A comprehensive collection of downloadable and online access resources provides tools to help establish and retain access for snowmobiling. An online library of research studies related to snowmobiling impacts is also provided.
Materials presented in the Access Resources section of this website are examples of some of the best snowmobile access and trail management materials available. Additional best practice examples include:
Red Creek Bridge Project (2005 Recreational Trails Program Award winner)
This Michigan RTP project constructed a multi-use bridge over Interstate 75 to provide access to the trail systems on each side in a safer manner.
Best Management Practices for Adaptive Trail Grooming
These best management practices focus on overall trail grooming objectives, fleet management principles for grooming programs, the importance of off-season storage and maintenance, managing grooming operations and controlling the most common wasteful grooming practices.
Management Factors to Consider Regarding Fat Tire Bicycle Use on Groomed Snowmobile Trails
Allowing fat tire bicycle use on snowmobile trails is ultimately a local decision based upon local circumstances. Nine suggested best management factors are provided for trail managers to consider when deciding to either allow or disallow fat tire bike use on their local snowmobile trails. View a full report regarding this topic in the Access Resources section.
Management Factors to Consider for Concurrent Tracked OHV Use on Groomed Snowmobile Trails
Allowing any type of OHV use on groomed snowmobile trails must be a local decision based upon local circumstances. Eight suggested best management factors are provided for trail managers to consider when deciding to either allow or disallow concurrent tracked OHV use on groomed snowmobile trails. View full report in the Access Resources section.
Twelve Principles for Minimizing Conflicts on Multiple-Use Trails
Recommendations to help minimize real conflicts while maximizing winter recreation opportunities.
Planning for Multiple Use Winter Recreation
These excerpts from ‘Facts and Myths About Snowmobiling and Winter Trails’ best practice suggestions for winter recreation planning. View the full Facts and Myths booklet.
American Council of Snowmobile Associations (ACSA)
developed the following materials to assist clubs, associations and trail
managers in their efforts to provide and protect snowmobiling access:
- Implementation Guidance for the U.S. Forest Service Over-Snow Vehicle (OSV) Travel Management Rule
The U.S. Forest Service issued an amended Travel Management Rule (TMR) – Subpart C related to over-snow vehicle (OSV) travel in January 2015. This OSV Travel Rule will affect all National Forest System lands where snowfall is adequate for OSV use to be allowed and requires that a system of roads, trails and areas be designated for motorized OSV use. Once roads, trails and areas are designated under Subpart C – all other OSV use is prohibited if not in accordance with the prescribed OSV use designations.
Subpart C is distinctly different than Subpart B of the TMR which applies to all other motor vehicles. Consequently it’s important to understand those differences – whether snowmobilers, Forest Service employees, or other trail managers and users – to properly apply the OSV rule on the ground to help ensure an appropriate range of desired snowmobile riding opportunities remain available going forward.
This resource includes a Power Point training program along with an implementation guidance manual developed by Trails Work Consulting and ACSA. It provides: 1) an overview of the OSV Travel Rule, 2) an outline of the ‘six steps’ in the Forest Service OSV designation process, 3) guidance on adapting the ‘4 E’s’ to effective OSV travel management, and 4) an Appendix containing the Forest Service Travel Management Rule – Subpart C in its entirety, along with other associated pertinent travel management regulations.
Access Guide for Snowmobiling on Private and Public Lands
A resource designed to help snowmobile clubs, associations, and trail managers
establish and retain permission for snowmobiling trails and areas on private and
public lands. Access is about building relationships – no matter where or what
types of land ownership.
- Chapter One discusses issues that can be obstacles to private lands access and
provides suggestions on how to work with private landowners. Decisions regarding
whether or not snowmobiling access will be allowed on specific pieces of
property are clearly reserved for the owners of private lands and are most often
driven by economic and risk management factors. Access to these properties often
requires either a close working relationship with individual landowners or
financial compensation for access to their lands – or both. It is also crucial
that landowners be protected from any liability connected to their allowing
recreational use of their properties.
