Montana Snowmobile Program
Montana is a great place for snowmobile enthusiasts.
Snowmobiling is one of the most exciting ways to experience the great outdoors!
The Montana Snowmobile Program provides grant funding to support snowmobile trail grooming and education so enthusiasts can ride safely in Montana. Montana State Parks administers the snowmobile program and its 4,000 miles of trails.
The funds that support the snowmobile program are completely separate from all Montana State Park revenues, camping fees, and related funding sources.
Snowmobiling is a fun and family-oriented activity.
A vast amount of National Forest land is open for winter travel. In some areas those traveling by skis, snowshoes, and snowmobiles must share the same routes and areas. Common sense and courtesy will provide a safe and pleasant experience for everyone.
Represent the sport well
- Be a savvy sports enthusiast. Recognize that people judge all snowmobile owners by your actions.
- Use your influence with other snowmobile owners to promote good conduct.
- Promote proper snowmobile education and training.
Care for the environment
- Do not litter trails or camping areas. Do not pollute lakes or streams.
- Snowmobile only when there is sufficient snow so you will not damage the land.
- Do not damage living trees, shrubs, or other natural features.
- Do not harass wildlife. Avoid areas posted for the protection or feeding of wildlife.
Be considerate of others
- Respect other people's property and rights.
- Do not interfere with hikers, skiers, snowshoers, ice fishermen, or other winter sports enthusiasts. Operate at minimum speeds near other recreationists and do not accelerate until well beyond those on foot. Stop and yeild the trail to dogsleds. Skiers and snowshoers should yield the track to oncoming and overtaking snowmobilers, unless the track is wide enough for safe passage.
- Lend a helping hand when you see someone in need.
- Make yourself and your vehicle available to assist search and rescue parties.
All winter recreationists should be aware that they have an impact on wintering wild animals, most notably that disturbing or displacing them causes them to burn more energy. Minimize your impact on wintering animals by following these guidelines:
- Avoid winter range whenever possible.
- Do not linger in the presence of animals, move along in a steady, deliberate fashion.
- It is unlawful to chase, harass, herd, or rally wild animals.
- Keep your machine in well-tuned condition to minimize noise and pollution.
- Avoid areas designated as "closed" for wildlife protection.
Snowmobiling is a fun and exciting sport the whole family can enjoy. However, winter offers certain challenges that require snowmobilers to take precautions.
- Ride smart, be prepared, and stay in control.
- Check ice and weather conditions before riding. Dress appropriately.
- Practice Zero Tolerance with respect to impaired riding.
- Never travel alone. Let others know where you are going.
Perform a pre-ride inspection
The performance of a pre-ride inspection is paramount to a safe, stress-free ride. Most equipment failures can be avoided by periodic maintenance and inspection. [Learn more]
Safety on ice: know the rules
The safest snowmobiling rule is never to cross lakes or rivers. Besides the danger of plunging through the ice, you have far less traction for starting, turning, and stopping on ice than on snow.
Collisions on lakes account for a significant number of accidents. Don't hold the attitude that lakes are flat, wide open areas, free of obstructions. Remember, if you can ride and turn in any direction, without boundaries, so can other riders. Therefore, the threat of a collision can come from any direction.
If you do snowmobile on the ice, make absolutely sure the ice is safely frozen. Don't trust the judgment of other snowmobilers. You are responsible for your own safety. Drowning is a leading cause of snowmobile fatalities. Know what to do if you go through the ice. [Learn more]
Be Avalanche Aware
Learn to recognize avalanche areas and avoid them. Carry avalanche rescue equipment including a transceiver, probe pole and shovel, and know how to use them. Review the local avalanche advisory when available.
It is your responsibility to know and follow established rules and regulations. The following is a summary of those rules, but you should also review additional information available from your county treasurer's office, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, U.S. Forest Service offices and ranger stations, and other state and county government sources.
Laws for Road Riding
MCA 23-2-631 states that snowmobiles may operate on maintained streets, roads, or highways only if:
- the roadway is drifted or covered by snow to such an extent that travel is impossible by other motor vehicles;
- the local government allows snowmobiles to travel on plowed roads with wheeled vehicles;
- the snowmobile operator possesses a motor vehicle driver's license or a snowmobile safety certificate and travels under the visual supervision of an adult.
