Best start to winter recreation season since 2010
Anyone eager to get out cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling will find an abundance of opportunities at many Minnesota state parks and trails, thanks to this week’s heavy snowfall.
“The recent heavy snowfall and the forecast for sustained cold temperatures offers prospects of substantial, enduring snow cover deep into the month,” said Greg Spoden, state climatologist at the Department of Natural Resources. “It will be the best start to the winter recreation season since 2010.”
Staff from the DNR’s Parks and Trails Division and local clubs will be busy grooming trails in preparation for the upcoming weekend, but the DNR advises prospective park and trail visitors to check the website for trip planning tips before heading out to a winter recreation destination.
Snow depth and trail conditions are updated every Thursday after 2 p.m. throughout the winter months at www.mndnr.gov/snow.
Many Minnesota state parks rent snowshoes, and several rent cross-country skis. For rental locations and prices, check out the “winter activities guide” at www.mndnr.gov/winterguide.
For a schedule of upcoming programs and special events at Minnesota state parks and trails, including the popular candlelight ski and snowshoe events, visit the online calendar at www.mndnr.gov/ptcalendar or pick up one of the new “Programs and Special Events” brochures at park offices.
As always, the DNR urges outdoor enthusiasts to exercise caution around lakes and wetlands, because the early snow might act as a blanket over thin ice. Snowmobilers, in particular, should exercise caution and be alert to conditions.
For more information, contact the DNR Information Center at [email protected], 651-296-6157 or toll-free at 888-646-6367 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Complete snowmobile safety training now
Now that winter has arrived, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is encouraging snowmobilers to complete safety training.
“If you waited until the snow arrived before taking snowmobile safety training you may be too late to enjoy the season,” said Capt. Mike Hammer, DNR enforcement education program coordinator. “Classes fill quickly, and no snowmobile safety certificate, no snowmobiling.”
Plenty of safety training classes are available right now, he said.
Minnesota residents born after Dec. 31, 1976, must complete a DNR snowmobile safety training course before they can legally ride a snowmobile anywhere in Minnesota, including private land.
By taking a snowmobile safety course, Hammer said students learn about the machine, they learn about the laws, they learn safe operation, they learn the ethics of the sport and they learn how to avoid the most common causes of snowmobile accidents.
DNR snowmobile safety courses can be completed by either attending a snowmobile safety training course from a DNR-certified instructor in a local community or by CD.
To obtain the snowmobile safety training CD, or for general information, call 651-296-6157,
888-646-6367, 800-366-8917, or send email to [email protected].
More than 1,800 volunteer instructors teach DNR snowmobile safety courses across the state.
For more information on the dates and locations of these courses, visit the DNR website: www.dnr.state.mn.us (www.dnr.state.mn.us/safety/vehicle/snowmobile/index.html) or call
Don’t let guard down on the ice
With the recent weather mix creating varying ice conditions around the state, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources urges people to not let their guard down.
“Snow is bad for ice, but when rain is added — plus above and below freezing temperatures — this mix all in one week is not helping solid ice form,” said Kara Owens, DNR boating and water safety specialist.
Snow insulates the ice, preventing the cold air from getting through, which slows down the ice formation process. The heavy snow pushes down on the ice and could cause cracks. Right now, the ice under the snow could already be brittle because temperatures have been above freezing within the past week.
Ice is unpredictable and never 100 percent safe, Owens said.
“We are urging everyone to think twice before going out on the ice right now,” she said. “We know Minnesotans are eager to get out and enjoy the snow, but everyone needs to keep in mind the ice on your lake may not be safe.”
The DNR recommends anyone heading out on the ice should: carry a set of ice picks, check with a local bait shop or resort – ask about ice conditions – and measure the ice.
The DNR clear ice thickness recommendations are:
- 4 inches for walking.
- 5 inches for a snowmobile or ATV.
- 8-12 inches for a car.
- 12-15 inches for a medium-sized truck.
When the temperature rises above freezing for six of the last 24 hours, double the recommended minimum thickness. And remember, if it stays above freezing for 24 hours or more, stay off the ice – it is not safe.
For more information, visit www.dnr.state.mn.us/safety/ice/thickness.html.
12 lakes opened to spearing
Twelve lakes scattered throughout Minnesota, including two in the metropolitan area, now are open for darkhouse spearing, the Department of Natural Resources said.
Spearing restrictions were repealed effective Dec. 2 on the following lakes: Beers and West Battle in Otter Tail County; Big Mantrap in Hubbard County; Deer, Moose, North Star and connected Little North Star and Spider in Itasca County; Lobster in Douglas County; Cross Lake Flowage in Pine County; Eagle in Hennepin County; Owasso in Ramsey County and Sugar in Wright County.
Darkhouse spearing is limited to northern pike, catfish, whitefish and other rough-fish species. Other game fish species such as muskellunge are illegal to spear at any time. Anglers ages 18-89 need both an angling license and a spearing license to spear, unless otherwise exempt.
All other regulations related to spearing, angling and shelters apply to these waters. Additional information is available on page 77 of the 2013 Minnesota Fishing Regulations handbook and online at www.mndnr.gov/regulations/fishing.
For more information, contact the DNR area fisheries office nearest the lake of interest using the online directory at www.mndnr.gov/areas/fisheries.