The New Snowmobile Laws You Need to Know

(Making sure you're having fun legally)

Snowmobile rider enjoying the ride

It's common knowledge that you must renew your driver's license every couple years. But what if your favorite mode of transportation is a snowmobile?

In a recent survey of snowmobile enthusiasts, 37% said they check for updates to their state's snowmobile regulations annually, while 39% of respondents don't. However, almost a quarter of respondents didn't realize that regulations were updated and that they should check them regularly, so if that group includes you, now is a great time to get up to speed. Also, make sure you're protected with an affordable snowmobile insurance policy.

What Is Required for My Snowmobile?

In most states, annual renewal of registration is required for active snowmobiles. In Illinois, registration can be renewed online or by telephone by providing your Illinois registration number and snowmobile body serial number. Once a confirmation number is received, it's safe to operate the sled, according to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. If you've moved since the last annual renewal, you'll be prompted to update your address and new snowmobile decals will be issued for your sled.

Are you a first-time snowmobile owner? Many retailers will help guide you through your initial registration, which often involves the Department of Motor Vehicles or Department of Natural Resources, or both. In Illinois, this includes a physical inspection of the sled by a law enforcement officer in addition to providing documentation, paying a fee and completing a snowmobiling application.

Some states highlight snowmobiling regulations and tips on their DMV or DNR websites. The Minnesota DNR offers a 32-page PDF booklet that explains:

  • how to register your snowmobile
  • how to attain and display trail stickers
  • rules for traversing trails and roadways
  • snowmobile trail sign meanings
  • safety tips and training requirements
  • equipment and operator requirements
  • use during hunting season
  • updates for the year

Find the Rules For Your State:

Alabama Alaska Arizona Arkansas California Colorado Connecticut Delaware Florida Georgia Hawaii Idaho Illinois Indiana Iowa Kansas Kentucky Louisiana Maine Maryland Maryland Massachusetts Massachusetts Michigan Michigan Minnesota Mississippi Missouri Montana Nebraska Nevada New Hampshire New Hampshire New Jersey New Jersey New Mexico New York North Carolina North Dakota Ohio Oklahoma Oregon Pennsylvania Rhode Island South Carolina South Dakota Tennessee Texas Utah Vermont Vermont Virginia Washington West Virginia Wisconsin Wyoming

Where Can I Drive My Sled?

It can be tempting to fuel your snowmobile and traverse your neighborhood or local parks. But each state has rules and set areas where snowmobiles (and other off-road vehicles) are allowed.

New York has a State Snowmobile Trail System covering over 8,000 miles, made possible by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP) and local snowmobile clubs. The system traverses forest preserves, parks and public access easements. However, snowmobiles aren't allowed in wildlife management areas and conservation easements.

Travel Wisconsin offers an interactive online map of the state, including current snowfall amounts and updates on trail conditions and grooming. Some entries on the website include photos, a contact person for more details and even upcoming winter sporting events that might be of interest to local snowmobilers.

The takeaway? Spend some time researching how involved your state is with snowmobiling. A quick Internet search will turn up local maps, clubs and guides to make your outdoor adventures even more enjoyable -- and legal.

Learn to Be Safe this Year

When operating any type of vehicle, safety comes first. Since snowmobiling is often a seasonal sport, kick off the winter months by taking a safety course. This is a great way to learn about new technology, such as GPS systems and tracking beacons, which can be lifesavers in an emergency situation.

In addition to operating the snowmobile with caution, your state may require specific safety features to make your sled roadworthy. 

In Colorado, sleds must have at least one white headlight capable of illuminating people and objects at least 100 feet ahead of the snowmobile in normal weather conditions, a red taillight visible from 500 feet behind the sled, a functioning braking system, validation decals adhered to both sides of the machine and a muffler in good working order, according to Colorado Parks & Wildlife.

Is your snowmobile ready to operate legally and safely for the 2015 season? Contact your state's DMV or DNR to get the most up-to-date information regarding snowmobile registration and safety standards.

Also make sure you have proper insurance coverage for yourself and your sled in the event of an emergency. Let an independent agent help you discover if your state requires snowmobile insurance and what the policy needs to cover, including operators of the sled, the vehicle itself and any damage it may cause to structures or people.

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