In most cases, you can’t ride a snowmobile on the road. On the one hand, snowmobiles aren’t street legal in most states. Another concern is that riding on the road can damage your sled in many ways. If you want to learn more about the potential risks, or find out where you can ride your sled legally, this post is for you!
Can You Ride a Snowmobile on the Road?
If you live very close to a trail, maybe you’re wondering if it’s possible to ride your sled on the road to get to the trail. Before you do this, here are three important factors to consider:
- Risk of damaging the sled
- Legal issues
Let’s take a closer look at these!
Risk of Damaging Your Sled
Riding a snowmobile on the road or even the shoulder can damage it in many ways.
First, if your skis run on asphalt, gravel, or any other hard surface, it can ruin the carbides in a very short time.
Simply put, the carbides are the sharp edges on the wear rods. You can find these small “skegs” mounted on the bottom of the skis.
Damaged carbides often lead to less maneuverability and darting. Moreover, snowmobile carbides are very expensive to replace! In the worst case, you can even damage even the skis.
And finally, the engine can easily overheat if you ride your sled on the road.
This is because liquid-cooled sleds need a sufficient quantity of fresh snow to keep their engine cool. If there is not enough snow on the road or it’s hard-packed, your sled can overheat after only a mile of riding!
In addition to the above-listed risks, keep in mind that riding your sled on the road isn’t safe at all.
Sleds have much less maneuverability on asphalt than on snow, which can lead to many dangerous situations! This is one of the reasons why snowmobiles are not street legal in many states.
They are simply not designed to operate on roads!
Is a Snowmobile Street Legal?
As a rule of thumb, snowmobiles are not street legal in most states and countries. On the other hand, it’s usually legal to ride your sled on the shoulder of the road, as long as it leads to the trail. If you are not allowed to ride on the road nor the shoulder, you can still legally get to the trails in most cases by riding in road ditches. Finally, it always depends on local rules and regulations!
Because of this, it’s highly recommended that you double-check the local laws before hitting the road with your sled.
The variety of regulations causes a lot of confusion among sledders. This is because in many cases these laws can be county or even township specific! Here are some examples of regulations from different areas:
- In some states all public roads are open to snowmobiles, while in most states riding on roads is not legal.
- Certain towns open all their public roads to snowmobiles as long as they are covered with snow.
- In some countries all secondary roads are legal to ride on with a snowmobile. Furthermore, in some states, county roads are used as part of the trail system!
- In other areas you can only ride on the shoulder of roads to get to a connecting trail.
- In many areas you are not allowed to ride on the roads or the shoulders, but you can still usually ride your sled on the “right-of-way” of the road or in road ditches.
- The strictest regulations do not allow you to ride on the road or even on its surroundings. This means you are not allowed to ride your sled on the shoulders nor in the ditches!
So where can you legally ride your sled?
As you can see the laws vary from one area to the next. Thus, there is no clear answer to this question!
To stay safe and legal, best practice is to check and obey all the applicable laws and regulations!
Cases When You Have to Ride Your Sled on the Road
Let’s face it, sometimes it’s unavoidable to ride your sled on the road, or at least alongside it. Are you wondering what these cases are? Keep reading!
Fueling the Sled
There are snowmobile trails that go through gas stations, which is very convenient. But unfortunately, this is the rare case.
For most sledders, the only way to reach a gas station is to ride on the road or near the road.
If you are hesitant to ride your snowmobile into a gas station, the good news is that you can do it legally, as long as the local laws allow you to ride on these areas.
That’s why you can see many snowmobiles at gas stations, especially those that are close to the trails.
You can find some great tips on how to fuel a snowmobile in this article.
Reach the Closest Trail
Let’s face it, if there is a trail close to you, it doesn’t make much sense to put your sled onto a trailer.
That’s why it’s completely legal to ride to the closest trails in many towns and countries. For this purpose, you can use the roads, shoulders, or even the ditches depending on local regulations.
Sometimes to reach a connecting trail you have to ride a short distance on public roads or their shoulders. Fortunately, you are usually legally allowed to take these short trips.
What’s more, in certain areas some country roads are surprisingly part of the trail system! In other areas, all of the unplowed county roads are open to snowmobiling.
So, finally it seems you not only can ride to the next trail on the roads, but you can even enjoy sledding on many country roads legally. Finally, it depends on the local laws again.
Snow Emergency Situations
It’s also good to know that many states allow snowmobiles to ride on roads in a “state of emergency” or “snow emergency” situations. These happen regularly in the northern states.
Simply put, a snow emergency is when a lot of snow falls in a short period. The exact numbers may vary from one state to the next, but it’s typically around 4”-8” of snow in 24 hours.
In these situations, people usually have to stay home as the roads are difficult to drive on.
This is when snowmobiles come in handy. As sleds can even go on unplowed roads, they can be used to deliver medicines and food to people who get stuck because of the snow. What’s more, as emergency vehicles can’t reach these homes, it makes sense to use sleds instead of them.
That’s why many local officials ask snowmobile owners for help in such situations.
So, if your state allows you to ride your sled on the road in “snow emergencies” it doesn’t mean you should ride around the town for fun, but support others who are in need of help!
Can a snowmobile be street legal?
It’s safe to say that snowmobiles are not street legal in most states. What’s more, these laws are often township or county specific. This means that applicable rules may vary from one town to the next!
For your convenience, most counties and towns allow you to ride to the closest trails on the shoulders or in the ditches. It’s a great opportunity, as trailering the sled for a miles or two doesn’t make much sense.
It also has to be mentioned that many states allow you to ride on country roads with your sled.
Unfortunately, illegally riding on public roads is among the most common snowmobile violations. Because of this, it’s recommended that you check and obey the local rules and regulations.
If you are unsure whether you can ride on the street legally or not, don’t hesitate to call the state police or even the town hall for further advice.
When it comes to snowmobiling the number one rule always is to stay in safe and legal!
The information in this article is for general informational purposes only. This information shouldn’t be considered as legal advice. You should always check and obey the local laws to operate your sled legally!