SNOWMOBILE BLOG

February 03, 2013

SAE Snowmobile Challenge For 2013

The Snowmobile Challenge for 2013 will be held March 4-9 at the Keweenaw Research Center at Michigan Technological University in Houghton, MI. This year 21 teams have registered for the event, the most ever in the history of the event.

The members of the International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association (Arctic Cat, BRP, Polaris and Yamaha) are proud gold level sponsors of the event. Staff from all of the manufacturers will be involved in the event and many serve as judges and reviewers of the many activities.

The SAE Challenge includes such activities as:

• an endurance run from Houghton, MI, to Copper Harbor

• technical presentations regarding emissions and design presentations

• a subjective handling event

• an acceleration test

• scientific testing for emissions levels and sound

Further information on the Snowmobile Challenge can be found at www.mtukrc.org.


Views 11
February 03, 2013

Nevada

When it comes to talking about mountains--and to some degree, snowmobiling--much of that talk surrounds the Sierra Nevada Range. No doubt that the Sierra Nevadas deserve some well-deserved recognition as a great snow play area. And while skiing gets the lion’s share of the “ink” when it comes to playing in the snow, there are snowmobiling opportunities.

But the Sierra Nevadas aren’t the only place to play in the snow in Nevada. On the other side of the state, near Elko, there is riding north (Ruby Mountains) and south of town. Another small area is north of Winnemucca in the Santa Rosa Mountains, as well as down near Ely at Ward Mountain. Between Reno and Ely is the Toiyabe Range, near Austin, where there is also some snowmobiling.

There is more to Nevada than just the Lake Tahoe area.

According to the government, Nevada is the most mountainous state in the country, with more than 300 individual mountain ranges and 42 named summits over 11,000 feet.

Snows are wet, dense and deep as they enter Nevada (Nevada is Spanish for snow-laden or snow-covered) on the Sierra Nevada side around Lake Tahoe, but dry out as they cross the state.

Elko is one of the areas that most actively promotes snowmobiling in its part of the state. Lake Tahoe does as well, although alpine skiing is still king there.


Views 10
February 03, 2013

New Mexico

Winter in New Mexico is brought to you courtesy of the mountains. In New Mexico altitude really is everything.

The lofty heights of the mountains in New Mexico make it possible to snowmobile in the most southern locales in the United States, down around Cloudcroft in the Lincoln National Forest.

The Rocky Mountains and the Continental Divide are the main mountain range in the state, which enters the United States in New Mexico. The Rockies wind their way through New Mexico from south to north from Mexico to Colorado, dominating the landscape in the western part of the state.

New Mexico has six peaks rising higher than 13,000 feet and 38 peaks reaching past 12,000 feet, most of which are part of the Continental Divide. However, those aren’t the only mountains in New Mexico and thus, not the only places to snowmobile.

There is a small range in the central part of the state between Alamogordo and Roswell, mentioned above, as well as numerous mountains up north, where most of the state’s downhill ski areas are.

Though there is no statewide snowmobile trail grooming program, there are a half-dozen fairly defined riding areas in the state, stretching from near the bottom portion of New Mexico near Cloudcroft north to the New Mexico/Colorado border.

The major riding areas in this state of Enchantment are (from north to south): Chama, Red River, Angel Fire, Mt. Taylor, San Pedro Mountains, Jemez Mountains and Cloudcroft.


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February 03, 2013

Oregon

Travel Guide

Snowmobiling in Oregon is all about diversity. There’s the obvious diversity of riding conditions from the varied terrain that makes up Oregon’s snowmobiling areas such as the Cascade Mountains in the western side of the state to the Blue Mountains and Wallowas over on the eastern side and smaller ranges in between.

Unique places where you can ride include Crater Lake National Park (on the North Entrance Road only); Newberry National Volcanic Monument south of Bend, almost literally in the shadow of Mt. Hood (elevation 11,240 feet); and to an overlook where you can see Hell’s Canyon, just adding to that diversity.

What makes all those unique places to ride “work” is snow. Even that is somewhat unique in the state of Oregon. Moist winter storms come off the Pacific Ocean and hit the higher elevations of the Cascade Mountains, the first major mountain range the storms hit as they march westward, but “dry” out a little as they go farther west to the Blue Mountains and Seven Devils. Wet in the west and light, dry powder in the eastern part of the state. Now that’s what we call diverse.

Western Oregon may have the bragging rights when it comes to snowfall—how about upwards of 500 inches a winter at Crater Lake—but even farther west, 100-200 inches of snow falls every winter, depending on where you’re riding.

The Oregon State Snowmobile Association has done a great job of providing information on all the state’s riding areas, including putting trail maps onto its website (www.oregonsnow.org). Each map details where trailheads and parking areas are, as well as key highways to access the riding areas.

