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Ask a Conservation Officer: Cross-country ski pass rules

Q: I buy a Minnesota ski pass most years, but not always at the beginning of the year. Do I need to purchase it before I ski on a grant-in-aid or state park trail, or just once a year?

A: Much like a driver's license or fishing license, a person skiing on a state park, state forest or grant-in-aid cross country ski trail in Minnesota must have their ski pass purchased before skiing, and carry it with them when on the trails. Failure to obtain and possess a ski pass is punishable by citation and fine.

In the Duluth area, this includes trails at Lester Park, Hartley Park, Chester Bowl, Magney-Snively, Piedmont, Jay Cooke State Park, the Two Harbors city trail, the Silver Bay ski trail, and any other trail funded in part by DNR grant-in-aid funds.

On most of these trails, you will find the requirement for the pass listed on the primary map or trail signs, along with a square brown "Ski Pass required here" sign. The money for the pass goes toward the acquisition, planning and maintenance of these trails, and helps to keep them available to skiers. There is also the option to purchase a three-year pass to minimize the frequency of purchase.

Recent work efforts where ski and motorized trails intersect have found much higher violation rates among cross-country skiers than snowmobilers. Support the trails, avoid a citation, and get a ski pass. Happy trails!

Matthew S. Miller is a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources conservation officer with the Lake Superior Marine Unit. Send your questions to