Snowmobile trails officially open tomorrow – but aren't ready yet

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There's a price to pay for the pleasantly delayed beginning of winter weather in Minnesota – especially if you're a snowmobiler.

The state's snowmobile trails officially open on Tuesday, Dec. 1, as they do every year, but the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) says most of them are not yet ready for riding.

"The warm fall weather lingered longer than normal so ice formation is getting a late start this year," leaving insufficient snow on the trails, a DNR official said in a Monday news release.

The agency recommends at least 5 inches of "new clear ice" for snowmobiling, but considers 12 inches of snow to be "adequate" for packing and grooming the trails.

Crews are out doing that as well as clearing brush, the agency says. And there's also a silver lining to the late-arriving winter: "The lack of early snow can be beneficial to building good ice conditions” for snowmobiles, notes official Bob Moore.

One of the dangers of a trail that's not quite ready for riding is that it can be fraught with fallen trees and other debris, "unfrozen areas," rocks, ruts, standing crops and even shuttered gates. Road ditches are also a problem, as they can present obstacles like culverts, sign posts and more.

The DNR says Minnesota has over 22,000 miles of groomed snowmobile trails, the vast majority of which are kept up by local snowmobile clubs.

To keep up on whether your favorite trail is open and what the snow conditions are, you can check with the DNR's snowmobile page, which is updated every Thursday.

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