Michigan Snowmobiling as a teenager is a memory I will forever cherish. Living in the Upper Peninsula, I had nothing else to do but chart the uncharted wilderness during the long winter months.
I would cover thousands of miles every winter season on my snowmobile. We would burn up the miles on Michigan's perfectly groomed trails as fast as my immature fearless younger self could muster.
My friends and I went snowmobiling as often as we possibly could as it was an excellent way to pass time. Especially since my home town of Houghton is known for receiving over 300 inches every snow season. Yes, that's 300 inches per year!
I had no idea how fortunate I was to grow in such a beautiful region. The snowmobiling trips we took were often at night for several reasons. First, it gets dark at 5 p.m. during the winter months. Second, we found that we could see the oncoming snowmobile headlights through the woods. Lastly, fewer people were brave enough to ride at night so there was less traffic!
The thing I wish I could do over during my Michigan Snowmobiling adventures is to ride more frequently during the day. Night riding, while exciting, limits your view to what you can see from your headlights. On the occasions when we did ride during the daytime I was in awe of the unique unexplored areas of the U.P.
Stopping at frozen waterfalls or blasting through an old Copper Mining town 100 years removed from the modern world was unbelievable.
Knocking the snow off snow covered tree limbs that hung over the trails was always a blast. The key was timing your nudge of the limb juuuust right so your buddy would get a face full of snow! Of course, he always deserved it since he started it! I learned the hard way that the key was staying in front of the pack.
The Michigan Snowmobiling memories I cherish the most are actually while remaining perfectly still. Riding on a sparsely ridden trail during a gentle snow storm only to stop 20 miles in the middle nowhere and not hear a sound is magical. It's hard to explain, but snow falling is a sound unlike any other experience.
It limits all noise depth perception to a dull roar of snow flakes colliding on the descent to a friction filled, fuzzy noise that ends in a sudden microscopic thud. Sound and visual perception is askew. Think of a sound proof room filled with cotton balls falling from the ceiling. It's the most relaxing sound on the planet. The contrast is only heightened from the previous noise of the sled.
Michigan Snowmobiling Snowfall Report
I miss the good hard snow storms that occur frequently in the snow belts of northern Michigan. If you haven't heard about snow belts I won't blame you. Large snow falls are common-place in snow belts.
Real hard snow falls start at 12 inches but since it's generally in underpopulated areas you won't hear about it on the news. It's not really something that sells commercial spots on the weather news! These high snow levels are caused by lake effects from Lake Michigan and Superior. The lake effect snow happens when a weather front crosses over the usually warmer water of the lake and creates super cooled water ready for snow fall once it hits land.
This snow fall is common place in the Upper Peninsula but would render most people on the east coast of the United States to park on the highways and clean out the grocery stores in panic!
The best way to find the condition of the trails is to ask the hotels and the local areas chamber of commerce.
How Long is Snow on the Ground?
Season opens Dec. 1 and closes March 31 and grooming occurs when there is enough snow on the ground.
Even if you live in Michigan, it's hard to imagine just how proficient the daily snow removal routine is in the northern parts. Some areas mow grass 6 months out of the year, here we plow and shovel snow.
- Your Michigan snowmobile adventures should involve considerable planning. Be sure to understand the weather patterns before your trips. Most weather moves from North West to South East.
For optimal snow fall, temperatures need to stay in the mid 20 degrees Fahrenheit range. Typically, the Northern parts along Lake Superior have the most unpredictable snowfall. Next is the West coast of Lower Michigan to about 100 miles inland. Snow tapers off the further you go East.
Trails are groomed such as you would see at a ski lodge. I sure miss seeing the trail groomer go by the house. The moment it passed it was mandatory to break out the sled and enjoy the virgin groomed trails of Michigan.
Ready? Lets Get Your Michigan Snowmobile On!
So you have read about snowmobiling but you're not sure how to get started. You are in luck because we can help with that! Just use the contact us form and we would be more than happy to help you learn more about the sport and how to experience it in Michigan. If you don't own a snowmobile, not to worry as we have solutions for that.
Rent a Snowmobile
All of our top gateway cities rent snowmobiles. Typically they range in price from $200 to $400 a day. Different brands of snowmobiles along with seating capacity are some of the options available.
Most places include a helmet in the price of rentals.
Top Ten Snowmobiling Tips
- Plan ahead
- Call ahead
- Stay off Frozen? Water!
- If you Rent, reserve early
- Check the weather from a local source
- Trails are best in the Northern and Western parts of Michigan
- Reserve hotels well in advance
- Ride responsibly, learn the trail signs, laws and etiquette
- Bring extra food and water
- Plan for emergencies. Have a radio, maps, meeting points, phone numbers and a buddy system. Check often that your group is all accounted for.
What to Bring Snowmobiling
We recommend the following cold weather gear.
- Warm gloves that are dexterous enough to move your fingers and still grasp the controls of the snowmobile.
- A scarf you can wrap around your neck or better yet a snowmobiling mask.
- Snow Pants.
- Sweater or sweatshirt for an added layer that can be removed if you get to hot.
- Snowmobiling Jacket or similar. Key features are no longer than waist length and a collar that zips up around your neck.
- Comfortable warm pants, not jeans as they can chafe while riding.
- Good warm snow boots.
Snowmobile Apparel What it Looks Like
Top Michigan Snowmobiling Gateways
- View Our Cheboygan Page or Cheboygan Trail Map
- Keep to the right side of the trail.
- Operate in a safe and courteous manner.
- Give Michigan Snowmobiling trail groomers the right of way.
- Reduce your speed when there is oncoming traffic.
- Give uphill riders right-of- way when you are traveling downhill.
- Slow down and give the right-of-way to any skiers, hikers, persons on snowshoes or dogsleds you might encounter.
- Always report illegal operation out on the trails.
- Slow down when passing a parked snowmobile on the trail.
- Ignore the posted speed limits for an area, as well as all other trail signs.
- Pull over on a turn or curve. If you need to stop along a trail, pull over to the right side of the trail and only do so on straight stretches.
- Leave your engine running if you need to stop for any length.
- Ride on private property without permission.
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