It is clear to see why northern Michigan attracts thousands of snowmobile enthusiasts each weekend. With northern Michigan's extensive trail system, abundant snow and exciting terrain, it is the perfect setting for a snowmobiling adventure for all ages. Michigan also offers plenty of lodging and snowmobile friendly pubs and taverns and terrific dining as well. Winter in Michigan is a rich tradition. From Gaylord's SnowCross 2000 to Tip-Up Town in Houghton Lake, there are plenty of activities all winter long in Northern Michigan. These are just a couple reason why sledders of all ages come to northern Michigan every week to work, play and sled!

Pre-Season Tips | Trailer Purchasing | Pre-Season Trailer Prep | Trailer Laws | Sled Laws | Prohibited Operation | Accident Reporting | Youth Restrictions | Required Equipment | Sled Registration | Sled Facts | Recommended Equipment | Safety

Sled Trails

Pre-Season Tips
Probably the single most important reason people come to northern Michigan to snowmobile is because of our extensive trails. Northern Michigan has a network of trails that sprawl the entire northern lower peninsula. From Grayling in Crawford County, you can easily reach Roscommon, Kalkaska, Otsego and Oscoda Counties. Michigan also boasts many restaurants and motels so you will never be left out in the cold. No matter how big or small your next snowmobile trip to northern Michigan, remember these few little tips to help make your trip a great experience.

Plan Ahead - Determine where you are going. Research lodging in the area and make accommodations. Try to find out what types of dining or grocery stores there are in the area. Acquire some trail maps ahead of time, and depending on your riding skill level and the level of those around you, choose trails that will not be too challenging or too long. Plan your days of riding and let friends or family at home know where you are and when you will be returning, checking in periodically. Never ride alone. Be sure to follow maps, and if you get lost, ask a local business or citizen for directions. If you must approach a private residence, park your sled at the end of the driveway and walk up with your helmet off preferably alone. This will reduce intimidation of the property owner. Most people are very willing to offer directions.

Maps - Detailed maps are the key to snowmobiling fun in northern Michigan. You can Acquire maps at county chambers of commerce. Chambers are also a great resource to find restaurants, lodging and other points of interest in the area. Chamber staff members are always eager to help and very resourceful.

Sled Courtesy - It is common knowledge that speed and alcohol kills. Every year hundreds of people are injured due to careless snowmobiling. Many are injured seriously and many die. Nearly all these fatalities are directly related to excessive alcohol use and excessive speed. Currently under Michigan law it is illegal to operate a snowmobile while under the influence of alcohol. It is also illegal to travel at a rate of speed greater than is reasonable for existing conditions. These laws are strictly enforced by local and state police as well as the Department of Natural Resources. Sledders, do us all a favor, keep you speed down and save the drinking until after the ride.

Trail Courtesy - This one is simple. Pack out trash. If you see some along the way, pick it up. I keep a garbage bag on board for this reason alone. If you are doing something that leaves more that a snowmobile track, you are doing something wrong. Lets all try to keep Michigan the cleanest and most beautiful state in the union!

Sledding in northern Michigan is with out a doubt some of the very best in the world. These are just a couple of simple guidelines mainly to refresh your memory and to introduce a few basic sled concepts to new riders. Both sled veterans and newcomers can benefit by reading about sled laws and trail courtesy from time to time. So next time you are out on the trails, try to practice these simple guidelines, this will help insure a safe and fun ride and keep Michigan a great place to live.

Purchasing Your Trailer
Choosing a snowmobile trailer can be tricky business. A lot of time is spent moving sleds around town, on the highways and down driveways. Often the type of trailer you have can make the difference between a weekend wonderland or a highway horror. Here are a couple tips on trailer purchasing, maintenance and laws that will help insure your next up north trip is a fun, safe and trouble free one.

Order early - there are many discount incentives for pre-season buying and consumers should try to take advantage of these deals.

Buy according to your needs - Keep in mind your vehicle, the number of sleds you normally tow and the features that are the most important to suit your needs.

Research braking methods - One of the most important features on a trailer is brakes, and many customers are unaware of which braking method to choose. While electric brakes are less expensive and allow a driver to adjust the strength, they are difficult to adjust once weather conditions start to change. Surge brakes do not require a control box and can be used by any towing vehicle, however they give the driver little control over how much braking is used.

