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Paynesville Press - December 27, 2006

Snowmobile trails not yet open

The lack of snow throughout Minnesota continues to hinder riding opportunities on the state's 20,000-plus miles of snowmobile trails. Although trails typically open in early December, snow depth determines whether or not a trail is ready for riding.

A minimum of 12 inches of adequate snow cover is necessary for packing and grooming trails, according to Les Ollila, northeast region trails and waterways manager for the Minnesota Depart-ment of Natural Resources (DNR).

"The lack of snow is a safety concern," Ollila explained. "We understand that people are anxious to get out, but there just isn't enough snow on the ground for grooming and riding. We don't want people risking their safety, the safety of others, or causing damage to theirmachines or the trail."

Even once the first significant snow falls, Ollila encourages snowmobilers to wait until the trails are groomed.

In addition to adequate snow cover, the ground needs to be frozen, allowing for safe trail crossings through wet areas or over lakes. Although there have been a few cold days, the ice on many lakes throughout the state is still not thick enough to support people on foot, let alone a snowmobile. The DNR recommends five inches of new, clear ice for snowmobiles.

Ollila suggested that trail users call the local trail club or Chamber of Commerce before leaving town. State trails conditions are also available on the DNR website at, or by calling 1-888-MINN-DNR (646-6367).

When the trails finally have enough snow, snowmobilers are reminded that a Minnesota snowmobile state trail sticker is required for all snowmobiles operated on any state or grant-in-aid snowmobile trail in Minnesota. The state trail sticker costs $16 for an annual permit or $31 for a three-year sticker, which may only be purchased during snowmobile registration. Annual stickers can be purchased from a deputy registrar or any of the 1,800 electronic licensing agents throughout Minnesota, by phone, or online. The snowmobile trail pass provides funding to snowmobile clubs to help with trail grooming and upkeep. The permit will only be valid from Nov. 1 through April 30 each year. Most snowmobile trails are not open to ATV or any other uses. Unauthorized uses are considered trespassing.

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