One area that isn’t included in the trail maps section is Lakeview, which is located in the southcentral part of the state. It’s a small riding area with just a few miles of groomed trails but there is ample off-trail riding opportunities that await. There are also several miles of ungroomed trails and, according to the Lakeview County chamber website (www.lakecountychamber.org), there are five warming huts along the snowmobile trails.

A couple of other areas you won’t find on the trail map that we think shouldn’t be overlooked are on opposite ends of the state. Both areas—Page Mountain and Steens Mountain—are somewhat remote and aren’t huge riding areas but do offer some snowmobiling. Page Mountain’s stats are included in the Oregon trails chart in this section. As for the Steens Mountains, your best information is on the BLM website (www.blm.gov) and then navigate to the Oregon section and the Burns district. The Steens are about 60 miles south of Burns. According to the BLM website, snowmobile use to Dingle Creek or along Cold Springs Road to the Nye Cabin is allowed only when the group is accompanied by either a member in good standing of the High Desert Snow Drifters snowmobile club or a Burns District special recreation permittee who is authorized to operate snowmobile trips.


Views 11
February 03, 2013

South Dakota

Travel Guide

The Black Hills gradually rise off the South Dakota prairie, creating an island of mountains on the western edge of the state and spilling over into the eastern edge of Wyoming.

This “island” of mountains is part of the 1.2-million acre Black Hills National Forest and covers an area roughly 125 miles from north to south and 65 miles east to west. Elevations range from 3,200 feet to 7,000. That helps make the Black Hills the most significant mountain range between the Mississippi River and the West.

The Black Hills feature 350 miles—40 of which are in Wyoming—of groomed trails and unlimited off-trail opportunities. The snowmobiling season for the Black Hills is Dec. 15 through March 31.

The extensive trail system can be accessed from numerous parking areas spread out over South Dakota and Wyoming. Trails stretch from Lead, Deadwood and just south of Spearfish in the north to near the Crazy Horse Memorial and Custer State Park in the south and from near Galena in the east to close to Buckhorn in eastern Wyoming.


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February 03, 2013

Washington

The state of Washington is much like its neighbor to the south, Oregon, when it comes to snow. The snow is wetter and more dense on the west side of the state, “drying” out and becoming light, dry powder as it crosses the state.

If Washington has an edge, though, it may be in what we’d call “superstar” mountains. Washington has several peaks that are very impressive. And depending on where you ride in the state, you may be able to see several of them (actually including Oregon’s Mt. Hood) all from one vantage point. Those famous peaks along the Cascade Range include Mt. Rainier, Mt. Adams, Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Baker.

Of course there’s more riding in Washington than just along the Cascade Range. In the middle and eastern side of the state is some of the best backcountry riding you’ll find from border to border. And down in the southeast corner of the state are the Blue Mountains, an island of riding that is far from the masses.

The snowmobiling in Washington is scattered among 12 different riding locations that have official trail grooming programs. There are also a couple of areas where sledders can enjoy the white stuff but don’t have any groomed trails.

With few exceptions, the world on the east side of the Cascades is covered in white during the winter months. Covered deep. Seven of the top 14 spots in the United States with more than 400 inches of snow a year can be found within the borders of the Evergreen State. Rainier Paradise Ranger Station leads the way with 674.2 inches of snow each year, followed by Stevens Pass (493.2 inches), Santiam Pass (453.3), Snoqualmie Pass (439.9) and Stampede Pass (438.7). That’s between 36 to 56 feet of snow.

The snow season in much of the state got off to a roaring start. For example, by the middle of December (right on our deadline for this issue), there was 84 inches of snow sitting on Stevens Pass (elevation 3,950 feet). Farther north on Beaver Pass there was 83 inches sitting on the ground, thanks in part to 29 inches of new snow in three days prior to our checking the snotel site.

A good source of information for riding in Washington is on the state’s parks website, www.parks.wa.gov/winter, and then navigate to the sno-parks section where you’ll find trail maps.

Mt. Rainier National Park

Some snowmobiling is allowed in Mt. Rainier National Park. The following information comes directly from the National Park Service website.

In the southwest corner of the park, snowmobiles are permitted for 6.5 miles along the Westside Road from its junction with the main park road as far as Round Pass. Beyond Round Pass, the Westside Road is closed to snowmobile use. Snowmobiles are also permitted on all the road loops of Cougar Rock Campground. The campground is closed to overnight use during winter and the roadway is left unplowed. Contact a park ranger at the Longmire Information Center for maps and additional snowmobile information.

On the north side of the park, no ranger station is open in the winter. The US Forest Service District Office in Enumclaw provides information and maps for White River, Carbon River, and Mowich Lake areas. For more information, call the USFS District Office in Enumclaw at (360) 825-6585. Highway 410 is closed near its junction with Crystal Mountain Ski Area road, at the north park boundary.

