How much snow do you need to snowmobile?

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To get the most out of your snowmobile, you’re going to need enough snow on the ground. 

But, many new riders find themselves asking: how much snow is enough to snowmobile? And what are the risks of snowmobiling when there’s not much snow on the ground?

While this one may seem simple, the answer is going to depend on where you’re riding and the type of sled you have. 

Continue reading to get the details. 

How much snow do you need to snowmobile?

Since snowmobiles are designed for use in the snow, it seems obvious that you’ll need at least some snow on the ground to ride. (You can learn more about how snowmobiles work here).

In general, there should be at least 6” of snow on the ground for snowmobiles

However, it’s not an exact measurement. Depending on where and how you’re riding, you may require more or less snow. 

For example, a lighter snowmobile will require slightly less snow than a heavier model. Find out how much a snowmobile weighs here.

Other examples of when you may need more or less snow include:

  • Riding on trails vs. off-trail. 
  • Power vs. snow pack. 

On trails, the minimum amount of snow will be dictated by the trail operators. Some trails open with as little as 3-4” of snow, while others may wait for at least 1 foot. 

Off-trail, you’ll typically need to wait for at least a foot of more snow to ride safely and have the most fun.

 If you’re riding in powder, it’s also best to have more snow accumulated. 

Riding fast and aggressively will always require more snow than taking a leisurely ride on a groomed trail. 

Minimum Snow to Ride a Snowmobile

To recap, depending on where and how you ride, you will need at least 6” to 12” of snow to safely ride a snowmobile. 

Risks of Snowmobiling in Without Enough Snow on the Ground

Riding a snowmobile without enough snow can open you and your machine up to some risks. 

The main risk will be running into or over obstacles and terrain that would normally be covered by the snow, such as:

  • Branches. 
  • Divots.
  • Stumps. 
  • Trees. 
  • Rocks. 

Riding over hard obstacles like these can do damage to your skis and snowmobile track.

Most sleds perform best when they’ve got an adequate amount of snow to ride on top and carve into. Without it, it can be difficult to control your snowmobile. 

Another risk of riding without enough snow is overheating the engine. 

If there’s not enough snow on the ground, it may be too warm to keep the engine cool enough. 

Some snowmobiles are designed to take advantage of the snow and ice they kick up to help keep the machine running at optimal temperatures. 

If the engine gets too hot, it can cause major damage. 

Can you ride a snowmobile without snow?

Now, if you’re really itching to ride when there’s no snow on the ground, you do have some options. 

For one, snowmobile drag races on the grass are a popular event in some places. 

An open field of grass is generally a safe surface to ride your sled on under the right conditions. 

You will need to be sure that you don’t overheat the engine and you’ve got the right skis and track for riding on grass. 

You’ll also note that in some areas you may be required to cross the street on your snowmobile. 

While riding on pavement for long periods of time is definitely not recommended, crossing a small section of road (where it is legal to do so) is usually alright.