December 2011

The DNR communications team works with agency experts to develop the weekly questions and provide the answers. This feature addresses current DNR issues, interesting topics, or the most frequently asked questions from around Minnesota.


Q: There’s not much snow on the ground in Minnesota yet. Are we destined for a “brown” Christmas?

A: The chances of Minnesotans enjoying a white Christmas vary from place to place. A white Christmas is loosely defined as having one inch of snow on the ground on Christmas Day.

The best chances of having a white Christmas is almost guaranteed in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area and most of the Arrowhead region. The odds decrease the farther south and west you go, and tip more in favor of a “brown” Christmas. For example, in far southwestern Minnesota the chances of a white Christmas are a little better than 60 percent. In 106 years of snow depth measurements in the Twin Cities, a white Christmas happens about 72 percent of the time. From 1905 to 2010 there were 30 years with either "zero" or a "trace" of snow. The last time the Twin Cities saw a “brown” Christmas was in 2006. The deepest snow cover on Dec. 25 was in 1983 with a hefty 20 inches in the Twin Cities, 21 inches in International Falls and 28 inches in Duluth.

To find out the probability of a white Christmas in your area, log on to



Q: With snow on the ground, folks are getting ready to ride their snowmobiles. What are the educational requirements for the legal operation of a snowmobile?

A: Current statute requires anyone born after Dec. 31, 1976, to take a safety-training course before operating a snowmobile on public lands or waters. Two types of courses are available. First, for those 11 years old and older, there is an eleven-hour introductory course designed for youth or riders with little or no experience. This course includes hands-on training. Second, for those 16 years old and older, there is an independent study CD-based course where students learn at home.

Once they have successfully completed their courses, students follow a path by age to receive a certificate of completion from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Both of these courses show students the most common causes of snowmobile accidents in Minnesota, and how to avoid them. Volunteers teach classes across the state. Information regarding snowmobile certification classes can be found on the DNR's website at

- Capt. Mike Hammer, DNR Division of Enforcement recreational vehicle coordinator



Q: Trespassing is among the issues DNR conservation officers must deal with during the winter months. What should people remember as they ride their snowmobiles?

A: Winter is a great time to enjoy Minnesota’s wonderful natural resources, and snowmobiles present the opportunities to see places you might not otherwise get to see. However, it is important to remember to respect the private and public property that snowmobile clubs have obtained to create the extensive system of trails Minnesota has to offer. Cutting corners, taking shortcuts across fields, hill climbing or operating on private property outside road ditch right-of-ways are all examples of trespassing situations that have resulted in the closing of miles of snowmobile trails every season. In addition to respecting private and public property, safety is another important reason to stay on trails marked for snowmobile use.

- Capt. Mike Hammer, DNR Division of Enforcement recreational vehicle coordinator


DNR Question of the Week Archive