Snowmobiling for Beginners

Snowmobiling...Where to Start

So you’re interested and you’ve come to the right place. How do you get into snowmobiling? It's so easy that we condensed it down to a few questions that should make you want to run out, get a snowmobile, and look to the sky for snowflakes!

Q: Where do I go snowmobiling?

A: There are snowmobile-riding areas located throughout the snow belt areas of the United States and Canada. Obtaining information on where to snowmobile is simple. State and provincial snowmobile associations have close affiliations with clubs that represent regions of the state or province. Minnesota United Snowmobilers Association, the organization representing snowmobilers across Minnesota, has information on this website that will put you in touch with a local club that will be very familiar with the trail system and riding area you wish to visit. Just click on the CLUBS heading on this site. The Minnesota DNR also has access to printed and GPS maps as do the local visitors and convention bureaus and chambers of commerce in the regions you wish to snowmobile.

In addition to extensive trail systems and riding areas, there are trail heads where you can start your journey- trailer your snowmobile to the trail head, park your vehicle, unload your snowmobiles, and ride from those trail starts to enjoy the wonders of the winter on groomed and marked trails.

Q: Who can I snowmobile with?

A: There are over 3,000 snowmobile clubs in North America, all of which welcome new members. The snowmobile clubs are located in the area that you would like to snowmobile and are affiliated with the state or provincial snowmobile association. Minnesota United Snowmobilers Association can help you get in touch with the club of your choice and give you information on where to snowmobile. Associations hold functions throughout the year so you can join a club and meet new friends for year-round fun.

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Q: Do I need a license or permit to ride?

A: Minnesota requires that snowmobiles be registered to use the snowmobile trail system. See If the registration is from outside Minnesota, an out-of-state trail permit is also required.

In addition to the snowmobile registration, if you are a Minnesota resident and your birthday is after December 31, 1976, Minnesota law requires that you have a snowmobile safety certificate to operate a snowmobile in Minnesota. Minnesota offers two courses to promote snowmobile safety and to train snowmobile operators. Both courses will lead to a Snowmobile Safety Certificate upon successful completion of the course.

Traditional Snowmobile Course is an introductory course of approximately 8 hours and is designed for the snowmobile rider with little or no experience in snowmobile operation. The course includes classroom training and a hands-on riding performance course. Although the course is designed for youth ages 11-15, it may be taken by anyone who desires to take an introductory snowmobile course.

An online Snowmobile Course is offered for both youth and adults. Upon completion of the course, youth ages 11-15 are then required to attend a classroom review and hands-on riding performance course to receive a certificate. Adults ages 16 and up print and mail the temporary certificate and mail it with the appropriate fee to the MN DNR. A snowmobile safety certificate is issued to graduates of both snowmobile safety courses.

The classroom courses are taught by VOLUNTEER INSTRUCTORS with the assistance of Minnesota Conservation Officers. For general information on snowmobile safety training classes please call 1-888-646-6367, 651-296-6157 or 800-366-8917 or . Safety course information can also be found on the DNR’s web site or MnUSA’s website.

Driving a snowmobile is quite easy. It is always recommended that first-time riders attend a safety class and carefully watch the Safe Riders! Safety Video, which highlights important segments of snowmobile training.

More useful information: Find the information at: and

Q: What are the 5 types of snowmobiles?

A: 1. Entry-level Snowmobile: Entry-level snowmobiles are also often called trail models. These snowmobiles come equipped with engines ranging from 60-70 horsepower. The vehicles are easy to ride and relatively inexpensive. They can be equipped with electric start and reverse for easy starting and maneuvering. These snowmobiles are very light and easy to handle and serve as an inexpensive way to begin snowmobiling. Refer to the owner's manual that comes with each machine.

2. Performance Snowmobiles: Performance snowmobiles, like performance automobiles feature slightly higher horsepower engines. The engines generate 85 horsepower and up. These vehicles are slightly heavier than the entry-level vehicles due to engine size differentiation and additional weight related to suspension systems, shock absorbers and more. These vehicles are often equipped with reverse gear and electric start. These vehicles are responsive and performance oriented.

3. Touring Snowmobiles: Touring snowmobiles feature a seat configuration that is designed for up to two individuals. The seat configuration features a backrest. Touring models usually include side-mounted mirrors, larger windshields, reverse gear and electric start. These vehicles are larger and heavier than either performance or entry-level snowmobiles and are designed for riding longer distances in comfort. The track length of a touring vehicle is greater. The longer track length cushions the ride, adds stability for two people and provides more comfort and weight.

