Getting out on the snowmobile in October or November is something we all dream about.
Ski-Doo Brand Ambassador Jeremy Mercier is usually lucky enough to call that dream a reality most seasons. Living at high elevation in the mountains of Colorado means the snow comes early—really early. But those early season rides don’t happen by accident.
Here are his tips to catch that early POW.
Early season riding has always been a favorite of mine. There’s nothing like getting out for the first time and enjoying those views of snowcapped mountains. I often get asked where I go, but the goods are in short supply, so that secret stays with me. There is a lot of time and effort invested in finding these areas with good snow and safe riding. Here are a few tips to help you find your own early season powder turns:
1. The work to ride early in the fall really starts in the summer months. Whether you hike, mountain bike or dirt bike, these are really good tools for exploring the mountains. I use my dirt bike to scout areas that are rock and stump free. Snap a few photos so I don’t forget when it’s covered in snow. I spend quite a few summer evenings and weekends on these recon missions.
2. Pick several locations, not just one. Early storms don’t deliver equal amounts of snow to all areas. Look at zones that receive a lot of snow, typically near a ski resort is a good starting point. I like to find logging roads that lead to the alpine and I can drive my truck up. That way if the snow level is high, I can keep driving until there is enough snow to ride. In Colorado the law is there needs to be at least 12 inches on the road to ride it, so keep it legal.
3. Once the flakes start to fly I use the internet like no other. I use the NRCS SNOTEL map to see how much snow has fallen in the zones I’ve been studying. Not only does it tell you how much is on the ground, it also tells you what the temps have been. I also use the CDOT’s (Colorado Department of Transportation) website. They have webcams on all of the mountain passes.
4. When there is enough snow to legally ride, I go through that first ride excitement and can hardly contain myself. I usually forget at least a few things. So, it’s good to pack up all your gear the night before. That way when you wake up at 4 a.m. from snow anxiety you can just hit the road. Make sure you have all the survival gear as if it was mid-winter like fresh batteries for your beacon, extra food/water, etc. Sounds simple, but I forgot my boots a few years ago. Making pow turns in Vans is no fun.
5. Once on the snow take a moment to look at photos you took over the summer and confirm that meadow doesn’t have a massive rock in the middle or that it is stump free. Nothing worse than making that first turn and ripping a ski off. And always keep in mind if there is enough snow to ride, there is enough to slide. Avalanches early season are pretty common and slide right to the ground resulting in a very bad day if you were to get caught.
And lastly … have fun and be sure to post or text your buddy a photo of riding before them. Just don’t tell them where you were ;).