Snowmobiling in Minnesota


Parks & Geology / Tuesday, February 26th, 2019

One of the best parts of having a record snowfall is fresh powder for the snowmobile trails.

Snowmobiling is a rite of passage in Minnesota – it certainly was for me. Minnesota has snowmobile trails in nearly every county of the state, including 224 miles in Hennepin County, 369 miles in Dakota County and 208 miles in Scott County.

The state also has approximately 22,000 miles of dedicated snowmobile trails, two major snowmobile manufacturers (Polaris and Arctic Cat), more than 220 volunteer-run snowmobile clubs and about 220,000 registered snowmobilers.

Oh! Speaking of Polaris, which is what I grew up on, Edgar and Allen Hetteen and David Johnson of Roseau, Minnesota, were among the first to build a practical snowmobile in 1955–1956.

The two were avid outdoorsman that loved being outside during winter months but wanted a faster way to get to their favorite hunting and fishing spots. Powered by a 10 horsepower Briggs and Stratton engine and with skis made from old car bumpers, they actually did it. Their company, Hetteen Hoist & Derrick Co., later became Polaris Industries.

If you are itching to break out of the cabin fever, take to the trails. The cool air, mixed with backcountry views, and speed, makes its one of my favorite ways to get outside.

Don’t have a snowmobile? Don’t fret! There are quite a few places in the state that rent them, many associated with privately owned lodges or resorts.

If you decide to go, here are a few good-to-know snowmobile safety tips!

  • MN DNR Enforcement-Safety/Education. Take a Snowmobile Safety Training Course! I went through this class when I was a teenager as it was a requirement for life in the Northwoods
  • Watch the weather and check trail conditions before riding. Check for current snow levels at www.mndnr.gov/snow.
  • Don’t ride in adverse weather conditions and avoid driving on lakes and rivers (no matter how tempting!)
  • Don’t drink alcohol and ride and always ride with a friend on another snowmobile. You never know what could happen.
  • Always wear a quality DOT helmet and face mask, and don’t forget to wear layers of clothing to keep warm and dry.
  • Stay on the trail or stay home. Always stay on designated snowmobile trails. Venturing off of trails can result in accidents. Only ride private property when you have landowners permission.

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