As 2022 comes to an end, I look back on what I did and sometimes add it to my bucket list, just so I can cross it off. Snowmobiling was never on the top of my list, but after going once, I just had to try it again. This year I went on two guided snowmobile tours; one in Alaska and one in Colorado. All I can say is it is so much fun!
As a blogger I plan to write a review of both places, however neither establishment provided me with a free trip so be sure these thoughts are mine alone. However, if you click on a link in my post I get a better algorithm and visibility on my blog, even if you don’t buy anything. Thanks
In late March, I visited Alaska and drove to several different towns including Alyeska. Alyeska is located 30 miles from downtown Anchorage and the largest ski area in Alaska. From the highest lift on the mountain at an elevation of 2,750 feet, you can even see the ocean.
One of the coolest things about visiting Alaska, is that glaciers are visible and you can even walk in or on them so I booked a 3-hour guided snowmobile tour that promised to take us to visit a glacier.
In December, I visited Winter Park, Colorado with my sons for a ski trip. We have visited this town located a two-hour drive from Denver several times and love the area. The elevation at the summit of Winter Park ski resort 12,060 feet.
As a Christmas gift, I offered to treat everyone to a 3-hour guided snowmobile tour to the Continental Divide. The Continental Divide is the water system that separates North and South America where water on one side goes to the Pacific Ocean and water on the other side goes to the Atlantic Ocean.
Preparation in attire
As complete beginners, no preparation was needed to enjoy a fun tour on either ride. Both places offered thermally insulated snowsuits, boots and helmets. In Alaska, you did not have a choice. You just wore what was given to you even though you felt like a Teletubby in this oversized snowsuit.
In Colorado, the suit and boots were offered as rentals. We were told if we wore our ski clothes we would be fine. That was not true. Luckily we spent the $5 each to rent boots but did not rent the snowsuits. After 3 hours with the sun going down and sitting on the snowmobile, we did begin to get a chill that took a while to go away.
I would recommend getting the snowsuit and boots even if you have warm clothes. Face masks were also available which we did not rent. We used our own facemasks which left some skin exposed and that added to the chill in Colorado. In Alaska, the helmets had a facemask piece attached.
Preparation in Snacks
On the Alaska ride, they promised a packed lunch and warm drink. We wandered over beautiful trails for a while and then stopped to eat the sandwich and have some hot cocoa. Wasn’t the best dining experience but it was a timely break and hit the spot.
On the Colorado ride, no one mentioned snacks or drinks. We had protein bars back in the condo which would have been a good idea to bring along and definitely water or hot cocoa in a thermos would have been ideal. The snowmobile has a small compartment in front of the handlebars which can accommodate small snacks and the cell phone. Also I have seen people wear a backpack which could easily contain snacks. If I had only known…
Skill and Safety
As a first timer, you may think you have no idea how to drive one of these machines and you are probably right.
While some people rent machines and go off on their own, I found it safer to have an experienced guide lead us along the trails of these unfamiliar landscapes.
Before we started, the guides have a checklist of all the safety regulations to go over. In Colorado, they kept pushing us to buy extra insurance in case we broke the machine. I thought that was unnecessary since wouldn’t our guide keep us and the machines safe? I imagine if you are reckless and head out on your own doing stupid stunts you could break a machine, but that wasn’t my plan so I declined the extra insurance. We brought our machines back just fine.
The snowmobile has a hand brake like on a bicycle on the left side, and a lever to squeeze on the right to increase speed. Also a red button is located on the right which will immediately turn off the motor and you cannot start the machine unless it is in the upright position. That’s about it.
We were advised to lean our bodies when the machine goes around corners and to leave about 50 feet between the machine in front and behind you.
For the first 15 minutes or so we were cautious. Increasing speed only to let go of the accelerator and maybe brake a bit.
March in Alaska, we started the snow machine guided tour with Alaska Wild Guides at an office in the village of Alyeska where we were given complimentary snowsuits, boots and helmets with facemasks. We were told our guide would give us lunch on our tour and meet us on the trail. Once suited up, we took a van outside of town. We had booked a trip to see the glacier and I was very excited as I had seen pictures on their website.
Pulling over to the side of the road, we disembarked just as the morning tour was returning. Our guide met us and gave us a quick lesson on how to operate the snow machines. We started off going very slowly as one member of the group seemed a bit cautious. Our guide stopped us to explain that we could start going a little faster now and for the most part, we did.
