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Snowmobile trails not yet ready for riding

Each year some Minnesota snowmobile enthusiasts take to the trails after the first snowfall, when trails are not yet ready for riding, according to the Department of Natural Resources.

Although the official start of the snowmobile season is Dec. 1, several conditions must be met before trails are open for travel.

  • Trails must be cleared of dead falls, signs need to be in place and the gates need to be opened.
  • Landowner permits that allow the trails on their land must be in place.
  • Adequate snow cover -- about 12 inches -- must be on the ground to allow for packing and grooming of the trails.
  • The ground needs to be frozen allowing for crossings in wet areas.

    "Although we have had a few cold days and many northern Minnesota lakes have ice, the ice is not yet thick enough to support snowmobiles," noted DNR Northeast Region Trails and Waterways Manager Les Ollila. The DNR recommends 5 inches of new clear ice for snowmobiles.

    Right now, snowmobile clubs and trail crews are out working on trails to make them ready for use, but it could be a few weeks before the trails will be ready, according to Ollila.

    Minnesota has more than 20,000 miles of groomed snowmobile trails. Club volunteers do the vast majority of the maintenance.

    Trail clubs always need more help, Ollila said. To find the nearest club, visit the Minnesota United Snowmobilers Association Web site at

    Many snowmobile trails cross private land. Landowners give permission for snowmobile use on the trails. That permission is only for snowmobile use. Other uses are trespasses, said Ollila.

    When the trails open, the DNR urges early season riders to use caution, Ollila said.

    "Watch for hazards, especially if you are on unfamiliar ground," said Ollila. "Early season trails may have trees fallen across trails, unfrozen areas, rocks or ruts, or closed gates. Also, road ditches are not always safe, so watch for hidden protrusions under grass and snow, such as culverts, signposts and rocks."

    State trail conditions are available on the DNR Web site at or by calling (651) 296-6157 or toll free (888) 646-6367. Local contacts are on the Web site and on the back of the Minnesota DNR Snowmobile Trails quadrant maps.

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