WHERE SNOWMOBILING BEGAN [ Northwest ] Every great road trip has a star destination, and if you travel to the northwest corner of the state, your top attraction is a no-brainer — depending on your favorite snowmobile manufacturer. Snow sports enthusiasts come from around the world to visit Arctic Cat, based in Thief River Falls, and Polaris, based in Roseau. These two companies embody the origins of the sport, and their machines have traveled the area’s trails since the 1950s. When you are out riding, keep an eye out for unusual-looking, unmarked prototype machines. It’s a thrill to catch a glimpse of the future in action. The northwest corner of the state is known for its Red River Valley agriculture, and many of the area’s snowmobile routes cross dormant fields. Be courteous, as always, of the landowners. Of course, you might also see them on the trails; perhaps more so than anywhere in the state, snowmobiling is a serious way of life here. Snowmobiles are excellent for crossing the long distances across these open lands. They are also useful for getting out to that perfect spot on the ice. Lake of the Woods is world-famous for its outstanding walleye fishing, and you’ll see many a sled packed with gear, possibly including a portable icehouse. As you ride east, the trails will take you to wooded terrain with more challenging riding opportunities. Enjoy gently rising glacial ridges and catch impressive views from occasional river valley overlooks. These remote woods are home to timberwolves as well as badgers, moose, bobcats, pine martens and other seldom-seen Minnesota mammals. Some of Minnesota’s most secluded wilderness can be found in this region, so plan carefully, fuel up, and let someone know where you’ll be riding. ROAD TRIP ATTRACTIONS Arctic Cat’s free, 90-minute factory tour is at 1 p.m. on weekdays. See the assembly process in action as new snowmobiles and ATVs come to life at this state-of-the-art plant. This guided, informative tour lets fans see engineers, assembly professionals and test riders in action. The Polaris tour starts at 2 p.m. on weekdays (Note: It’s about a two-hour ride between the two factories). After you’ve seen the production facility, visit the Polaris Experience Center, a 5,600-square-foot museum that chronicles the history of snowmobiling from the 1950s to today. See product displays (including vintage machines), films and exhibits. Monday-Saturday. If you haven’t had your fill of factory tours, Digi-Key in Thief River Falls offers a tour of its facility. The fourth-largest electronics distributor in the U.S. ships 3.3 million orders a year. In Warroad, you can tour the Marvin Windows factory and museum. Learn about how this family-owned company’s history is intertwined with the community. The Fourtown Store and Tavern in Grygla is a favorite hangout for test crews. Come in for a bite and you might get a chance to meet some of the people working on tomorrow’s innovations. You can also pick up odd parts for your machine at this handy one-stop shop. GREAT TRAILS The vast, moody and remote Lake of the Woods region offers hundreds of miles of snowmobile trails, including mellow ice rides across the lake, logging road trails through dark and silent forests, and trails that lead to remote Angle Inlet and the northernmost point of the contiguous United States. The Floyd Olsen Trail, just south of the lake, offers some nice twists and turns, while the Lake Trail heads straight north across the ice, just inside of the U.S. Canada border. Zippel Bay State Park, located in a rocky, nearly enclosed bay of the lake, includes three miles of trail, and connects to 300 miles more in the surrounding wilderness. The MC Trail System in Warren exemplifies Red River Valley riding. This wide, flat trail offers big prairie views with lots of pretty drifts. It connects to the Wapiti and Kittson Trails. The Wapiti Trail is one of five trails that run out of Thief River Falls. This 50-mile route heads to Grygla along easygoing railroad-grade terrain. These willow and poplar stands are home to fox, wolves, deer and moose. The Big Red Lake Bog links up to it if you’d like to see even more of this beautiful area. The Roseau County Trailblazers maintain The EDA Trails in Lost River State Forest. Named after three of the original founders of the sport: Edgar Hetteen, David Johnson and Allan Hetteen, this remote wilderness trail network runs up to the Canadian border and connects to hundreds of other networks in the Beltrami Island State Forest and beyond. (Photo by Roseau County Trailblaze rs) SELFIE SPOT - WILLY THE WALLEYE The 40-foot Willy the Walleye looks like he jumped straight out of the river into downtown Baudette. Find him close to the Main Street bridge over the Baudette River. (Photo by Roseau County Trailblazers) 26 Minnesota Snowmobiling Destinations