- Chapter two outlines how to work with public land managers within the context of
the rules they must follow. While snowmobilers are one of many ‘owners’ of
public lands, snowmobiling access to these lands is not a right of ‘ownership.’
Public agencies of all types have been designated to manage the various
categories of public lands. These agencies have the authority to allow or
disallow activities on lands under their management, typically through various
public involvement processes influenced by agency missions, policies, and social
pressures. Access to public lands for snowmobiling requires participation in
complex and lengthy agency rulemaking and planning processes, as well as
establishing good working relationships with on-the-ground managers in these
agencies. It also oftentimes requires efforts by snowmobilers to provide funding
and volunteer partnerships to help public agencies accomplish their missions.
More and more, public recreational access is being influenced by recreation
groups – like snowmobilers – who bring resources to the table since public
agencies have limited resources for recreation development and management.
- Chapter Three provides examples of tools that have proven to help improve and retain access in various areas across the Snowbelt. It is important to use best management practices and consider management options that help eliminate or mitigate concerns landowners and public land agencies may have about snowmobiling on their lands. Good trail system layout and design, signing, fencing, law enforcement, education, and special laws or restrictions can all help address issues that may affect access. Understanding what scientific research says the real impacts of snowmobiling are is also important when negotiating for access with landowners and agencies. If you have access, you need to do everything possible to keep it, including expressing appreciation to your landowners and land agencies. And if you’re trying to obtain new access, be aware that it can be increasingly more difficult with each passing year. It is important to recognize changing times and the need for long term visions and, on occasion, even new approaches. It may also sometimes be necessary to bend over backwards, make concessions, or enter into unlikely partnerships to help keep or gain access. Whatever it takes, it’s important to make the efforts – because without permission for access, there are no opportunities for recreational snowmobiling.
- Facts and Myths About Snowmobiling and Winter Trails
Knowing 'the truth about snowmobiling' is important to access efforts. This
myth-busting publication addresses the topics of:
- Snowmobiling – A Provider of Multiple Use Trails and Opportunities
- Snowmobiling – A Catalyst for Winter Economies
- Cooperative Partnerships
- Soil and Vegetation Compaction
- Emissions and Air Quality
- Snow and Water Quality
- Sound Levels
- Wildlife Impacts
- Social Conflicts
- Planning for Multiple Use Winter Recreation
- 'Twelve Principles' for Minimizing Conflicts on Multiple Use Trails
Research Studies Related to Snowmobiling Impacts
compilation of scientific research provides web links or summaries from 160
studies related to snowmobiling impacts. These studies can also be viewed in the library section of this site where over 120 studies can also be downloaded.
Whether old or new, this research information has relevance to present
day discussions about snowmobiling access. Important perspectives can be gained
by following the progression of knowledge forward in time, from old to new, as
impact topics gain perspective with new research that either dispels myths or
better defines real impacts. This compilation represents the ‘best available
information’ about snowmobiling impacts.
Fat Tire Bicycle Use on Snowmobile Trails: Background Information and Management Considerations
This report provides background information about fat tire bicycles, including perspectives from bicycling advocates involved with working to gain access to groomed snowmobile trails, to help snowmobile trail managers better understand potential issues and perspectives. The report does not advocate for or against allowing fat tire bicycle use on snowmobile trails since that is ultimately a local decision based upon local circumstances. Nine factors are suggested for trail managers to consider when deciding to either allow or disallow fat tire bike use on their local snowmobile trails.
Management Factors to Consider Regarding Fat Tire Bicycle Use on Groomed Snowmobile Trails
Allowing fat tire bicycle use on snowmobile trails is ultimately a local decision based upon local circumstances. Nine suggested best management factors are provided for trail managers to consider when deciding to either allow or disallow fat tire bike use on their local snowmobile trails.
