snowmobiles on a trail at duskThe Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) publishes regulations for snowmobile operation, including where you may legally ride, who must wear a helmet, and traffic rules, such as speed limits and obeying road and trail signs.

Some rules and recommendations include:

  • Speed limits

The speed limit is 50 miles per hour on public lands or waters. Lower speed limits may be posted on trails; some marked trails across large frozen lakes may allow daytime speeds up to 65mph. The DNR recommends reducing speed to under 40mph at night to avoid overrunning your headlights.

  • Riding intoxicated

Anyone operating a snowmobile under the influence of alcohol or drugs faces possible fines, loss of snowmobile operating privileges and jail. Alcohol is second only to speed as the leading cause of snowmobile crashes, the DNR reports.

  • Helmets for those under 18

Approved helmets are required for riders younger than 18 with a few exceptions, such as when a youth is riding on a parent’s land. However, helmets and eye protection are critical pieces of safety equipment. Snowmobile riders should use helmets and other protection. They can save a life or prevent serious injury.

  • Good safety practices
    • Stay to the right on trails, especially when approaching elevation changes.
    • Use headlights and taillights.
    • Keep enough space between machines to avoid collisions in the event of unforeseen stops.
    • Yield to motor vehicles and stay on groomed trails.
    • Avoid untested ice and never attempt to travel near open water.
    • Limited liability for landowners who allow snowmobilers to use their property

Landowners are not required to warn of dangerous conditions under Minnesota’s Recreational Use Immunity Statute. Private landowners’ liability is limited to occasions of willful or grossly negligent misconduct.

DNR registration is required before operating or transporting a snowmobile in Minnesota, with a few exceptions. Anyone born after Dec. 31, 1976 must complete a snowmobile safety training course before operating a snowmobile. Riders ages 11-15 can complete safety certification in a classroom setting or online course; however, the certificate isn’t valid until the child’s 12th birthday. Both options include required “hands on” training as well. Riders 16 and older can complete an online course with no “hands on” training required.

There are special rules for those age 13 and younger:

  • They must be accompanied by an adult who is always close enough to be able to direct the youth’s operation of the snowmobile.
  • They cannot cross state or county roads, nor drive snowmobiles on streets or highways in a municipality.

Riders who are 14 to 18 may drive across state or county roads if they have a valid snowmobile safety certificate or driver’s license or an ID card with a valid snowmobile indicator. Those with a snowmobile safety certificate can drive on public lands, public waters, or grant-in-aid trails and may also drive snowmobiles on streets or highways in municipalities, if not contrary to local ordinances.

If you have been injured in a snowmobile crash caused by someone else’s negligence, you should talk to an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Our firm has successfully handled many snowmobile crash claims.

Our attorneys have recovered more than $125 million on behalf of victims and are ready to assist you.

Besides Rochester, we serve the following major southeast Minnesota cities: Red Wing, Winona, Mankato, Austin, Albert Lea, and Owatonna, and all outlying communities, as well as the cities of Minneapolis, St. Paul, Duluth, and Bloomington. We also serve the Iowa cities of Mason City, Charles City, Osage, Spencer, Garner, Forest City, and Northwood and the Wisconsin cities of La Crosse, Onalaska, Sparta, Viroqua, River Falls, Ellsworth, Whitehall, and Black River Falls.