4. Mountain Snowmobiles: Snowmobiles made specifically for mountain riding are longer and narrower. The vehicle configuration allows for side hilling in mountainous terrain and riding through heavy powder. The vehicles also have specially designed long lug tracks, which allow them to maneuver through heavy, deep powder conditions. These vehicles generally have high horsepower engines, since horsepower is lost at elevation. The riding characteristics of a mountain snowmobile generally lend it to better handling abilities in mountain riding than on trail riding.

5. Utility Snowmobile: Utility snowmobiles are common when any work or utilitarian needs are realized. The vehicles are longer, slightly wider and heavier than other snowmobiles. They function exceptionally well on trails and heavy snow and come equipped with electric start and reverse. They are often used to tow work sleds or toboggans.

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Q: I’d like to give it a try. Are there places that rent snowmobiles?

A: There are several resorts and rental businesses that rent snowmobiles, clothing and accessories in Minnesota and many of them give discounts to the state snowmobile association members. There are many additional opportunities to rent snowmobiles across North America. For a start, go to and sort on Rentals and Tours.

Q: Where do I purchase a snowmobile and how do I know which one is right for me?

A: Like any motor vehicle, they can be purchased new or used from a licensed snowmobile dealer. Snowmobile dealers are conveniently located throughout the northern tier (snow belt areas) of the United States and in Canada. For a full listing of dealers, you can visit the manufacturers' Web sites.

Existing owners of snowmobiles also sell their vehicles and advertise in classified sections of local newspapers. One should follow the same guidelines in buying a used snowmobile as when buying a used car or boat. Have the vehicle inspected by a knowledgeable mechanic. A visual inspection will help determine if the vehicle has been properly cared for. Always ask for service records.

When starting to snowmobile for the first time, there are many considerations. If you will be taking a rider with you often, then you might consider a two-person snowmobile so that you can travel comfortably with a rider companion. If you plan to snowmobile on your own, a standard snowmobile with mid-range power should provide the best quality ride. Individuals that ride in the mountainous regions of North America should purchase a sled specifically designed for mountain riding.

As a tip-you may want to test ride a friend's snowmobile and find out why they purchased the vehicle that they did. What to look for: snowmobile type (one or 2-riders), engine size and options.

Discuss your preferences with the dealer to make sure you get the snowmobile that's right for your needs.

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Q: Where is the best place to look at snowmobiles?

A: The best place to begin your search for a snowmobile is to attend one of the many snowmobile shows or snowmobile events held in the states and provinces throughout North America. Also, visits to local dealerships are helpful and the snowmobile manufacturers Web sites offer a lot of useful information, and you can even build your own snowmobile based on your preferences.

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Q: What type of clothing do I need to have?

A: Snowmobile clothing, helmets and accessories can be purchased from snowmobile dealers. The following snow -friendly clothing is recommended: bibs (pants that extend up your chest and back), jackets, gloves, boots and helmets. Snowmobile clothing comes in all shapes and sizes. Snowmobile dealers offer a full line of clothing that is specifically designed and made to keep you warm and withstand winter.

Q: How much does it cost to buy a snowmobile and clothing?

A: Snowmobile prices start at $2,000 for a used snowmobile to $14,000 for a new snowmobile. Snowmobile clothing costs approximately $100 for a jacket and $80 for bibs (pants that extend up your chest and back), $50 for boots, $20 for gloves, and approximately $100 for a helmet. If you need to trailer your snowmobile, snowmobile trailers start at $500 and go up to $3,000 for an enclosed trailer. Many clubs and associations sponsor swap meets and sales where you can find snowmobiles and clothing at reduced prices and information to help get you started. Businesses that rent snowmobiles often have clothing and helmets for rent.

Q: How do I know if there is enough snow to go snowmobiling?

A: Snowmobile trail reports from the snowmobile clubs can be found at The DNR posts its weekly trail reports at Explore Minnesota posts trail reports on its website and you can sign up for weekly reports by email at

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Q: How do I maintain a snowmobile?

A: Maintenance on snowmobiles is basic and similar to motor vehicle maintenance and operation. A licensed mechanic through a dealership is usually the best way to ensure the vehicle will be ready for use. Always check the oil, belts and moving mechanisms of the snowmobile.

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