Snowmobiles are permitted on the 12-mile section of unplowed road from the north park boundary on Highway 410 to the White River Campground. Snowmobiles may not continue on Hwy 410 south of the White River Road turnoff. They are also prohibited from proceeding beyond the closure at the White River Campground road junction towards Sunrise. Snowmobiles must stay on the road corridor; they are not allowed to proceed beyond the campground towards Glacier Basin. Be aware of “http://www.nps.gov/mora/planyourvisit/upload/avalanche%20danger%20Nov09.pdf” avalanche danger and the http://www.nps.gov/mora/planyourvisit/weather.htm weather forecast.

More information and a map is available on www.nps.gov/mora.


Views 15
February 03, 2013

Timbersled Mountain Horse Receives Updates For 2013 Season

With hundreds of kits sold worldwide, Timbersled Products is entering its third production year for the Mountain Horse Snow Bike conversion kit.

Timbersled has gained a lot of experience with the product in all types of terrain, conditions and riding styles. The product continues to evolve with some new and exciting changes for the 2012/13 season.

The Mountain Horse is the first-ever snow bike conversion kit designed specifically for the mountains. As such, it performs incredibly well in all kinds of mountain terrain and snow conditions. It has consistently outperformed every rider’s expectations and gained a well-deserved reputation as the leading snow bike conversion kit available.

Timbersled has three models to choose from for the upcoming season. In addition to the ST (Short Track), LT (Long Track) and SX (Snow Cross) kits will be available. The ST and LT models are built specifically for mountain riding and are identical in design except for the track length.

The ST includes a 120x12.5x2-inch track while the LT comes with a 137x12.5x2-inch track. The SX model is designed for better handling on hard pack terrain and built to handle the abuse of snocross racing. It has a narrower 121x10.5-inch contoured track (rounded like a tire) with double the amount of rear suspension travel created by Timbersled’s dual suspended system.

These three models cover the entire spectrum of rider’s needs and desires.

The continuing evolution of the Mountain Horse includes the following updates for the 2012/13 season:

The 10-inch wide T/S BackCountry Ski: This ski has been specifically designed for the snow bike by Timbersled. It is a tri-keel design that improves control in all types of terrain including hard packed trails. This ski will come standard on all kits.

Quarter-inch Deeper Lug Track: It is a newly-designed Camoplast Challenger that is single-ply with a 2-inch lug and a wider 2.86-inch pitch that includes fewer paddles, making it lighter while offering more deep snow traction. The track also offers better hard pack handling due to its flexible outer edge created by the 8.5-inch fiberglass stiffening rods in the 12.5-inch wide track.

Suspension Slide Rails: This year’s design utilizes a single I-beam with a simpler and nicer look. They are also 3 lbs. lighter than the previous rails.

Recalibrated Suspension: The Mtn. Tamer back suspension system has been re-tuned for better ski lift and a lighter feeling on the ski. It has more independent articulation in the rails that helps the bike maneuver. The suspension also sits one-half-inch lower, resulting in the bike sitting 1-inch lower in the seat.

Greaseable Bearings: The new bearing housing and bearings allow you to grease the bearing with a grease gun as well as flush the bearing out with fresh grease. Each bearing has a hole on each end making it possible to pump grease in one end and out the other through the grease release hole located in the aluminum bearing housing.

The entire product is assembled at Timbersled’s north Idaho facility using U.S. made parts and materials. Timbersled offers a solid warranty and exceptional customer service.

For more information, visit www.timbersled.com.


Views 16
February 03, 2013

ALCOM To Open Manufacturing Facility In Bonner, MT Fast-growing aluminum trailer maker expects to hire 60 workers, grow to 200 in two years

One of America’s fastest-growing and most respected aluminum trailer manufacturers will soon be operating in Missoula County, Montana. On Nov. 14, Maine-based ALCOM announced it signed a lease to establish a new, 70,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Bonner, MT.

The company expects to initially employ approximately 60 workers and begin production of its hand-built aluminum trailers at the former Stimson Lumber mill site in early 2013. The company anticipates expanding to 200 employees at the facility within its first two years of operation.

“Manufacturing is alive and well in Missoula County,” Missoula County Commissioner Jean Curtiss said. “ALCOM will bring excellent jobs and benefits to local workers and help revitalize the Bonner community as a whole.”

Founded in 2006 in Waterville, ME, ALCOM quickly rose to nationwide prominence in the recreational trailer marketplace with their flagship brand, Mission Trailers. During its first year of operations, the company surpassed $2 million in sales. Since then, the company’s growth has continued unabated with the additions of High Country, E-Z Hauler, Snopro, Cargopro and Polaris brands.

In 2008 and 2009—during the worst years of the recent economic recession—ALCOM’s year-over-year revenues increased 65 and 25 percent, respectively. Company revenues topped $25 million in 2011 and will top $35 million in 2012.

