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Snowmobiling picks up in Douglas County

A DATA official takes a second pass at grooming the Central Lakes Trail for snowmobilers on the morning of Friday, December 20. DATA has 370 miles of groomed trail in the Douglas County area. (Blaze Fugina/Echo Press)1 / 2
A DNR officer rides on the Central Lakes Trail on the morning of Friday, December 20. Conditions have been good for snowmobiling in Douglas County, but a few more inches of snow would make the trails even better. (Blaze Fugina/Echo Press)2 / 2

Thanks to the winter’s early snowfall, most of the snowmobile trails in Douglas County have been groomed and are ready for riding.

Although much of the state has been blessed with some early-season snow, officials at the Douglas Area Trails Association (DATA) are looking for a little more to fill in the trails for a smoother ride.

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“They’re quite rough yet,” said Jeff Linn, a trail administrator with DATA. “The tree line areas where the snow blows in is pretty deep and pretty smooth. But the fields and the pastures where there is not real good snow yet, they’re quite rough. So it’s a work in progress.”

According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, currently there is an average of about 10 inches of snow in Douglas County. This has provided plenty of snow in low spots and by tree lines, but windy conditions can leave higher-located trails with less coverage.

“The hills are pretty rough because it blows right off and into the low spots,” Linn said. “We try to put our trails down along tree lines where it will accumulate or in the low spots where it will blow in.”

DATA has about 370 miles of trails, but that number fluctuates throughout the year when landowners make requests for changes. Linn estimated that up to 70 percent of the snowmobile trails are located on private property.

With about 650 landowners who allow snowmobilers on their property, the trails often change throughout the year. New construction is one reason why DATA officials are often asked to move a trail.

“We move it 10, 12, 15 times every year,” Linn said. “We have 370 miles of trial so there is always a new building going up somewhere or a new driveway.”

Another reason that landowners request changes is anger over snowmobilers who go off-trail and trespass on their property. DATA officials urge snowmobilers to stay on the trail and obey signs, unless they have permission from a landowner to ride on the property.

“We preach every year about respecting private property,” Linn said. “Stay on the trail. It’s great to go out and hit tree lines and stuff off-trail, but if you want to do that, get ahold of somebody that you know that won’t care. Don’t just go ripping across somebody’s field, because they will get mad and call me.”

Snowmobilers also have the option to ride on some city streets in town, but most choose not to because the pavement is tough on their sleds.

Linn also urged snowmobilers to become members of DATA if they often ride the local trails. The annual membership fee is $20 and the contributions help pay for trail insurance, new trail developments, double grooming in the peak of the winter season and an annual landowner appreciation dinner.

Membership numbers in associations like DATA also determine how much funding the DNR offers for trail upkeep.

“If you enjoy snowmobiling, become a member,” Linn said. “Support your sport.”

Snowmobilers can find out more about DATA at, or by calling Linn at 320-834-2033.