Back in the “old days” you could just hop onto any old snowmobile and buzz around North Muskoka as you pleased. There were very few rules and regulations and quite often you were making the trails as you went along.

Of course, things are much different now as the system is a lot more organized and safer than it was in years past. Now there are many legal factors to consider before you operate a snowmobile in Huntsville and all of Ontario.

Obey the Signs

This one seems pretty basic, but it’s amazing how people can lose track of their common sense when they get out on a snowmobile. Everyday road signs still apply even though you are on a snowmobile, and you must also obey all signs posted on actual trails.

Exercising caution and closely following speed limits are two of the smartest things you can do, because not only will they help you avoid tickets and fines, they can also save your life or someone else’s life.  It’s also the law to wear a helmet at all times that meets provincial standards.

Impaired Snowmobiling

Just as with your car, snowmobiling while impaired is against the law. If you are caught snowmobiling with a blood alcohol level between 0.05 to 0.08, you could get your driver’s license suspended on the spot for 30 days. If it is higher than 0.08 the suspension will be for 90 days and you may be looking at criminal charges.

The cottage is usually associated with unwinding and fun, but it’s important to monitor your drinking if you plan on taking the snowmobile out. Even though places like Skeleton Lake, Lake Wasoesa and Lake of Bays seem huge when they’re frozen over, the police are out there looking and there is zero tolerance when it comes to impaired snowmobiling.

Your License

There are also legal factors to consider where licensing is concerned, and the same rules don’t apply to everyone. For Ontario residents over 16 years of age, you must have either a valid Ontario driver’s license with G1, G2, M1 or M2, or a valid Motorized Snow Vehicle Operator’s License (MSVOL) to operate a snowmobile on all open OFSC Prescribed snowmobile trails and highways.

If you are a resident between 12 and 15, you must have a valid MSVOL to drive on trails, but no one under 16 is permitted to drive across any road anywhere in Ontario, including Huntsville and throughout North Muskoka. For non-residents of Ontario, you must have a valid driver’s license from your province, state or country in order to drive a snowmobile lawfully. Failure to produce the proper license when stopped could result in a fine of up to $1,000.

Registration and Insurance

Another $1,000 fine is possible if you are fail to produce valid registration and liability insurance when asked by a police officer or conservation officer. Carry these with you at all times in the same place you carry your license, and you should be fine.

Where You Can Ride

Regardless of how free and open it feels out there, you can’t ride a snowmobile anywhere you like, even if you do have the proper license and insurance.

You can ride a snowmobile on your own property anytime, or on private property with the owner’s permission, and on private trails if you’re a member of the organization that owns them. On most public roads, it’s also permitted to ride along the side of the road, between the shoulder and fence line.

Stay away from the shoulder and main travel portion of all roads and high-speed roads like the 400-series highways. Just in case you miss the signs, keep it at 50 km/h and under on proper trails and on roads where the posted limit is higher than 50 km/h. If the posted driving limit is 50 km/h or less, the snowmobile speed limit is 20 km/h.