Today, ALCOM employs just more than 200 workers at its 70,000-square-foot facility in Winslow. ALCOM’s hand-built trailer lines offer a variety of sizes and functions, ranging from compact open utility trailers to large enclosed car haulers. In 2010, ALCOM founders Tom Sturtevant and Trapper Clark were named the Maine Small Business Persons of the Year.

Despite the company’s location in the far northeastern corner of the continental United States, ALCOM has developed a strong nationwide dealer network. The Bonner operation will allow ALCOM to reduce costs associated with shipping trailers to dealerships in the western United States and Canada. Those savings will be passed along to the western dealers, opening the door to value-priced products and increased dealer revenues.

For more information, visit www.alcomllc.com.


Views 39
February 03, 2013

Exclusive SnoWest Magazine Travel Guide

Regular readers of SnoWest Magazine, and particularly of the Western Guide to Snowmobiling, were probably a little puzzled when they opened this season’s Western Guide to find we only included five states in that travel issue.

To not include all the states in the West and where you can ride in each of those states was a painful decision for us, but it all came down to the number of printed pages available in this year’s Western Guide.

Well, we’re here to make it right in this issue of SnoWest. Here is all the information we couldn’t include in this season’s Western Guide.

After all, we love to ride the mountains and every state in the West gives us that opportunity. It’s not just that we live in the West, but it’s that we live for snowmobiling in the mountains of the western United States.

We’re not really any different than most everyone else who rides the West. We’re all looking for those mountains that soar into the sky, deep powder, wide open spaces to ride, great trail systems that gain sometimes thousands of feet, scenery that takes your breath away and places where you can ride into May, sometimes June or even July.

However, try as we might every winter, we still haven’t ridden everywhere we want to. That makes it somewhat tantalizing for us to put together this issue each year. We would love to ride each and every area there is listed in this travel guide.

We have plenty to choose from. The sheer number of areas you can ride from north to south is extensive. Of course there is snowmachining in Alaska, but that’s a story all by itself. Take that snow state out and you still have 12 western states—plus western South Dakota—that stretch from Canada to Mexico and there is snowmobiling in each one.

The snowbelt (where enough snow falls to allow for consistent snowmobiling) in much of America sags down to maybe an imaginary line that roughly follows the northern border of Kansas and Missouri, through the middle of Illinois, Indiana and Ohio and a bit farther south in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

The snowbelt in the West, though, is much different. Because we can throw mountains into the mix, it’s possible to snowmobile in southern New Mexico, down around Cloudcroft in the Lincoln National Forest. That is about the same latitude as say Dallas, TX or Talladega National Forest near Birmingham, AL, where there is definitely no snowmobiling.

Mountains make all the difference and that’s our ace in the hole in the West. Every state in the West has mountains and that means you can ride a snowmobile in every state in the West. Sure, some states get more snow than others, but every state at least provides some opportunities to ride. That’s why we continue to highlight the riding in each western state.

And we’ve said it before and we’ll say it again and again. We may live in the West, but we never tire of riding the West.


Views 12
February 03, 2013

Alaska

Travel Guide

Well, we’re here to make it right in this issue of SnoWest. Here is all the information we couldn’t include in this season’s Western Guide.

After all, we love to ride the mountains and every state in the West gives us that opportunity. It’s not just that we live in the West, but it’s that we live for snowmobiling in the mountains of the western United States.

We’re not really any different than most everyone else who rides the West. We’re all looking for those mountains that soar into the sky, deep powder, wide open spaces to ride, great trail systems that gain sometimes thousands of feet, scenery that takes your breath away and places where you can ride into May, sometimes June or even July.

However, try as we might every winter, we still haven’t ridden everywhere we want to. That makes it somewhat tantalizing for us to put together this issue each year. We would love to ride each and every area there is listed in this travel guide.

We have plenty to choose from. The sheer number of areas you can ride from north to south is extensive. Of course there is snowmachining in Alaska, but that’s a story all by itself. Take that snow state out and you still have 12 western states—plus western South Dakota—that stretch from Canada to Mexico and there is snowmobiling in each one.

The snowbelt (where enough snow falls to allow for consistent snowmobiling) in much of America sags down to maybe an imaginary line that roughly follows the northern border of Kansas and Missouri, through the middle of Illinois, Indiana and Ohio and a bit farther south in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

The snowbelt in the West, though, is much different. Because we can throw mountains into the mix, it’s possible to snowmobile in southern New Mexico, down around Cloudcroft in the Lincoln National Forest. That is about the same latitude as say Dallas, TX or Talladega National Forest near Birmingham, AL, where there is definitely no snowmobiling.

Mountains make all the difference and that’s our ace in the hole in the West. Every state in the West has mountains and that means you can ride a snowmobile in every state in the West. Sure, some states get more snow than others, but every state at least provides some opportunities to ride. That’s why we continue to highlight the riding in each western state.

