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Car safety courses are a popular topic, but safe practices for recreational snow sports shouldn’t be forgotten. Because of their speed and power, snowmobiles can pose safety risks if riders aren’t versed in handling them. In fact, some states require riders to take a safety course and/or obtain a snowmobile license. Alaska goes all out and doesn’t allow snowmobiles on public roads.

Here’s what you need to know to stay safe while having fun on a snowmobile. 

Adults need a snowmobile license or proof of a course in these states

Nate Zollinger on a snowmobile in Canada
Snowmobile | Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Several states require adults to take a safety course, but only to obtain a snowmobile license, according to PowerSportsGuide.

In Minnesota, anyone born after December 31, 1976, must have a snowmobile license to ride. As part of the license requirement, prospective riders must first take a safety course.

Some states, such as Montana, New Hampshire, and North Dakota, require snowmobile licenses only if the rider doesn’t have a driver’s license.

Vermont requires anyone with a birthday after January 1, 1983, to obtain a snowmobile license. Wisconsin has a similar requirement, except for those born after January 1, 1985.

In Colorado and Montana, adults must have a snowmobile license if they supervise youth riders.

These states require a youth license or safety course

Understandably, the number of states that require youth safety courses and licensing is more extensive, PowerSportsGuide explains. There are also minimum age requirements to operate a snowmobile in some states. 

Young people between the ages of 10 and 16 in Colorado must be accompanied by someone who has passed a state snowmobile safety course. Illinois has a similar rule for young people aged 12 to 15, but the person supervising must be at least 18 years old. On the other hand, Montana requires young people 16 years old and under to have a snowmobile-licensed adult with them.

In addition, anyone aged 12 to 17 years riding a snowmobile on public land in Iowa needs a license. For New Hampshire, anyone 12 and older without a driver’s license needs a separate license for operating a snowmobile on public land. 

In Michigan, anyone 12 to 16 years old has to get a license, while in New York, the age range is 10 to 17. Also in New York, young people 10 to 14 must additionally have a person at least 18 years old supervising.

As far as New Mexico goes, the age required for a snowmobile license is 18 and under. 

In North Dakota, youths at least 10 years old without a driver’s license need a snowmobile license. Pennsylvania has the same minimum age of 10 years old to operate a snowmobile, and anyone 10 to 16 needs a separate license. 

Utah, however, has no minimum age requirement but requires anyone under age 16 to have a snowmobile license. 

In Vermont, anyone born after January 1, 1983, needs a snowmobile license, but they also have to be at least 12 years old. (Interestingly, Vermont’s governor used to race snowmobiles.) Similarly, Wisconsin has a minimum age of 16 and requires anyone born after January 1, 1985, to get a license for using a snowmobile (but doesn’t have a decorated racer governor).

Here’s where it’s optional to take a snowmobile safety course

Some states just have suggested safety courses. But as Markel Insurance recommends, regardless of your state’s requirements, safety courses teach valuable tactics that particularly help first-time drivers and riders. Because knowing how to drive in the snow, being alert, and being responsible are pivotal to safe riding, these safety courses offer important techniques to minimize risk.

Additionally, it’s also advisable that riders be at least 16 years old since anyone younger might not have the best ability to handle riding and could be more easily injured. Markel Insurance continues that the American Academy of Pediatrics says children under age 6 should never be a passenger on a snowmobile because they don’t have the body strength to hold on. 

As for specific states, though a license isn’t required in Idaho or Indiana, it’s recommended that people take a state-approved safety course. The same is true in Oregon, but that state suggests riders take another state’s snowmobile safety course.


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