After touring narrow trails we stopped beside a river for a lunch break. At this point, our guide explained that we would not be able to visit the glacier as the ice near the glacier that the snowmobiles usually traverse had melted due to the warming spring weather. What a bummer!
We ate our tasteless sandwiches and sipped on hot cocoa then packed up our rubbish to bring back with us. Just as we started to leave, our guide pointed to the left in the woods. Sure enough, it was a MOOSE! The female moose decided to join us along the groomed trail and we stayed back as she walked ahead of us for a little bit. I was able to snap a photo before she had enough of us and hopped back into the deep snow between the trees. That was cool.
When we finished touring the trails our guide gave us an option of taking the snow machines in an open field with a long narrow ravine. He showed us how we could go fast and then travel up and down the ravine. What a rush! My son and I had fun speeding around the wide open field and racing between trees. We accelerated our smallish ski-doos up to almost 60 mph. I felt like a kid again! We took videos and had the best time. After that experience, I couldn’t wait to do it again with my other son in Colorado!
So December in Colorado, we met Grand Adventures Snowmobile tours behind the Winter Park Mountain Lodge. The office is located in the back of the hotel and equipped with snowsuits, helmets and boots. Once we paid we noticed that the other people in our group had put on snowsuits and boots. Apparently that is an extra charge here. Maybe because in Colorado they expect people to be dressed for skiing? Not sure why there is an extra charge. We dressed in our ski clothes but noticed their boots looked super warm. It is a $5.00 charge to rent boots. Seriously? We went ahead and rented the boots.
We had our own ski coats and pants and they provided complimentary helmets, although the face mask was an option to purchase. Knowing we had neck gators I figured we would be OK.
Once the helmets were secured, our guide led us outside to discuss the safety rules. After a quick lesson sitting on the snowmobiles to learn how they worked, we were off.
The trails were well traveled and even labeled with easy to read signs. At times another group passed us going the opposite direction. For people who want to go out without a guide, a map is provided and trails are groomed and often large enough for two way traffic. The advantage of going with a guide was that we could take the machines on narrow trails that were specifically labeled “Not for rentals”. The narrow trails were steep and between trees and fun to explore. We also didn’t have to worry about looking at a map or getting lost.
Exploring between the snow-covered trees on narrow trails was spectacularly scenic. We stopped at a high point to take photos of the nearby Winter Park ski area and adjacent mountains. Once on the main trails, our guide had a led foot and we went super fast – up to 40 miles per hour. The thrill of flying through the winter wilderness at high speeds was exhilarating.
We followed the historic “Moffat” railroad route to Corona Pass and the Continental Divide. Reaching an elevation of 12,000 feet can be tough so staying hydrated and not doing this trip on your first day in town is a good idea to avoid dizziness from altitude sickness. The wind was whipping at the treeless elevation and it seemed to be a popular destination as several other tours were leaving and arriving. We were fortunate to have a clear day and could see for miles.
After the Ride
On both occasions signs were blatant that tipping your guide 20 percent of your trip was expected. WOW. The 3-hour trip was approximately $350 each so that is something to consider. Having worked this past year as a guide for Horse-Back riding adventures, I know that those tips are super appreciated and you know it was Christmas…
This is definitely a splurge adventure but I thought it was super fun and I’m so happy to have shared this experience with my sons.
I started this blog with my adventure to Thailand and I still embrace that the most important lesson I learned from loss is that life is here to be lived. Yes, of course I miss my loved ones. The holidays can be notoriously difficult. This is the reason I try to create a new, fun, memorable experience when I know it will be tough. If I can drag a family member or friend along for the fun, all the better in my opinion.
What did you do this year to make life better for you?
Making friends playing Pickleball and Mahjongg has been fun though I still have a lot to learn.
Dressing up the dog for the Halloween parade and playing golf with my husband in our community brought me lots of smiles.
Planning trips to be with my sons is always an adventure I hope I can continue.
Snowmobiling 2022 was a definite 10 on a scale of 1-10. If you are considering it, I highly recommend just remember: dress warm and bring snacks! Also, be safe. The machines are big and you are going fast. That is why I prefer the guided tour – let me know if you give it a try!