And we’ve said it before and we’ll say it again and again. We may live in the West, but we never tire of riding the West.

Give credit where credit is due. For years and years we’ve written about snowmobiling in Alaska and talked about the wide-open riding and nearly limitless snowmobiling possibilities. Then, finally, we did some research and put together a list of groomed trail systems in the state. We presented that information for the first time last year.

There are hundreds of miles of groomed trails available in Alaska, along with all the backcountry riding we wrote about for years.

The grooming program is still relatively new in Alaska and the hundreds of miles of trails now groomed are relatively few in number compared to the size of the state, but it’s still an impressive undertaking by Alaska’s Department of Natural Resources and the SnowTrac Grooming program, as well as many others.

There are nearly a dozen groomed trail systems spread out from the Kenai Peninsula up to the Fairbanks area. Many of the groomed trail systems are in already-popular sledding spots such as Petersville, Denali Highway, Big Lake, Lake Louise and Hatcher Pass, among others.

It’s worth mentioning there are also a couple of groomed trails in southeast Alaska, near Juneau.

Even with the groomed snowmobile trail systems, wide open, backcountry riding is still the “norm” in Alaska, where your only limits might be the amount of gas you can carry and your ability to read a GPS.

Some of the more popular local sledding spots—both on and off-trail now—include Hatcher Pass; Nancy Lake State Recreation Area/Willow and Big Lake, north of Anchorage; the White Mountains; Summit and Cantwell near Fairbanks; Tok; Delta Junction; Valdez; and Eureka. Of course, these riding areas are just a small portion of what is actually available.

Other riding options include selected Alaska state parks, such as the already-mentioned Nancy Lake. A handful of others where snowmachining is allowed include Birch Lake State Recreation Site, Chena River State Recreation Area, Denali State Park and Chugach State Park. For more information on these parks and others, log on to http://dnr.alaska.gov/parks/ and click on the individual parks section.

Riding is also popular and allowed in Alaska’s two state forests—Tanana Valley (near Fairbanks) and Haines (near Haines).

Contact the Alaska State Snowmobile Association for information on riding in the state by logging on to the ASSA website at www.aksnow.org. The state association’s website has good information on several trail systems, including maps, and what awaits you when you ride there.


Views 22
February 03, 2013

Arizona

Travel Guide

We all know how most people in our sport are dedicated to snowmobiling. When it comes to snowmobiling in Arizona, you have to be really dedicated—and patient.

While Arizona is not known as a hotbed for sledding, you can snowmobile in Arizona’s mountainous regions. In fact, you can snowmobile for several weeks each winter in the Grand Canyon state’s higher elevations.

The average snowfall each winter in most areas of Arizona where you can snowmobile is about 100 inches. Of course, snowfall depends on the elevation. For example, Pinetop-Lakeside, one of Arizona’s famous mountain retreats, sits at 6,800 feet and gets about 46 inches of snow a winter. Head a bit east and south to Hawley Lake (elevation 8,200 feet) and the snowfall more than triples to 168 inches a winter. Southeast a little more and you find Baldy Peak (11,590 feet) and the snowfall is more than 225 inches a year.

Granted, snowfall can be a bit more fickle in Arizona compared to other western states, but if you have a sled and are ready to go at the drop of a snowflake, well, you can find places to ride.

The snow falls on mountains that dissect Arizona from northwest to southeast.

Arizona’s snowmobile season isn’t as long as in other western locales, but when the snow does fall you can head to the high country and find lots of untracked snow.

There are no groomed trails in the state but there are plenty of old logging roads and forest service roads that crisscross the band of mountains that help form the Mogollon Rim and points northwest. This swath of mountains is about 250 miles or so from one end to the other.

Your best source of information on snowmobiling in Arizona is to go to www.fs.fed.us, navigate to Arizona’s national forests, and look under the recreation section. Each forest where there is usually sufficient snow to ride offers a few suggestions on where you can sled. The phone numbers listed in the chart under “Information” are also helpful.


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February 03, 2013

California

Travel Guide

In a state as big and as diverse as California, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that snowmobiling is just one of the many outdoor recreation activities available there. Snowmobiling might not be as popular (or as marketed by the state) as alpine skiing, but there’s quite a swath of mountains that covers California and that are ideal for sledding.

California offers about 2,500 miles of groomed snowmobile trails spread across a dozen and a half distinct riding areas plus more areas that offer off-trail sledding. Some of the areas are close enough that you can ride one area one day and another the next. Others are farther apart and require some trailering to reach.

It’s just about 650 miles from where you can ride in northern California near the California/Oregon border to the Angeles and Los Padres national forests in the south. While you can’t ride from the north to the south non-stop on a snowmobile, there are dozens of riding areas scattered from one end of California to almost the other where you can ride.

