverts, signposts and rocks.

Minnesota has more than 22,000 miles of groomed snowmobile trails; more than 21,000 miles of them are maintained by local snowmobile club volunteers. Maintenance costs are partially funded through snowmobile registrations, trail pass sales, and the un-refunded gas tax attributed to snowmobile use. Donations and volunteer work by trail clubs make up the remainder of the costs and efforts to operate these trails.

Trail users are encouraged to call in advance or research online to get local conditions for the area they plan to ride. State trail conditions are posted each Thursday on the DNR website at www.mndnr.gov.

Trail information and local contacts are on the same website and on the back of the Minnesota DNR Snowmobile Trails quadrant maps. The maps are also available online.

Local trail conditions are often posted online by local tourist associations, chambers of commerce and volunteer snowmobile clubs. To find the nearest club, visit the Minnesota United Snowmobiler’s Association website at www.mnsnowmobiler.org.

Logo courtesy Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

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