The DNR communications team works with agency experts to develop the weekly questions and provide the answers. This feature addresses current DNR issues, interesting topics, or the most frequently asked questions from around Minnesota.





What does it take to get the state snowmobile trails ready for riding?

In the late fall trail maintenance begins with clearing the right of way of fallen trees, debris and encroaching brush so that there is a safe running surface of at least 12-15 feet wide and 10-12 feet overhead clearance for the groomer. Also, signs need to be checked for clarity and proper placement

Swamps need to be packed down so the base will freeze. The swamp grass insulates the ground and needs to be knocked down with a tracked unit.

After the trail has had its base set and cleared we need six to 12 inches of packable snow to do the first base packing runs. Light fluffy snow falls contribute little to the snow base that is required. This first packing run is with the grooming tractor and the trail drag using primarily the packing pan and the cutting blades raised up to not to stir rocks/ dirt and leaves to the surface. To set a good base they need to go slow and try to fill in holes with snow and if possible create a hard snow-ice base that will stay throughout the snowmobile

Les Ollila - DNR Trails & Waterways supervisor



How thick should the ice be before I venture out on it?

Remember that the thicknesses below are only guidelines for new clear solid ice and that many factors other than thickness can cause ice to be unsafe such as currents, wind, water chemistry, vegetation and its age. It’s also important to note that white or milky ice is only about one half as strong as new clear ice.

  • 4” of new clear ice is the minimum for travel on foot.
  • 5” for ATVs or snowmobiles.
  • 8” - 12” for cars or small trucks.

Before any trip on the ice, check with a local resort or bait shop for conditions on the lake where you are heading. Then check the ice a number of times as you walk out, since ice is seldom a uniform thickness, especially early in the season.

Tim Smalley - DNR Boat & Water safety specialist


Q: Where can I find information about snow depth and ski trail/snowmobile trail conditions?

The DNR provides a Web page that provides snow depth and ski/snowmobile trail condition reports for DNR-maintained trails around Minnesota. Information is updated weekly or as conditions warrant. For current conditions go to

- Greg Spoden - State Climatology Office


Q: The red pine is the Minnesota state tree. How did it earn this distinction?

The legislature felt it was important to adopt a state tree as a symbol of the history and physical characteristics of the state. The red pine, or Norway pine, is native to Minnesota and is found in pure stands in many parts of the state. In the early history of Minnesota, red pine timber played an important part in the state economy. But above all, the red pine is a sturdy and majestic tree. It was adopted as the state tree in 1953.

- Rick Klevorn, DNR Division of Forestry


DNR Question of the Week Archive