General Snowmobiling Laws
MCA 23-2-6 defines the rules for operating a snowmobile in Montana.
- Operating on roads — Individuals wanting to ride on SPECIFICALLY designated roads or streets are required to have a driver's license. Minors must have a Snowmobile Safety Education Course certificate and be accompanied by an adult within eyesight.
- Crossing roads — Be careful when crossing roads of any kind. Come to a complete stop and make absolutely sure no traffic is approaching from any direction. Then cross at a right angle to traffic.
- Operation at night — When operating during the hours between dusk and dawn a snowmobile must use a lighted headlight and taillight.
- Accidents — The owner or operator of a snowmobile that is involved in any accident, collision, or upset in which personal injury or fatality occurs to any person shall report the accident to the nearest law enforcement agency immediately.
- Firearms — A person may not discharge a firearm from or upon a snowmobile.
Snowmobile Registration and Permits
Snowmobiles operating on public land must be registered and display decals placed in a conspicuous space on the left side of the cowling. Registration is different for Montana residents and nonresidents. See details below.
Residents – Montana residents must register their snowmobiles at the County Treasurer's office in the county where the owner resides. This is a one-time registration and valid until the current owner sells the snowmobile.
Nonresidents – Nonresidents who plan to ride their snowmobiles in Montana must purchase a Snowmobile Nonresident Temporary Use Permit for $25 per machine.
- Apply Online - You may apply for your Nonresident Snowmobile Permit online through Online Licensing System.
- Paper Application ( 24 KB) - You may print the Snowmobile Nonresident Temporary Use Permit Application, fill it out, and mail it back to Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (address is on the application).
- Vendor List ( 37 KB) - You can apply for a Snowmobile Nonresident Temporary Use Permit at one of the many vendors in Montana, Idaho, Washington, and Wyoming.
Snowmobile Online Safety Education Course
Those riders who do not possess a valid driver’s license must take and successfully complete a Montana approved snowmobile safety course for riding on public lands.
The Montana Snowmobile Safety Course is available online. You may work at your own pace through the courses. At the conclusion of the instruction, you will take a final exam. When you pass the certification exam you will be able to print a temporary certificate and your permanent card will be mailed to you within a few weeks. There is a modest fee for the course, but the certificate has no expiration date.
You can take the online course through either of the following approved education services:
For questions concerning the Montana State Parks Snowmobile Program, please contact Seth McArthur, (406) 444-3753 or by email.
Nonresident Snowmobile Safety Education Certificates
Nonresidents may wish to contact their state snowmobile association or the agency responsible for their state's snowmobile education program to find a snowmobile course offered locally. Official safety certificates from other states are accepted in Montana.
- Montana Snowmobile Association – This organization is a group of individuals and Montana snowmobile clubs interested in promoting safe and ethical snowmobiling.
- American Council of Snowmobile Associations – This national organization was formed to unite the snowmobile community.
The Snowmobile Advisory Committee advises FWP on snowmobile issues in Montana relating to the funding, provision of, development, renovation, maintenance, management, usage and promotion of snowmobile trails in Montana.
Christina Miller, Technical Advisor
5001 South Gate Drive
Billings, MT 59101
Term ends: N/A
PO Box 788
Lincoln, MT 59639
Term ends: December 31, 2014
519 29th Ave NE
Great Falls, MT 59404
Term ends: December 31, 2013
Tom Reilly, Technical Advisor
1420 East Sixth Avenue
Helena, MT 59620
Term ends: N/A
556 Connor Court
Missoula, MT 59802
Term ends: December 31, 2013
P.O. Box 484
West Yellowstone, MT 59758
Term ends: December 31, 2013
Nate Gassmann, Technical Advisor
P.O. Box 100
Wise River, MT 59762
Term ends: N/A
Montana offers over 4,000 miles of groomed snowmobile trails. Trails are groomed by local clubs or the chambers of commerce with grant money provided by Montana State Parks. Grooming funds are derived from snowmobile gas tax refund and decal fees. Trail maps are available from your local club, Forest Service offices, or the Montana Snowmobile Association.