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Runnin' On Empty

Where I Like to Ride

Published in the October 2011 Issue Published online: Oct 27, 2011 Feature LANE LINDSTROM

The second question I get asked the most-right behind "Which sled is your favorite?"-is "Where do you like to ride?"

That's easy. The textbook answer is: Wherever there is snow. Maybe I should say, "Wherever there is decent snow." Good snowmobiling, after all, depends on the snow conditions.

You might think, after reading my column last month, "Lane For Rent," that the snow conditions are great wherever I ride. I wish.

Where I like to ride is not so much a specific location as it is the snow conditions in a specific location. Snow conditions are every bit as important as is where I'm riding. I love to go and explore new places on a snowmobile-unless the snow is crummy. The scenery can be spectacular and everything else about the ride phenomenal but if the snow is crappy ..

I've ridden the same place when the snow conditions have been great and not so great. So when it's good, I really liked it. When it's bad, well not so much.

Take Grand Lake, CO, for example. I've ridden there on several different occasions and the riding is superb. But one of my least fun rides was also in Grand Lake because the snow was just so miserable. I've had the same experience in our backyard at Island Park (which is one of my all-time favorite places to ride). And West Yellowstone. When the snow is good-like nearly all of last winter-these are spectacular places to ride, even when there are lots of sledders out on the trails. Low snow and we stay home.

I have one advantage when it comes to Island Park and West Yellowstone. It's not a very far drive so if the snow is less than ideal, we just wait for the next storm and then head north to ride. We can be on the snow in a little more than an hour from the time we leave our home so we feel pretty lucky about that.

And when the snow is really good, I can ride from my house. We have to ride a short way on the edge of the country roads but soon we hit farmland where we cross the snow-covered fields, hit the trails and then we're in the Big Hole Mountains. Last winter was the kind of winter where we could make that ride-lots of times.

Over the years, I can honestly say I've had far more rides in excellent snow than I have had otherwise. I do remember some rides which I would just as soon forget. Believe me, I've had some doozies. Not all were snow-related (read: I just plain crashed and can't blame it on anything but driver error as there was plenty of snow).

Every once in a while I get asked, "Is it possible there is too much snow?" Maybe, but I'd rather face those conditions than ride when I can feel the rocks and, even worse, the stumps and logs.

Like I've already mentioned, one of my favorite places to ride is Island Park and West Yellowstone. There are times when, during not-so-good snow conditions, the riding can be tough. Then are snow conditions like we experienced last winter when it was an adventure every time we rode. Last winter we hit the same areas several times but thanks to the snow conditions that just improved as the winter went on, stretches of mountain that are not very challenging are all of a sudden a big challenge.

We tend to favor one particular route when we head back into Mt. Jefferson and the awesome bowls in there. Most of the time, it's a quick 30-minute or so ride from the truck to the area we like to ride. Not once, but twice, last winter we didn't even make it halfway because the snow was so deep and little hills that we normally fly across were major obstacles. It was awesome and we weren't even disappointed that we didn't make it all the way to the bowls.

You've all experienced similar rides and conditions.

That's what makes snowmobiling so exciting. Every ride, even if it's in the same location time after time, can be different and thrilling nearly every time out. That's what snow can do for sledders.

So where's my favorite places to ride? I can narrow it down. Anywhere in the West-when there's good snow.