- Assessment of Tracked OHV Use on Groomed Snowmobile Trails
This project collected information about existing or potential tracked OHV use on groomed snowmobile trails. It does not advocate for or against allowing any type of OHV use on groomed snowmobile trails; that clearly must be a local decision based upon local circumstances. The report includes: 1) a compilation of ‘snowmobile’ definitions currently used by U.S. and Canadian jurisdictions since this is a primary means by which tracked OHV use can be either allowed or prohibited, 2) findings from a trail manager survey that identified current winter OHV use trends, 3) field test observations that compared snowmobile and tracked OHV impacts, and 4) general recommendations to help guide local trail management policies.
Management Factors to Consider for Concurrent Tracked OHV Use on Groomed Snowmobile Trails
Allowing any type of OHV use on groomed snowmobile trails must be a local decision based upon local circumstances. Eight suggested best management factors are provided for trail managers to consider when deciding to either allow or disallow concurrent tracked OHV use on groomed snowmobile trails.
- Supplemental Assessment of Tracked OHV Use on Groomed Snowmobile Trails
This project builds upon information learned during the 2014 Assessment (see above report). It focuses on documenting tracked OHV operating characteristics and impacts in a wider variety of on and off-trail settings. It also broadened the tracked OHV database by observing and documenting tracked motorcycle operation on groomed snowmobile trails. It does not advocate for or against allowing any type of OHV use on groomed snowmobile trailsthat clearly must be a local decision based upon local circumstances.
Findings from the 2014 and 2015 Assessments were integrated to develop ‘Management Considerations for Concurrent Tracked OHV Use on Groomed Snowmobile Trails’ to assist local trail managers, which are found in chapter two of this report.
‘Snowmobile Friendly Communities’ Program Guide
A resource to help state snowmobile associations recognize communities and businesses that cater to the needs of snowmobilers. Communities and businesses designated as ‘snowmobile-friendly’ can benefit from enhanced tourism promotion opportunities. In turn snowmobilers can benefit from improved safety and access to services, along with easy recognition of communities and businesses that will cater to their trip needs. The suggested guidelines and considerations are intended to be customized by states and local communities to develop programs that best fit local circumstances.
- Access Education Posters
These education materials were developed by the American Council of Snowmobile Associations (ACSA) to help sustain snowmobiling access by promoting responsible riding habits. The downloadable 8 1/2" x 11" posters provide snowmobile clubs, associations and individuals a choice of materials to help address their local priorities and issues. Quarter- and half-page ads (for both newspaper and magazine format publications) that feature the poster messages are also available by contacting the ACSA office.
Respect for closed areas, regardless of whether they are private or public lands, is important since closed areas often contain hazardous conditions for snowmobile operators. Other areas may be closed due to sensitive landowner relations or due to special management prescriptions that benefit wintering wildlife or nonmotorized recreation. Help encourage snowmobile operators to respect closed areas, both for their personal safety and to help protect continued access to other riding areas.
Top Tips for Effective Trail Grooming
This Power Point training program was developed by Trails Work Consulting and ACSA to help grooming managers and groomer operators be adaptive to changing snowmobile trail grooming needs. It outlines numerous top grooming tips and includes illustrative photos, video clips, and detailed presenter notes.
Best Management Practices for Adaptive Trail Grooming
These Best Management Practices (BMPs) were developed by Trails Work Consulting and ACSA to help trail managers be adaptive to changing snowmobile trail grooming needs. They focus on overall trail grooming objectives, fleet management principles for grooming programs, the importance of off-season storage and maintenance, managing grooming operations, and controlling the most common wasteful grooming practices.