It all comes down to personal preference - Only you know what you truly want in a trailer. By researching options ahead of time, you can avoid the last minute decisions that may be made in haste or confusion.
Pre-season checkup
Trailers are no different than snowmobiles, they require pre-season checkups to make sure they perform properly and safely.
Tires - Remove the tires, check air pressure, and for slow leaks. Look on sidewalls for dry, cracked sidewalls, strange or uneven wear patterns and embedded debris. If you suspect any problems, replace them, it is always better to be prepared. Always keep a spare trailer tire, jack and a safety jack on board just in case.
Bearings - Cleaning and greasing the wheel bearings can be a big job, however it is very important for the proper performance of your trailer. Solvent from your local hardware store and an old toothbrush are the best tools for this messy job. Once you have cleaned the bearings, inspect them for discoloration, pitting and excessive play. Bearings are relatively inexpensive, so it is better to replace them if you suspect any problems.
Wiring - Many people are apprehensive when it comes to inspecting anything electrical, but checking the lighting on your trailer is safe and easy. First walk around the trailer and conduct a general inspection for broken lenses or water filled housings. Next, check all the connections for corrosion or broken wires. Sometimes a little corrosion can be sanded with a fine grit sandpaper. Dielectric grease can also be applied to wires to prevent future corrosion. Finally, hook up your lights to make sure they work.
Trailer Laws
Each year sledders are ticketed because they failed to follow new or obscure Michigan trailer laws. These laws can be confusing, however it is important to research them to insure your next trip is not interrupted by the state police. Here are just a couple tips that might help next time you head out.
~ Trailers weighing less than 3.000 pounds do not require brakes, unless the weight of the trailer and cargo exceed 40% of the total weight of the towing vehicle.
~All towing vehicles, excluding pickup trucks, cannot exceed 55 miles per hour on the highway while towing their sleds.
~ The width of a trailer cannot exceed 102 inches.
~ A state law just passed raising the weight limits for surge brakes. It is now legal to operate a trailer with surge brakes as long as the gross weight of the trailer does not exceed 15,001 pounds. This is an amendment to the old gross vehicle weight of 5,500 pounds. A trailer that exceeds this weight limit must have electric brakes.

These are just a few tips on pre-season checkups, most of it is common sense, some of it is tedious, but all of it will help make your next snowmobile adventure a great one. Remember being prepared and safe can allow you to enjoy this great state for years to come. For more information on Michigan towing laws, visit and click on Michigan Compiled Laws. By using keywords like "trailer" or "towing," you will be able to access all the state trailer regulations. MichiganŐs Secretary of State also has brochures and pamphlets on trailer laws.

Sled Laws and Regulations
A snowmobile may not be operated on a public highway excepting the following:
~ A snowmobile maybe operated on the right-of-way of a public highway (except a limited access highway) if it is operated at the extreme right of the open portion of the right-of-way and with the flow of traffic on the highway. Snowmobiles operated on a road right-of-way must travel in single file and shall not be operated abreast except when overtaking or passing another snowmobile.
~ A snowmobile may be operated on the roadway or shoulder when necessary to cross a bridge or culvert if the snowmobile is brought to a complete stop before entering onto the roadway or shoulder and the operator yields the right-of-way to any approaching vehicle on the highway.
~ A snowmobile may be operated across a public highway, other than a limited access highway, at right angles to the highway for the purpose of getting from area to another when the operation can be done in safety and another vehicle is not crossing the highway at the same time in the immediate area.
~ An operator must bring his or her snowmobile to a complete stop before proceeding across the public highway and must yield the right-of-way to all oncoming traffic.
~ Snowmobiles may be operated on a highway in a county road system, which is not normally snowplowed for vehicular traffic; and on the right-of-way or shoulder when no right-of-way exists on a snowplowed highway in a county road system, outside the corporate limits of a city or village, which is designated and marked for snowmobile use by the county road commission having jurisdiction.

Prohibited Operation of a snowmobile
~ A person shall not operate a snowmobile: While under the influence of alcohol, a controlled substance or a combination of the two.
~ At a rate of speed that is greater than is reasonable for existing conditions.
~ In a forest nursery, planting area or public lands posted or reasonably identifiable as an area of forest reproduction when growing stock may be damaged; or as a natural dedicated area which is in zones 2 or 3.
~ On the frozen surfaces of public waters within 100 feet of a person, including a skater, not in or upon a snowmobile or within 100 feet of a fishing shanty or shelter except at a speed required to maintain forward movement of the snowmobile or on an area which has been cleared for ice skating, unless the area is necessary for gaining access to public water.
~ Within 100 feet of an occupied dwelling between 12 midnight and 6 a.m. at a speed greater than the minimum required to maintain forward movement of the snowmobile.
~ In or upon the land of another without consent of the owner or his agent, when required by the recreational trespass act.
~ In an area open to public hunting during the firearm deer season from 7 a.m. to 11a.m. and 2p.m. to 5p.m.
~ While transporting on the snowmobile a bow unless unstrung or a firearm unless unloaded and securely encased or equipped with and made inoperative by a key locked trigger locking device.
~ On or across a cemetery or burial ground, an airport, a public or private parking lot, within 100 feet of a slide, ski or skating area, a railroad or railroad right-of-way.
~ To chase, pursue, worry or kill any wild bird or animal.
Accident Reporting
The law requires that the operator of a snowmobile involved in an accident resulting in injury, or death of, any person, or property damage in an estimated amount of $100 or more, must immediately notify a law enforcement agency within the county in which the accident occurred.
Restrictions on youthful operations.
A person under the age of 12 may not:
~ Operate a snowmobile without direct supervision of the parent or guardian except on property owned or controlled by the parent.
~ Cross a highway or street.
~ A person who is at least 12 but less than 17 years of age may operate a snowmobile under the direct supervision of a person 21 years of age or older or have in their immediate possession a valid snowmobile safety certificate.
~ A person who is at least 12 but less than 17 years of age may not cross a highway or street without having a valid snowmobile safety certificate in their immediate possession.

