Do You Need a License to Drive a Snowmobile?

You need to have a valid driver’s license to operate a snowmobile legally in many places, but you won’t need a specific snowmobile license. You’ll also need to get a trail permit to operate a snowmobile on public lands in some states.  

However, the rules and regulations are different in every state and province, and you might need to take a safety course as well. 

I’m Chaz, and I’ve been riding snowmobiles for over 25 years. I’ve ridden on trails throughout the US and Canada and have looked into the various regulations that exist wherever I go. 

Since requirements vary depending on where you live or ride, I’ll break things down by state or province here to help you get a better understanding of if a license or trail permit is needed in your area. 

Keep reading to learn the rules specific to your home state or province. 

Driving a Snowmobile for Beginners

If you want to drive a snowmobile, you don’t need a snowmobile driver’s license. But in the areas that require you to have a regular driver’s license to ride a snowmobile, you’ll need to have this on your person whenever you ride. 

It’s also important to know that the driver’s license requirements are typically for riders between the ages of 16-18 who want to drive without adult supervision. They also help to make sure that adults have enough basic safety sense to operate a fast-moving machine.

It is still possible to drive without a driver’s license if you are under age 16 in many places – as long as an adult rider is supervising or accompanying the younger driver on the trails. 

Public Vs. Private Land

Another thing to know about snowmobiling regulations is that most of them apply to public land areas. Public land such as National Forest covers vast tracts of areas scattered across North America, but there are plenty of private lands to explore that aren’t under regulation. 

If you own or have access to private land, you can snowmobile there without many (or any) regulations. Keep in mind that you should still ride safely and always wear a helmet, even if you don’t have to follow public land laws.

Regional Requirments 

Here is a look at some of the regional requirements concerning a license or permit for a snowmobile. If you don’t see your region here, there are no license requirements listed. There still might be other requirements in place, so keep yourself informed before heading out. 

Some states also require that you pass a safety course and obtain a certificate – which is somewhat similar to a license. 

Colorado

Colorado requires out-of-state visitors to obtain a Non-Resident Snowmobile permit. Residents of the state aren’t required to have one. 

Idaho

Idaho also requires a non-resident license for trail and road snowmobile use.

Illinois

Trail permits are required for out-of-state visitors and cost $25. 

Iowa

Out-of-state trail passes are required and cost $15.

Michigan

Trail permits are required for all snowmobilers and cost $48.

Minnesota

Trail permits are required for all snowmobiles and cost $36. Helmets are also required for anyone under 18, and any residents born after December 31, 1976, must have a snowmobile safety certificate. 

Montana

Riders 16 years and up must have a valid driver’s license. Non-residents need to have a temporary use permit that costs $25. Residents must possess a groomed Trail Pass that is a one-time lifetime fee of $37.50. 

North Dakota 

Trail permits are required for non-residents and cost $25. 

Utah

Riders 16 and up need to have a valid driver’s license. Ages 8-15 must complete a Highway Safety Education Course before driving a snowmobile. Non-residents have to buy a user pass for $30. 

Vermont

A trail permit is required for residents and non-residents alike. The fee is $100 for residents and $130 for non-residents. 

Wisconsin

A trail permit is required, and the costs range from $10 to $30. For non-residents, a trail permit will cost $50. 

Wyoming

Trail permits are required for all out-of-state snowmobilers and cost $35.

All of the information above applies to riding on public lands or motorways such as roads. There are more specific rules for each state concerning where you can ride, age restrictions, and others. Here is some more helpful information with that in mind. 

FAQs

Here are some common questions relating to if you need a license to drive a snowmobile. 

How old do you have to be to drive a snowmobile by yourself?

This varies from location to location. As a general rule, you will have to be 16 years old to drive a snowmobile by yourself. There are some exceptions to the rule you can find here. And if you are on private land, the same restrictions don’t always apply. 

Can I drive a snowmobile?

This is a broad question, but almost anyone with a valid driver’s license can drive a snowmobile. You’ll want to check any regulations specific to your state or local area before driving on public lands and roads, however. 

Is a snowmobile considered a motor vehicle?

According to the definition spelled out by many states and provinces, a snowmobile is not always considered a motor vehicle. That means these machines will have their own specific rules and regulations for operation. 

Safety Considerations

Even though the rules and regulations for driving a snowmobile might differ from location to location, safety rules remain the same. Snowmobiling is an endless amount of fun, but it also can be very dangerous. 

Whenever and wherever you ride, be sure to wear a helmet and always keep your sled under control. Never ride alone if you don’t have to, and if you drive on roads with other vehicles, make sure to obey all signs and right of way considerations. 

Final Thoughts

You don’t need to get a specific license to drive a snowmobile. But if you are going to ride somewhere other than your home state, you’ll probably need to purchase a trail permit to gain access to public trails. 

Whether you ride in your backyard or travel long distances to enjoy the sport, it’s always a good idea to check the rules and regulations for each state – just so you are aware and don’t risk getting a fine or ticket. 

Do you know of any specific snowmobiling rules in your location? Let us know in the comments below!

About Chaz Wyland
I’m a snowmobile fanatic. I live for riding and am out on the trails or backcountry as often as possible during the winter months. I was born and raised in the Rocky Mountains and have snowmobiled in dozens of North American locations. When the snow is falling, you’ll find me on a sled.

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