Canadian Council of Snowmobile Organizations (CCSO)
www.ccso-ccom.ca provides the following materials related to obtaining and
preserving snowmobiling access:
- Position Papers
cover 4 topics: Snowmobiling and Wildlife; the benefits of Organized
Snowmobiling; Snowmobiling and Safety; and Snowmobiling and Flora & Fauna
- Code of Ethics
Keeping Nature Beautiful stresses CCSO’s commitment to conserving the natural
environment and a Code of Ethics
International Association of Snowmobile Administrators (IASA)
www.snowiasa.org has developed the following materials to guide clubs,
associations and trail managers in their efforts in providing snowmobile trails:
Guidelines for Snowmobile Trail Groomer Operator Training – a resource guide for trail grooming managers and equipment operators. This resource guide provides guidelines for:
The manual's seven chapters cover an introduction to trail grooming; an overview of grooming equipment; managing grooming operations, equipment and safety; operating grooming equipment; maintaining grooming equipment; recordkeeping; and recommendations for groomer operator certification.
- Grooming recreational snowmobile trails to help improve the quality of trails and the effectiveness of grooming efforts and expenditures
- Training snowmobile trail groomer operators on the proper operation and maintenance of grooming equipment; proper trail grooming objectives, principles, and practices; and trail grooming safety issues
- Increasing community awareness of snowmobile trail grooming requirements and practices, including the need for the public to allow proper set up time on freshly groomed trails and safe operating procedures for snowmobilers when encountering groomers on the trail
- Groomer Operator Training Resource Guide PowerPoint Training Program
This series of over 500 Power Point training slides has been produced to accompany Chapters 1 - 6 of Guidelines for Snowmobile Trail Groomer Operator Training.
Guidelines for Snowmobile Trail Signing and Placement
This document provides general guidelines for the effective placement of signs
on recreational snowmobile trails. It was developed by IASA to provide minimum
guidelines for regulatory, caution signs, and trail markers and which it is
suggested should be applied to all officially designated snowmobile trails.
Evaluation of ATV Use on Groomed Snowmobile Trails
This project took an
in-depth look at issues and effects related to the operation of ATVs on groomed
snowmobile trails. Its intent was not to either encourage or discourage
concurrent ATV use but rather to provide landowners, recreationists, trail
providers, and political jurisdictions with better information to help them make
objective local decisions. This report helps expand trail managers’ and local
decision-makers’ knowledge about the potential effects of ATV use on groomed
snowmobile trails during the winter season. All decisions regarding ATV use on
groomed snowmobile trails are clearly reserved for implementation by local
jurisdictions and local trail grooming managers consistent with their local
priorities, conditions, and resources. In this vein it presents a summary of
findings, detailed results from field testing, and twelve factors that should be
considered before making decisions whether or not to allow concurrent
snowmobile-ATV use on groomed snowmobile trails.
International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association (ISMA)
provides the following materials related to snowmobiling access:
Treadlightly.org — ethics and responsible use materials provide important
messages that help preserve and enhance snowmobiling access:
- Tips for Responsible Snowmobiling Tips about traveling responsibly, respecting the rights of others, educating yourself, avoiding sensitive areas, and how to do your part to be a responsible snowmobile rider
- Guide to Responsible Snowmobiling This booklet will help you prepare for an enjoyable outdoor experience on a snowmobile, and at the same time, help you to be a responsible, positive influence on nature and those around you.
"Play Nice" PSA Poster — encouraging riders to share the snow with others and respect wildlife
- "Ride Hard" PSA Poster
— encouraging riders to Tread Lightly by riding only in designated areas
Snowmobile banner ad — downloadable banner encouraging travel only on
adequate snow cover
- "Snow How" PSA poster encouraging riders to know their snowmobile and personal riding abilities, along with knowing travel routes and riding boundaries
- "Snow It All" PSA poster encouraging riders to take an avalanche awareness course, carry proper equipment, know their abilities and respect riding boundaries
- Increasing Snowmobile Access and Reducing Conflict — Power Point and video
of training session presented by Kim Raap – Trails Work Consulting at the
International Snowmobile Congress on June 7, 2012
"Sled Warrior" poster
developed by the Idaho State Snowmobile Association as a fundraiser to help
educate the public about efforts to keep snowmobiling access open
‘Thanks to Landowners’ article — an article written by John Pruzak,
originally for Snowmobile Magazine and reprinted on the Minnesota United
Snowmobilers Association’s website, stressing the importance of expressing
appreciation to landowners who allow snowmobile trails to cross their property
"This Land is Your Land" a brochure developed by the Minnesota United
Snowmobilers Association for use by its clubs, with answers to ten common
questions from landowners who allow snowmobile trails to cross their property
"What (Really) is Wilderness?" a brochure developed by the Colorado
Snowmobile Association to help educate the public about what wilderness really
is, and to stress that Colorado doesn’t need more Wilderness.