Most snowmobiling is on the western slope of the famous Sierra Nevada (which is Spanish for Snowy Range) Range, which has a reputation for its deep snows. Some places in the state can get as much as 40 feet of snow. Snowfalls are legendary in the Sierra Nevadas.

There are swaths of riding areas spread from the northern border with Oregon to the central part of the state and pockets of riding everywhere else. You just have to do a bit of sleuthing to find them and then enjoy them. We’ve listed the most popular and best developed areas in this section. For example, we’ve listed the snowmobile area of Siskiyou County, home to 14,162-foot Mt. Shasta, but head to the Modoc National Forest website and you’ll read about the Medicine Lake Highlands, which offer 31 miles of groomed trails, and the Doorknob Snowmobile Park. That seems to be a somewhat common theme in California—well-developed trail systems with a smaller riding area nearby.

A good website to check out for snowmobiling is the California OHV site—http://ohv.parks.ca.gov—which gives information on the sno-parks. The California-Nevada Snowmobile Association (www.cnsa.net) is another good source of information on riding in the state.

In listing the primary snowmobiling areas in California, we chose to list the name of the trailhead that serves the trail system or use the county in which the trailheads are located for easier referencing when trying to locate each area.


Views 15
February 02, 2013

X-Games Equals Roman Gladiators


Steve Janes Blog

            After attending the very first snowmobile event at the Winter X Games years ago it was obvious that we were witnessing the resurgence of Roman gladiators in the great ESPN coliseum. This was an event designed to offer sacrifices to the ratings gods of television.

            And after years of near misses, we have finally witnessed a prime time fatality. Caleb Moore died Thursday from the injuries received during the event. Caleb was 25. His brother basically shared an ambulance ride with him to the emergency room that fateful night, although Colten’s injuries only left him on crutches.

            Our hearts and prayers go out to the Moore family who will be ever altered by this tragedy. Meanwhile, at least for ESPN, the ratings go on.

            Throughout the years of the X Games, several contestants have been carried off in stretchers. The event is designed to put the participants at risk—big jumps, fast speeds, artificial lights—you name it, whatever could improve the ratings were part of the event.

            As for the participants, well, a week being treated like a rock star and a chance to capture an endorsement or sponsorship from an energy drink seemed to be all it took to not think through the consequences of the damage wreaked on their bodies.

            I realize these are professional athletes, whether they be snowmobilers, snowboarders or whatever. They are thrill seekers who live to do the daring and dangerous. But as I watched the X Games from my easy chair on my big screen television, I couldn’t help notice the near misses that kept occurring on the big jump that eventually claimed Caleb, and then his brother Colten.

            I don’t know if it was a bad execution of a trick or a poorly designed jump that led to the tragedy. But I do know that from the first time I saw a course designed for snowmobile competition at the X Games, I knew it wasn’t designed for rider safety; it was designed for big crashes and viewership.

            I admit there was something about snowmobiles featured in prime time on major television networks that intrigued me, much like it intrigued most snowmobilers. And for a young racer, doing well meant more sponsorships. But as a snowmobile community, we basically held our breath each year hoping that our top racers could survive the course.

            Now, as we bury one of our own, it’s going to be a little bit harder to justify exposure at the expense of a lack of safety. But I’m sure that before the Games begin next year, we will forget the price one of our racers paid and will be cheering on the next crop of gladiators.

            So I guess the question is: Who is to blame?

SJ


Views 262
January 27, 2013

Invitation To Fun


Steve Janes Blog

          I just received a postcard in the mail inviting me to three annual events in the Island Park area that have always provided a fun diversion during the season—the Women’s Rally on Jan. 26, Co-Ed Rally on Feb. 9, and Ol’ Man’s Rendezvous on Feb. 23.

            These are sort of  like organized trail rides where the speed restrictions on the groomed trails have been removed to allow the competitive juices to flow. Some folks call them races … but other than the 100 mph straightaways across the flats, for the most part they are just fun trail rides where longtime friends get together for some bragging rights.

            But this wasn’t what actually captured my attention. The postcard mentioned that longtime event director Bill Smith was retiring after this season. For those who don’t recognize the name Bill Smith, this is someone who has been involved in eastern Idaho racing for about five decades. He was the first announcer at the World Snowmobile Expo in West Yellowstone and has either announced, promoted or raced in events for as long as snowmobiles have been around.

            My friendship with Bill goes back about 30 years. Bill and I actually raced together as a two-man team in the now defunct Rocky Mountain Cross Country Racing Circuit … and we both still wear our first-place belt buckles that we captured for a full season of racing.

            Bill would admit that we really weren’t fast … but we were consistent and made a solid team week in and week out. Even now we have found memories of our days racing … as well as lingering back pains from riding the sleds of the 80s through four-foot moguls from race venues like Cooke City, Georgetown, Ashton, St. Anthony and Bellevue.

