Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Montana, Snowmobiling In Bozeman


Having just returned from Antarctica, I have been around enough snow to last me a lifetime. However, I have never gone snowmobiling. In Bozeman, Montana for a day and a half, the opportunity to do so presents itself.

The weather forecast is for a nice fall day although the surrounding mountains have a fair amount of snow from a recent storm. With a forecast high of 41F, I may have picked just the right day.

I am up early enough to begin my search for a snowmobile rental. I am finding out it is not cheap but I am hoping I will get some “Priceless” MasterCard moments out of the deal. I am sure the best riding is in West Yellowstone which is 90 miles away but my options are limited. My search ends with Big Boys Toys All Terrain Rentals which is located a few miles out of town (406 587-4747).

A few minutes completing “too much” paperwork and we are on our way to a local trail head. I am taken as far as the Chevy Suburban will make it on the snow covered gravel road. Last minute follow up instructions and I am cautiously on my way.



SAM1215 023 As a motorcycle owner I am familiar with the basic operations of the snowmobile but this is just a little bit different animal to maneuver. Having trees around along with an uneven surface and a cliff on one side of me is at first a bit unsettling.

I am almost content to remain stationary and enjoy the scenery.





SAM1215 025 In and out of each rut and around each curve my confidence is slowly building. Since I am alone on the trail each slide forward is virgin territory for my sled.

For now I am enjoying the riding challenge more than I am the scenery. A light falling snow forces me to contemplate the beauty around me as flakes melt against my face.







SAM1215 029 The snowmobile comes to a stop and with the push of a button I silence it.


The only sound that remains is the whistling wind as I overlook the trail's edge to capture pure white snow, rolling green mountain hills and a streak of blue skies. So breathtaking I am almost reluctant to awaken the silent snowmobile.



SAM1215 024 Reaching a sign post I continue a climb towards Little Bear Cabin which is 4 miles away.








SAM1215 026 Beep, beep, beep and a flashing red light gets my attention. With an overheat light on I bring the snowmobile to a stop.

No panic, I will just give it time to cool off. The area where I have stopped reveals some fresh animal tracks but a little too small to be Sasquatch.

I get my camera ready just in case.



A quick basic diagnosis and I make a start attempt without success. Does AAA make snowmobile emergency calls? A call to Big Boys and the machine starts up on my next attempt. Apparently, sometimes you have to open the throttle a little while pull starting, easy enough.



SAM1215 031 At the 4 Mile Marker, Little Bear Cabin is no where in sight. It may be down one of the now closed trails. I press on into more uncharted territory.

For an inexperienced snowmobile rider, in some areas the trail is becoming more and more challenging. My comfort level is starting to fall as the elevation rises above 7,000 feet.



I am looking for a spot to turn around on the narrowing trail. That spot comes when I hit a deep bank of snow that puts me in a sliding tilt which I manage to swiftly correct. I am no longer willing to play Christopher Columbus. With no room to safely turn around, I dismount and manually do a 180 by lifting the rear end of the snowmobile in a series of movement.




SAM1215 032 Overlooking Bozeman




SAM1215 033 My mission accomplished, I take in the best views of the day then begin my journey back.

This time the ride is more comfortable and delightful as I follow three previously made sets of lines down the hill.




Reaching the lower elevations I now have a warm sun on my back but a wall of gray clouds in front of me. It has started to snow heavily in the valley below me. For a moment I think I have made a wrong turn until I see cars parked in the distance. Families are out cutting fresh Christmas trees.

I am back at my pick up location where the snowmobile is loaded up. We drive back into town slipping in a few spots as the snow continues to fall.



SAM1215 035 1960’s Ski-Doo

I am now just under $200 into my trust fund but the experience and adventure has been “Priceless.”

Thanks, Big Boys Toys!





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