Safety education and training Snowmobile safety training is recommended for all snowmobile operators and required for youth ages 12 to 17. For more information on snowmobile training, please contact the Michigan Department of Natural Resources office in your area or call (517)373-1230, Law Enforcement Division, Lansing, Michigan. Or you can visit the DNR on the web at

Equipment Required Brakes
Each snowmobile must have a braking system capable of:
a)Stopping a snowmobile in not more than 40 feet from an initial speed of 20 mph while the snowmobile travels on packed snow carrying an operator who weighs 175lbs or more.
b)Locking the snowmobile's traction belt(s).

Noise - Each snowmobile manufactured after July 1,1977, shall be equipped with a muffler which does not exceed 78 decibels of sound pressure at 50 feet as measured by the 1974 SAE J-192a.
Helmet - All persons operating or riding on a snowmobile must wear a Department of Transportation-approved crash helmet.
Lighting - All snowmobiles must display a lighted headlight and taillight at all times during operation.

Registration and Trail Permits
A snowmobile shall not be operated unless the owner first obtains a certificate of registration and a registration decal. Before operating If owned by a nonresident, before operation in Michigan, a snowmobile must display a valid registration from the operator's home state or province, or be registered in Michigan. The registration certificate expires on Sept. 30 of the year indicated on the decal.

Any time a registered snowmobile is sold to another person, the registration must also be transferred. Contact the Secretary of State for transfer information. State Law requires that you affix the registration decals issued to the snowmobile to each side of the forward half of the cowl above the footwell. Beginning on July 1,1999 the registration decals will include the registration numbers assigned to the snowmobile.

A person who desires to operate a snowmobile in this state shall obtain a snowmobile trail permit sticker. The snowmobile trail permit sticker shall be valid for the period of 1 year which begins October 1 and ends September 30 of the following year. The trail permit sticker shall be permanently affixed to the forward half of the snowmobile directly above or below the headlight. Snowmobile trail permits are available from snowmobile dealers, Department of Natural Resources and license agents.

Snowmobiles are exempt from Registration and Trail Permit if they are: operated on lands owned or under the control of the owner; used entirely in a safety education program conducted by a certified snowmobile safety instructor; or exclusively operated in a special event of limited duration which is conducted according to a prearranged schedule under a permit from the governmental unit having proper jurisdiction.

In addition, a snowmobile used solely for transportation on the frozen surface of public waters for ice fishing is exempt from the trail sticker requirement, but must still be registered.

Beginning October 1, 2000 Suspended Operators License If your license to operate an automobile has been suspended by Michigan or your home state, you may not operate a snowmobile. Points assessed Operators License A person convicted of manslaughter, negligent homicides or a felony resulting from snowmobile operation shall have 6 points assessed against their driver's license. A person convicted of operating a snowmobile under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance, or with an unlawful blood alcohol content shall have 6 points assessed against their driver's license. A person who is convicted of operating a snowmobile while visibly impaired due to consumption of alcohol or a controlled substance shall have 4 points assessed to their driver's license. The information above was taken from the Michigan DNR

Sled Facts
Michigan is known by snowmobilers nationwide for its unique combination of abundant and dependable snow, exciting terrain, and extensive trail network.
~ Over 5,900 miles of designated snowmobile trails are located throughout the state in six State Forests, three National Forests, and many acres of privately owned lands.
~ Michigan is one of only three states that offer a large system of interconnected snowmobile trails.
~ More than 100 grooming tractors are used by 11 DNR offices and by 60+ grant program sponsors to groom the 5,900+ mile trail system.
~ Registration fees and snowmobile permit fees account for over 2.5 million dollars annually allocated for trail grooming.

Recommended Equipment for Operators and Passengers
~ An insulated snowmobile suit.
~ Sturdy gloves that provide both hand and finger protection and a secure grip on the controls.
~ Insulated boots for ankle and foot protection. Emergency Equipment
~ Tool kit (knife, pliers, adjustable wrench, electrical tape, plug wrench, and screwdriver).
~ Flashlight (extra batteries and bulb).
~ Matches (candles).
~ Disposable blanket (heat reflecting 'space' type).
~ First aid kit.

Snowmobile Safety
~ Always keep your machine in top mechanical condition.
~ Always wear insulated boots and protective clothing including a helmet, gloves and eye protection.
~ Never ride alone.
~ Avoid when possible, crossing frozen bodies of water.
~ Never operate in single file in a single file when crossing frozen bodies of water
~ Always be alert to avoid fences and low strung wires.
~ Never operate on a street or highway.
~ Always look for depressions in the snow.
~ Keep headlights and taillights on at all time
~ When approaching an intersection, come to a complete stop, raise off the seat and look for traffic.
~ Always check the weather conditions before you depart.
~ SLOW DOWN - speed is a contributing factor in nearly all fatal accidents
~ DON'T DRINK - alcohol impairs judgement and slows reaction time.


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