Snowmobiling: Trackin’ on Powder

By Karen Prather

[December 2019 | San Juan Silver Stage]

IF YOU FIND YOURSELF running out of halls to deck, simply look to the garage (where you likeldy keep all your snow gear),  and take your festivity to the streets. This time of year provides the ideal weather for snow sports of all kinds, especially snowmobiling, the favorite of many motorheads. Whether you’re practically a professional or you’ve never been on a snowmobile in your life, Southwest Colorado offers prime powder for all skill levels. The area around Silverton, Colo. boasts over 150 miles of snowmobiling trails maintained by the Silverton Snowmobile Club rising as high as 13,000 feet!

NOVICE: “This doesn’t look like a sled…”

If this is roughly your first time on a snowmobile, often referred to as a “sled” by frequent riders, you might want to start on slower terrain with easier climbs. Grand Mesa features some beginner trails just perfect for those trying out the sport for the first time. The Sunlight-Powderhorn Trail, one of the longest snowmobile trails in Colorado, provides plenty of space for those attempting to get higher speeds but who are not yet comfortable racing.

INTERMEDIATE: “Sledneck in training…”

The best rides for middle-skilled snowmobile enthusiasts fall on the Uncompahgre Plateau. The flatness of the plateau ensures a developing rider doesn’t reach uncontrollable speeds, and the availability of groomed and ungroomed trails in this area provides diversity to the ride and the opportunity to improve. The Uncompahgre sits only a half-hour from the city of Montrose, and experienced riders recommend this area for a day trip due to its massive 1.5-million acres.

EXPERT: “They call me a ski-doo jockey…”

Black Mesa, in Gunnison National Forest, hosts the fastest snowmobiling in the region. Due to its abundance of groomed trails and vast open spaces, professional-status snowmobilers can reach the desired, thrill-igniting speed they love! Many riders with an extra need for speed make the tough climb up the peaks of Baldy Mountain and ride back down, some reaching 6,800 feet. Groomed trails, accessible from Silverton, offer incredibly scenic rides through the San Juan Mountains.

Winter’s Warnings… 

Snowmobiling enthusiasts of all levels need to know a few things.

1. Don’t forget a friend: Every winter, missing sportsmen remind us to always ride with a friend and notify someone before hitting the trail. Any knowledge of a missing recreator’s whereabouts can mean the difference between life and death, as we enter a hopefully snowy season.

2. Mind the blue signs: A snowmobiler must respect certain areas designated for cross-country skiers. Different vehicles alter the grooves on the snow and can impair the quality of the ride on backcountry ski trails. We must share the trails with each other to ensure we all enjoy our public lands to their fullest.


Snowmobile images courtesy Jim Lokey, Silverton Snowmobilers,