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Snowmobilers hit the Trails

Snowmobling in North Dakota.

Hit the snowmobiles trails this winter!

By Kent Brick

There are 2,800 miles in the statewide snowmobile trails system, and Perry Brintnell knows 233 of those miles very well. Brintnell, a farmer near Fordville, and his fellow Ridge Runners Snowmobile Club members, are responsible for grooming and maintaining that portion of the system. Their grooming machine is owned by the N.D. Parks and Recreation Department.

“It can be quite an adventure,” Brintnell says, describing the formidable task of creating or sustaining trails over all those miles.

“It depends on the snow conditions. If we've got good conditions and the going is good, we will groom the entire trail in about two-and-a-half days,” he says. Brintnell and Ridge Runners club members also have responsibility for placing 600 signs along their trail. Brintnell is president of the club, and represents area snowmobilers on Snowmobile North Dakota, the governing group contracted by N.D. Parks and Recreation to maintain the statewide trail system.

Brintnell is a lifetime snowmobiler, who can still recall his first ride in 1966. Today, with his club and trail maintenance responsibilities, he’s doing a little less pleasure riding than he’s used to, but that’s OK.

“Snowmobiling has always been a passion for me,” Brintnell says. “Sometimes I don't get the amount of riding done that I like, but after I've been out in our groomer, I call that my ride for the day.” Brintnell farms with his brother and nephews. The farm is served by Nodak Electric Cooperative, Grand Forks, and Polar Communications, Park River.

Keri Wanner, executive director of Snowmobile ND, applauds Brintnell, his club and the dedication of the other 35 active snowmobile clubs across the state.

“Clubs are the glue. I don't know what we would do without them,” Wanner says. “They’re so passionate about what we're doing, and go above and beyond to make sure things happen, and take care of the trails.” Wanner says local snowmobile clubs and riders are keeping the 2,800 miles of trails in good shape, using 14 grooming machines owned by N.D. Parks and Recreation. She says clubs also place a great deal of emphasis on family rides, youth rides and small town hospitality. 

“We are very proud of our youth rides,” Brintnell says. His club conducts a youth ride annually, hoping that young people will catch the snowmobiling bug that will ripen into a lifetime pursuit.

“Last year, we had 54 youth and 34 adults on our youth ride,” Brintnell says, adding the ride is usually held on a Sunday in February. It starts in Fordville, with the snowmobilers following a route taking in the communities of Lankin, Park River and Pisek.

Brintnell operates the groomer to get the trail ready for the youth ride. On the day of the ride, he’s traveling in his pickup, watching moms, dads and kids on their snowmobiles, and making sure arrangements are ready in communities where riders stop along the way. “It just tickles me pink to see those kids out there having a blast,” Brintnell says.

Wanner says snowmobiling is open to youngsters, who, if necessary, are certified to operate the equipment. A snowmobile safety certificate is issued by N.D. Parks and Recreation to snowmobile riders who are 12 years or older, who do not have a driver’s license, and who satisfactorily complete an operator’s course. She says the certificate can be attained online, adding that a considerable amount of snowmobile safety operation information is available through the N.D. Parks and Recreation website:

Wanner says a key to the care and maintenance of the vast state snowmobile trail system is care and respect for property, both private and public. The foundation of the trail system rests upon excellent relationships with landowners, who lease access across their property to facilitate the trails. Wanner says currently about 1,000 landowners work with local clubs and Snowmobile ND to achieve continuous trails. In the interest of maintaining good landowner relations, Snowmobile ND stresses that snowmobilers need to take care to stay on the trail system, and not veer off onto private property, which would be trespassing.

For more information, contact: Keri Wanner, executive director Snowmobile North Dakota at



Kent Brick is editor of North Dakota Living. He can be reached at