            Bill is one of those guys who always has been committed, devoted and loyal to the sport. He has been the perfect volunteer—always willing to work and assist, never seeking personal glory and as honest as the day is long. And after all these years of service, it’s about time he takes a well-deserved vacation.

            So if you’re in the Island Park area during these three race dates, be sure to stop in and shake his hand and tell him “good job.” He truly is one of the good guys.

            And now with all of his spare time, I wonder if he’s about ready to get back into racing? I could use a new belt buckle.

SJ


Views 187
January 20, 2013

Set My Ponies Free


Steve Janes Blog

            This past week a startling truth was presented that caused the entire foundation of my snowmobiling knowledge to become discombobulated. There are no tiny ponies powering my snowmobile; i.e. horsepower does not mean actual horses.

            That’s right, horsepower doesn’t literally mean the power of horses. It’s a mathematical formulation that consists of “work over time equals force times distance over time which equals 180 lbf and 2.4 times 2 pie symbol times 12 feet over one minute equals 32,572 feet/lbf/minute” … or something sort of scientific/mathematical like that.

            Okay, some maybe the original formula for horsepower was based on how much power is required to equal the pulling power of a horse. But at no time did these great minds figure out how to actually put a tiny horse inside a combustion engine to turn the power wheel. (They did figure out how to put hamsters in a cage to turn a wheel … but then the hamsters union got involved and required so many breaks per hour plus benefits and made this advancement in technology cost prohibitive.)

            So now, rather than little tiny horses causing our snowmobile to climb tall mountains, we actually have math geeks powering our sleds. This mere knowledge in itself has caused me to second-think the next time I look at a death-defying vertical climb. What would happen if I’m nearing the peak of the mountain only to have one of my math geeks lose his inhaler? This is definitely a formula for disaster.

            This has also caused me significant concern when I ponder the fact that those engineers who are designing snowmobile engine technology actually rely on this horsepower formulation to determine the power output of any given engine.

            Now it makes some sense why snowmobile manufacturers for years have tried to keep horsepower ratings out of print. They don’t want their customers cracking open a cylinder only to find that all their tiny ponies have escaped … when in reality those ponies were never actually there to begin with.

            So now, the next time you hear someone boasting about having a 300-horsepower turbo, you can simply smile and pat them on the head and say “that’s nice.” Likely, if they still believe this horsepower myth, they also believe in Santa Claus and the tooth fairy.

SJ


Views 188
January 13, 2013

Naked Truth About Winter


Steve Janes blog

           I just can’t decide if Old Man Winter is just cranky or if Mother Nature just can’t make up her mind. Whatever the case, so far this season has been as inconsistent as any in recent years
.

            We’ve had rain. We’ve had cold. When the snow comes, it comes in short bursts and storms seem to fizzle out early.  When the temperatures rise, the rain knocks down whatever snow collected in the lower elevations and creates a crust on the snow in the higher elevations. When the temperatures drop, you freeze your butt off to get to the snow; then you almost need to strip naked to keep from steaming up the you get stuck in the crusty snow.

            The ideal conditions are when the temperatures are in the mid 20s consistently throughout the day. This is a great temperature to make that nice crunchy snow (perfect for making snowballs) that creates a good base for snowmobiling.

            But when temperatures are in the single digits … you pretty much freeze your single digit off.

            Although all of this sounds like my snowmobiling experiences have been miserable this season, that’s not the case. Once you leave the trailhead and climb in elevation, the temperatures tend to moderate and the riding has been outstanding—regardless the shortcomings in snow depth and quality.

            We have had good rides … even one or two outstanding rides. But we’re always hoping for those great rides—when the snow is deep, the sky is blue and there’s not a track in front of you (sounds like the makings of a country song).

            So hopefully, Old Man Winter and Mother Nature will work out their differences soon so we can get back to normal. It’s always nice when there’s peace in the family.


SJ


Views 278
January 06, 2013

Making Tracks


Steve Janes Blog

           There are two types of people—those who stay on the beaten path, and those who blaze their own path. Most people like the comfort of knowing where tracks will take them, while others relish the thought of an unknown course or destination.

            Thus it is with snowmobilers. Many ride trails, carry maps and embrace a certainty of a desired destination. They need the reassurance that the tracks they follow lead somewhere they want to go. And let’s face it, if there are tracks, it pretty much establishes that others have safely gone there before … and others will likely be going there sometime in the near future.

            Tracks represent a record or history of travel. The more tracks, the more confident the history. Even when following tracks that lead off a beaten trail, there is a level of confidence that whoever made those tracks most certainly know where they were going.

            So there is nothing wrong with following tracks or staying on a trail. In this there is safety, in this there is peace.

            However, there are a small segment of snowmobilers who gladly sacrifice a level of security for freedom and adventure; those who constantly stray from the trails and establish a new set of tracks. Often the course taken for those who set their own tracks are more difficult and challenging. But isn’t that part of the price of freedom—you give up easy and common for unique and difficult.

