October 19, 2023
While most people are dreading the approach of winter, there is one group of people who become almost giddy at seeing snow in the forecast and a call for a brutal winter—snowmobile riders. It is a small group of adventure seekers, but most are fully hooked on an activity that includes beautiful views, a playful and childlike experience and plenty to feel proud of after a day on the mountain.
If you want something to look forward to this winter, you might consider heading out on a snowmobile adventure yourself. These are big machines and the sport can feel a little intimidating, so here are a few basics to know as you look ahead to a new activity.
What the heck do I call this thing?
Here in Wyoming, most people refer to these machines as a snowmobile or sled. In some other parts of the country, the term snowmachine is used, but it’s a little less common around here.
What kind of snow do you travel on?
On the most basic level, there are two main types of riding, trail riding and mountain riding. Trail riding sleds have a few more creature comforts to protect you from the wind or even to ride two people on the same snowmobile. Mountain riding typically means you want to venture off the trails and explore areas or play in deeper pockets of snow. If you are familiar with skiing, a trail snowmobile ride is sort of like cross country skiing or skiing down a groomed run at a resort. Mountain riding is a bit more like skiing an ungroomed run at a resort or backcountry skiing.
Is it hard?
For a very beginner rider, these machines can be quite simple and approachable. You have a throttle that is controlled by your right hand thumb and a brake that is controlled by your left hand. If you want to ride on trails and not make too tight of turns, it is pretty straightforward. So don’t let the size and weight of the machine scare you from giving it a try!
On the other end of the continuum, riding off the trail can feel very challenging to learn. There is a three-dimensional aspect to riding in deep snow because you are trying to drive forward, side-to-side, and stay on top of the snow. If you want to experience mountain riding, you will want to go with an expert rider or a guide service to help you have the most fun as a novice and to have them teach you a few important skills. Regardless of what kind of riding you do, if you get the snowmobile stuck deep in the snow, it can take some time and effort to get it out.
Is it cold to spend the day on a sled?
Many people are nervous about spending an entire winter day outside. It definitely takes a lot of preparation and gear consideration to be comfortable, but it can be easily achieved in any temperature above 0 degrees fahrenheit (below that and it’s pretty hard). A warm and well padded helmet and goggles are probably the most important item. From there the attire is typically a one-piece snowsuit or else bibs and a jacket. Also very important are warm boots and gaiters between your boots and pants that ensures no snow can get into your boots. Warm gloves are the usual choice to make sure your hands still have dexterity to run the throttle and brake. You will also want to have plenty of food and water for the day to make sure your body is able to stay hydrated and keep burning calories for energy.
Where do I start?
The best way to try out your first day is to book a day with a guide service who also does snowmobile rentals. For the snowmobile mecca of Togwotee Pass, this includes 3c Guiding, Togwotee Mountain Lodge and Brooks Lake Lodge. The first two on this list do day trips that require you to get to Togwotee Pass, and they can help with the rest. For Brooks Lake Lodge, you’ll need to book a package that includes a night or two of lodging, but you certainly won’t regret staying in a beautiful historic lodge and eating amazing food in the middle of a snowy mountain landscape (plus, they even have an outdoor hot tub to alleviate sore muscles).
Instead of dreading getting out your ice scraper and front porch shovel this year, give yourself the joy of having a winter adventure to look forward to and a memory that will last a lifetime.
Author Bio: Mandy Fabel is an avid outdoor adventurer and enjoys spending time climbing, snowmobiling and mountain biking in the Wind River Mountains. She lives in Lander with her husband and two year old son.