While recent snow in parts of Minnesota has many snowmobile enthusiasts excited to take their first ride of the season, most of the state’s trails are not yet groomed and ready to ride, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
Riders can expect to find uneven conditions and should check local trail reports before venturing out. Minnesota’s snowmobile trails officially open on Dec. 1 each year. Regardless of the date on the calendar, though, several conditions must be met before trails can be groomed:
- 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 have to be put in place and gates need to be 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 Paul Purman, state trails and snowmobile program consultant. “Unseasonable thunderstorms last week eroded the snowpack in many areas of the state, setting back our trail preparations. Our 23,000 mile system really needs two things now: more snow on the ground, and more volunteers stepping up to help volunteer clubs get the trails ready and maintained. We’re hoping for a banner year for snowmobiling and recognize that local clubs are the backbone of that success.”
While snowmobilers wait for grooming to start, now is a good time to make sure registrations are current, confirm that snowmobiles are in good operating order, review safety training, and check local trail maps 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 Center in St. Paul. Registration renewals 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. Contacts for DNR-funded, locally managed trails can be found at DNR website. State park and trail conditions are posted on the DNR website.
Local snowmobile clubs welcome volunteers to assist with annual trail preparations like removing brush and fallen trees, holding snowmobile safety classes, and stocking trailside shelters with firewood. To find the nearest club, visit the Minnesota United Snowmobilers Association website.