Probably the second question I'm asked most after "What's your favorite sled?" is "What's your favorite riding spot?"
Just like every snowmobiler on this planet, I have my favorites. And, like I mentioned in this space in the January issue, some are secrets that I'm not willing to share-unless tempted by a really good chicken fried steak with mashed potatoes and gravy. Other than that, mum is the word. After all, you all have your own secret hideaways too, again as was pointed out last month.
I would like to point out, though, that I have shared some of my favorites in the past. Take the 2005 Western Guide to Snowmobiling issue, for example. I listed my top five favorites, in no particular order: Cascade, ID; Valdez, AK; Island Park, ID; Cooke City, MT; and South Fork, CO. Of course, those were my favorite five that year. It's different after riding last winter.
However, there are far more spots I haven't ridden than I have. So I probably have some favorites I haven't even discovered yet.
Some people dream of going to Hawaii or taking a cruise. Not me. I dream of busting powder and boondocking `till I drop in any mountain locale where there's deep snow.
Speaking of favorites I haven't discovered yet, I do have a laundry list of places I'd like to try in the West. Some of these places I have been invited to, I just haven't made it yet.
I'm working on it. Really hard. But there are only so many days of riding in a winter.
So, here goes, state by state. Here's my disclaimer. In a few states, I've listed a couple of places-I couldn't decide. However, each place listed is one I have yet to ride.
Anywhere. The state is a snowmobiler's dream come true and a real snow paradise. I've tasted Alaska a couple of times and it has only left me wanting more.
Mt. St. Helens. I've repeatedly been invited to play in the shadows of this famous volcano and experience the deep snow and great boondocking. I got close enough a couple of years ago to get a picture of Mt. St. Helens venting some steam, but I want to ride in her shadows and be able to say, "Hey, I rode on (near/in?) an active volcano."
Crater Lake. I have just got to ride in a place that gets 16 feet of snow every winter. Oh, and by the way, according to the National Park Service, "It is typical to have 10-15 feet of snow on the ground." So we're not talking a total of 16 feet of snow every winter-we're talking about what's on the ground. Crater Lake averages 533 inches or 44 feet plus of snow every winter.
Of course you can only ride within Crater Lake National Park on a few miles of trails so I would have to explore outside the Park, too. After all, the snow doesn't just fall inside the Park.
Sonora Pass or Mt. Shasta. I hear from one trusted associate that the riding is spectacular at Sonora Pass. It sounds challenging and seems to offer the kind of riding I like.
As for Mt. Shasta, along with the snowmobiling, I'm betting I can get some awesome shots of the 14,162-foot mountain.
Hmmm, this is a tough one. I've been riding in many places in my home state, but not every place. Probably Priest Lake. While just about everyone here at the office has been riding there, I haven't. Lots of snow and plenty of boondocking are the big attractions for me and now that much of it has been reopened to snowmobiling, well, bonus.
Lake Tahoe right after a big dump. Okay, I fudged on this one a little. I have been riding around Lake Tahoe but I want to hit the area right after one of its notorious big snowstorms. That would add a lot of fluff to the area's notorious Sierra Cement.
Like Idaho, I've ridden in many places in Utah. So I'm going to go obscure here and say the little section of the Manti-La Sal National Forest over on the Utah/Colorado border east of Moab. I first noticed those mountains years ago when I was driving along Interstate 70 from Utah to Colorado.
Wherever there is snow. Arizona has been shafted by Mother Nature the past few winters and one (or two or three) seasons of great snow would be a nice change of weather.
If I absolutely had to pick a spot (or two), it would be the north rim of the Grand Canyon, near Jacob's Lake or the White Mountains over by Sunrise Ski Area. I've been to the White Mountains many times, but never to snowmobile. That's one I need to be able to scratch off my list of things to do.
This is another tough one. There are so many great places to ride. In fact, this one has stumped me for quite a while.
Okay, Haugan. When I'm driving on Interstate 90 headed west out of Missoula and start to climb up towards Lookout Pass, I find myself staring off into the trees and mountains and saying repeatedly, "Man, I'd like to ride there, or over there, or there."
Unlike Montana, my choice in Wyoming is easy-the Beartooth Mountains, which are north and west of Cody. Those mountains are remote and rugged and that appeals to me. I've ridden in most all of the Cowboy State's primary snowmobiling hot spots except this one.
Because the area is so remote, the crowds just about have to be slim to none and I know the area gets pounded every winter with snow.
Grand Mesa. Driven by it several times but have never been able to go snowmobiling. I hear the stories of the deep snow and endless boondocking, hillclimbing and generally awesome riding. This one is kind of gnawing on me like a dog on a juicy bone. This area may have to be near the top of my wish list of riding areas.
Red River. I've been riding in Chama and that was awesome. I'd like to see what it's like in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.