If you’re a snowmobiler there probably aren’t two more
powerful words in sledding lingo.
And, as we pointed out in our “Got Snow?” article in this
issue, the Snowy Range has the goods to back up its name.
Let’s break it down once again.
Snowy. Are 300 inches enough for you? Snowfall might be a
little less than that in some spots in the Snowies but you’ll find the light,
dry champagne powder the Snowy Range is famous far spread all over this range
of mountains. And put away those fears that it will all be tracked up by the
time you get there because there are so many parks and pockets of snow that it
would be near impossible for every flake to be tracked up.
Range. Riding starts about 7,000 feet and climbs to 11,000
feet (if you’ve got the horsepower and necessary nerve for the tippy tops of
the mountains. The riding is challenging in some of the chutes and drainages
that cover the Snowies, but there is an abundance of more benign riding spots
where emerging riders can hone their skills on the way up to tackling the Widow
For the third year in a row, the Snowy Range
finds itself in the top five of the Top 15 Trails in the West. That’s some
pretty good staying power.
Last year the Snowy
Range was helped by a
nice helping of snow, one of the bright spots in the West when it came to the
white stuff. We had a great ride in early April, right after a snow storm. And
we hear folks rode well into April this past Spring.
One more thing about the “Range” part of the name. For Midwesterners
taking the southern route (Interstate 80 as opposed to I 90) to the West, the Snowy Range
would be the first big mountain range they come to. Some never make it any
farther. They unload, find out how good it is and stay and ride the Snowies. And
they return again and again.
The Snowy Range attracts a dedicated band of snowmobilers from
all over the Midwest, especially Nebraska, Kansas, the Dakotas and even as far away as Minnesota and Iowa.
There are plenty of trails—both groomed (166 miles) and
ungroomed (136 miles)—to get you to the backcountry if that’s your wish or you
can explore the Snowies by just staying on groomed and ungroomed trails.
The Snowies aren’t just popular with out-of-staters, though.
It’s also the most popular riding area among Wyoming snowmobilers in a state where
there’s some pretty great riding.
According to the 2000-01 Wyoming Snowmobile Survey, prepared
by nearby Laramie-based University of Wyoming for the Wyoming Department of State Parks and
Historic Sites, 44 percent of Wyoming
snowmobilers choose the Snowies as their favorite riding spot in the Cowboy
We’ve ridden the Snowy
Range on several
occasions and find the same great conditions every time we’ve been there,
including just last Spring.
And it’s not just that the snow is deep, it’s that champaign
light kind of dry powder that makes for great boondocking and tree riding and
laying the sled down in the meadows kind of snow. Add to that Wyoming’s notorious winds and there are some
great wind drifts to jump all over the Snowies.
For hillclimbing, it’s tough to beat the Widow Maker, which
is near the tallest mountain in the Snowies. While the Widow Maker may be the
most famous hillclimbing spot in the Snowies, there are plenty of others spread
out across the band of mountains in southeast Wyoming.
The most popular trail in the entire Snowy Range
system is Highway 130, a scenic byway that cuts through the heart of the
Snowies and is closed to vehicles in the winter due to deep snow. The trail
also serves as the main artery to access dozens groomed and ungroomed paths
which shoot off in every direction.
Range is part of the Medicine Bow Range
and its centerpiece is the grand Medicine
(12,013 feet), which can be seen from just about anywhere in the mountain
range, or southeast Wyoming,
for that matter. The Widow Maker is on the northeast side of Medicine Bow
The Snowies can be accessed from both sides of the range,
via Highway 130 from the west and also from the east. The east side of the Snowies
can also be reached by Highway 127/230.