- "The Economic Costs of Wilderness" paper by Brian C. Steed, Ryan M. Yonk and Randy Simmons – Jon M. Huntsman School of Business, Utah State University (2011) Environmental Trends; Summary: Some Wilderness can have positive economic impacts but our findings indicate that this is not the general rule. We find that when controlling for other types of federally held land and additional factors impacting economic conditions, federally designated Wilderness negatively impacts local economic conditions. Specifically, we find a significant negative relationship between the presence of Wilderness and county total payroll, county tax receipts, and county average household income. By working together with local communities to address their concerns, environmentalists can help develop balanced policy that genuinely acknowledges the local economic costs associated with Wilderness.
This library is based upon Research Studies Related to Snowmobile Impacts which was developed by the American Council of Snowmobile Associations with financial support from the Federal Highway Administration – Recreational Trails Program. The Research Studies publication provides abstracts, summaries and web links for over 190 impact studies related to snowmobiling, approximately 150 of them can be downloaded in their entirety from this library.
Information presented through this scientific research can be an important tool to help
assist trail providers in negotiations for new or continued access. Whether old
or new, these studies have relevance to present day discussions about
snowmobiling access. While not every study applies to every local situation,
many can be credibly extrapolated for use where local situations are similar to
a particular study’s settings.
All abstracts are presented as direct cites from study authors. Information is organized alphabetically by impact topic, and then listed from the most recent to the oldest studies with key findings highlighted. Important perspectives can be gained by following the progression of knowledge forward in time, from old to new, as impact topics gain perspective with new research that either dispels myths or better defines real impacts.
This compilation represents the ‘best available information’ about snowmobiling impacts. Public land managers often use ‘best available information’ as their standard for analysis of impacts, particularly when local data are not available. Consequently this information should be shared and used to help land managers make informed decisions about snowmobiling access.
History of Snowmobiling Related Research
A large number of snowmobiling studies date back to the 1970s and 1980s – when snowmobiling was fairly new, growing rapidly in popularity, and concerns by land managers and citizens about this new winter activity were high. This early research often disproved concerns, showed snowmobiling impacts were far less than had been feared, or concluded additional research was needed to more fully analyze theories about alleged issues. As positive answers were found, the focus of recreation impact research gradually turned away from snowmobiling to other activities deemed to be higher priority concerns.
Interest in snowmobile impacts resurfaced in the late 1990s and early 2000s when public debate flared over continued snowmobile access to Yellowstone National Park. With snowmobiling under an intense spotlight, numerous new snowmobile studies were conducted through a series of winter use environmental impact statements and on-going monitoring of snowmobile use. While snowmobiling in Yellowstone is quite different from most other snowmobiling areas, new Yellowstone information is nonetheless useful for informed inferences about potential impacts elsewhere.
While the rapid growth of ATV use in recent years also generated new ATV/OHV impact studies, this compilation focuses solely on snowmobiling – except for a few examples where OHV-related deer studies reached similar conclusions as what snowmobile-deer research had decades earlier. Consequently – even though ATVs and snowmobiles have distinctly different operational characteristics – some aspects of their use are similar enough to sometimes make informed inferences on some topics.
Click on each impact topic below to view chapter sections and to download available research reports.