            Naturally, an activity like snowmobiling is something that should be respected for the challenge and element of danger that it holds. You are recreating during a time of season that can be cold, harsh and unpredictable. A bad decision can often lead to a life-threatening situation.

            Spending a night out in December through April is a lot different than spending a night out in May through September. And walking out of the backcountry during winter may not be an option.

            So before you wander off a beaten path or trail, you better have a pretty good level of confidence that you know where you are at and what to expect. Each winter various search and rescue groups perform multiple rescues of stranded snowmobilers who found themselves in situations that provided greater challenges then they were capable of overcoming. Seldom if ever do search and rescue groups save snowmobilers on groomed trails.

SJ


Views 147
December 30, 2012

Tis The Season (Part 2)


Steve Janes Blog

 Tis The Season (Part 2)

            It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas … or in other words, winter has finally settled in and the cold weather caught up with the moisture, turning what has been a wet fall into a white winter.

            According to the National  Weather Service, the Northern Rockies is now experiencing a 99.9 percent snow coverage (I’d be pretty hot if I were in that .1 percent area … pun intended). The Central Rockies is at 99.6 percent coverage and The Intermountains are at 97.4 percent (not bad considering all the lower elevations included).

            Although the snow depth charts aren’t overly impressive except in the elevations over 8,000 feet in the northern portion of the West, the good news is the snow is starting to stack up.

            Even the Midwest got slammed with a snowy Christmas storm that perhaps delivered a little more punch with some high winds. But hey, as long as the white stuff sticks, we can deal with a few drifts.

            This past year has offered a lot of disappointments and heartbreaks. It has been a tough year for many, both financially and mentally … lots of stress. And for some, these harsh winter storms don’t offer any relief. But for those of us who are fortunate to enjoy the sport of snowmobiling, perhaps these storms will provide the foundation for some better times this winter.

            We can only pray for those who are less fortunate … and do our parts whenever possible, to offer a little relief to the stress of life. Who knows, maybe this winter we can introduce someone to the joys of snowmobiling and help them find some relief and diversion from the troubles of life.

SJ


Views 133
December 22, 2012

The Fight For Jefferson


Steve Janes Blog

The Fight For Jefferson

 

            It’s called the “Forest Jobs and Recreation Act.” It’s a piece of Wilderness legislation introduced by Montana Senator Jon Tester which is basically destined to reduce jobs and restrict recreation (I wonder if this is how he came up with the name.)

            Well, technically, this legislation is dealing with a lot of forest service land in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest. But what has the ire of Idaho snowmobilers is how this piece of legislation sucks in less than 5,000 acres of land tucked into the Hellroaring drainage with Idaho wrapped on three sides.

            This small parcel of land can’t stand on its own for Wilderness designation due to its size. It can’t provide the “true” wilderness experience due to its location tucked in the Targhee National Forest which is actually “open” for public use.

            Environmental arguments for Wilderness designation are even conflicting—on one hand they complain about the excessive use by snowmobilers, while on the other hand they claim the area is rich in wildlife. (Apparently the only animal known to man that has a conflict with snowmobiles is the environmentalist … a modern species that commonly dwells in big cities and tends to roam on the National Geographic channel.)

            Environmentalists use fancy “feel-good” language like this area is the “fountain of the Missouri River.” And yet, even though snowmobilers have been recreating in this area for nearly a half century, without the federal government coming in to protect the area environmentalists fear the fountain will surely go dry.

            The basic environment argument is this: Snowmobilers should not be so greedy and stick to the groomed trails in the Targhee (they actually called them “taxpayer funded trails … but that’s for a different rant.) Yet environmentalists believe they are not only entitled to of the entire world, but they should be able to control everyone’s access. Some of us would like to provide them access to hell … but they would likely demand control of that place too.

            The BlueRibbon Coalition is doing a good job leading the fight and providing information to the progress of the bill. It’s worth your time to stay informed in this one. We would all hate to lose our access to Jefferson.

SJ


Views 171
December 15, 2012

Sorry I Missed Your Call (Part 2)

Steve Janes Blog

           If you did indeed try to reach me at word during these last few days, you most likely got my answering machine. And to be totally honest, I really wasn’t that sorry to miss your call. I was riding.

            I’ve managed to be on the snow four times in the last seven days (soon to be six times in 10 days). So I’m doing my best to get back in riding condition. (Getting out of bed has certainly gotten a lot more difficult in the morning.)

            The first day I only went over the handle bars once. Day two saw me going over the bars twice. Day three I went over three times. Talk about your crash course in getting into riding shape.

On the fourth day I decided to spend some quality “seat” time.  We kept the ride confined to some trail miles to check on snow conditions in a lower elevation area. (I’m getting too old and too bruised to keep up the pace of the first three days.)

SJ


Views 119
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