Snowmobiling: Where to ride ? Show 1

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Podcasts
Snowmobiling: Where to ride – Show 1 .mp3 (1.44 Mb) - 1/4/08

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Steve Carroll

Hi everyone.  I’m Steve Carroll and welcome to the DNR’s podcast on “Snowmobiling in Minnesota.”

We have tremendous snowmobiling opportunities throughout our state with about 20,000 miles of interconnected groomed trails provided by 195 snowmobile clubs and communities from Pipestone to Ely.

Today we are talking about planning a snowmobile trip.  Our guest is Les Ollila, regional mgr in Northeastern MN for the DNR Trails and Waterways Division.

Welcome, Les.

Les Ollila

Hi, Steve.

SC:

Well I imagine people are all excited about snowmobiling this winter.  There seems to be a lot of snow on the ground and people are excited to get out and get on their machines.

LO: 

Well, for a lot of people it’s been a couple of years since they’ve been able to ride their machines, and we’ve got enough snow to start with. Some years there’s been a lot less than this, so this is really exciting and I’m getting a lot of calls.

SC:

When did the trails officially open?

LO:

The snowmobile trails opened on December 1st.  That’s because the landowner permits to cross their land starts then.

SC:

How do you know—just because it’s December 1st—they’re not open—you have to have certain conditions, I take it?

LO:

Right.  This year was excellent.  We had snow right after December 1st, so we were able to get out and pack the trails, cut out the deadfalls, put up the signs and get all that stuff started.  It takes a little bit of work and the trails may be open December 1st, but they’re really not ready to ride on until they’ve been packed with the groomer and everything else is set.

SC:

And who does that?

LO:

Well, we’ve got nearly 200 clubs in Minnesota that do the bulk of the work.  They’re volunteers—volunteer clubs and then we’ve got DNR trails too, where we have our own employees grooming trails too. 

SC:

I see.  Well people now are excited to get their machines out of the garage or the storage shed because they’ve probably collected dust the last couple of years.  How do they go about finding a place to ride?

LO:

Well, we’ve got a lot of information out there.  On the website, where this podcast came from, our website has snow depth maps, has trail maps, has contact phone numbers.  The snow depth report is taken every Thursday and that tells people what the trail conditions and snow depths are all over the state.  So there’s a lot of good places for information.  A lot of these clubs have their own trail maps.  A lot of counties and communities have their own trail maps.  The Chambers of Commerce are another really good source of information.  They coordinate with the hotels and the snowmobile dealers and all the other service providers too, so there’s a lot of resources out there.

SC:

Are more and more people getting into the snowmobiling?

LO:

Well, it kind of goes with the snow.  We had I don’t know how many poor winters in a row, and the snowmobiling has kind of leveled off.  At one time we had around 300,000 registered snowmobiles in Minnesota.  This past year was around 270,000.  And it’s been lower.  A number of years ago we had the same thing, where we had poor snow for several years and registrations went down, and the snow came back and registrations went up.  So it’s still a very strong sport.

SC:

Now is this primarily a Northern Minnesotan activity, or are there opportunities throughout the state?

LO:

Oh, there’s snowmobiling everywhere in the state.  Down in Southeastern Minnesota I know they’ve had wonderful snow at parts of the year.  Sometimes their snow doesn’t last as long; sometimes it comes at different times.  It goes with the weather.  A lot of people can snowmobile from their home, or from their town or their community somewhere around there—and get on a trail. 

SC:

And it’s an ideal family activity too.

LO:

Oh, it’s great to be out there with your entire family and a lot of it’s a larger family event.  Where it’s not just your family, but your brother-in-law and their family. And that’s one of the strong points of snowmobiling.  It is a strong family sport and it allows people—the whole family—to get outside together.
 

SC:

And it’s a great way to see the great outdoors.

LO:

Oh, you get to see places you don’t ever get to see any other time.  There are places that are just not accessible at any other time of the year.  Of course, it’s beautiful in the winter in Northern Minnesota, where I’m from.

SC:

Sure.  About how many trails do we have in Minnesota?

LO:

Well, we’ve got over 20,000 miles.  I can’t tell you the exact number.  These trails connect all the towns.  The clubs started off with their own trails for their own community, and they started connecting them together.  The machines started getting better, more dependable, and the people are now touring.  They’re touring hundreds of miles on the weekend.

SC:

Where can people find those maps?  Are they available on the DNR website?

LO:

We’ve got the big general maps of the State of Minnesota on our website and the state trail maps are on the web site.  There are also what we call the big quad maps, the State of Minnesota divided into four sections, has more resources listed on that as contacts.  They’re on the map and they’re also on our website.  You can call for more detailed maps, but the big quad maps are really good for planning.

SC:

Well that’s about all the time we have today.  I want to thank you for listening to our podcast on Snowmobiling in Minnesota.  Our guest has been Les Ollila from Grand Rapids, the Division of Trails and Waterways.

Les, thanks for joining us.

LO:

You’re welcome.  Thank you.

SC:

For more information, visit the DNR’s website at www.mndnr.gov.  I’m Steve Carroll for the Minnesota DNR.