Your Winter Guide to Snowmobiling in Colorado
by Emily Krempholtz
Well, folks, the days are getting shorter and the weather’s getting colder. While many of us are still mourning the end of summer, there are plenty of us who are looking forward to winter and all of the snow sport opportunities it affords. Snowmobiling in Colorado means having the chance to combine adrenaline-rushing, heart-pumping fun with the jaw-droppingly beautiful setting that is the Rocky Mountains. The best part is, with over three thousand miles of snowmobiling trails in Colorado, you’ll have the opportunity to choose your own adventure, from a fun family excursion on a cloudless bluebird day to a high-speed expedition across fields and slopes of white gold.
Colorado Snowmobiling Permits and Registration
If you’re a Colorado resident with your own snowmobile, you’ll have to make sure it’s registered with Colorado Park and Wildlife. Nonresidents bringing their own snowmobile from out of state will have to purchase a permit, which is good from October 1 through September 30. Permits need to be displayed prominently on the upper half of your snowmobile. Snowmobiles that you rent from adventure companies will take care of this for you, so if you’re renting, you won’t have to worry about it.
Snowmobiling for Families
In Colorado, you don’t need a special license to operate a snowmobile, but you do have to be at least 16 years old and possess a valid driver’s license. Kids between the ages of 10 and 16 can operate a snowmobile only under adult supervision or with proper certification. But if a family trip is what you’re after, you’ve still got options. Kids can ride as passengers with adults on a lot of tours and trails. There are also adventure parks all over Colorado, and many of them offer snow scoots and youth sleds, which are mini snowmobiles for kids under five feet tall and under 120 lbs, and offer plenty of safety features like controlled speeds and safety tethers. Kids as young as four years old can take part in this fun, which usually takes place on groomed tracks set up for this specific purpose.
Finding a Snowmobile
If you live locally and already have your own snowmobile, then you’re golden. There are a ton of trails at your fingertips, and you probably don’t need much help from a random blog post on the internet to get you started. But for people visiting from out of state, beginners to the sport, or those who don’t have a snowmobile to call their very own, going ‘sledding’ requires a little more preparation. Luckily for you, Colorado is home to lots of rental and adventure companies that will set you up with a top-of-the-line snowmobile and an unforgettable experience on top of it.
The benefit of renting a sled through an accredited company is that you’ll get all the fun of buzzing through the powder on your own, but you’ll be doing it with people who know the terrain like the back of their hand and are able to show you the very best spots. There are a ton of tour companies out there that can offer you a great experience, and many of them have unique and fun personal touches that you’ll love. With the help of companies like Grand Adventures in Winter Park, you can take a guided tour of some of the best trails in the area, or rent a snowmobile for a number of hours on your own and head out for your own unguided excursion. With High Country Tours, a guided tour will show you the gorgeous beauty of the Continental Divide, Rocky Mountain National Park, Eagles Nest Wilderness, and so many other beautiful features that you’ll remember for a lifetime. Most companies have a ton of trails at their disposal, so there will be no shortage of fun! At Elk Mountain Adventures in Leadville, there are over 100,000 acres of terrain for snowmobiling, and some tours even include home-cooked meals. And if a curated experience is what you’re after, White Mountain Tours in Leadville lets you choose from a number of amazing snowmobiling experiences, such as the Prospector Tour, which is scenic and great for families with kids riding as passengers, or the High Adventure Tour, which is for experienced single riders who want to get out into the remote high country wilderness for a challenging experience.
If you’re in Colorado on a skiing or snowboarding trip, and you’re staying at a resort, chances are you’re already a lot closer to a great snowmobiling experience than you think. Several of the big guns have their own snowmobiling programs in place, and still more resorts partner with great tour and rental companies like the ones we mentioned above to give their guests the best experience possible when they come to stay. Some resorts have their own terrain that’s perfect for snowmobiling, and others have close working relationships with trusted rental and adventure companies in the area.
Hitting the Powder
Some of the best snowmobiling terrain in Colorado can be found in its National Forests. Here, there are hundreds of miles of trails and fields, mostly kept groomed by locals who spend their free time in the winter out on their snowmobiles, and there’s plenty of easy terrain for beginners, families, and casual sightseers as well as more remote and difficult opportunities as well. There are eleven national forests in Colorado, and each of them is huge, offering expansive opportunities for snowmobiling all over the state. No matter where you are, you’ll find amazing terrain, but some of the most popular regions of Colorado for snowmobilers include Steamboat Springs, which is known for its huge expanses of treeless terrain, the incredible views of the Continental Divide you’ll find near Breckenridge, and the Vail Pass Winter Recreation Area, a world-renowned space that you’ll share with backcountry skiers. If you’re looking to go snowmobiling in a particular area of the state, find out if that region has an outdoors or snowmobiling club; you can connect with other snowmobilers in the area, learn about some of the best places to check out, and even find free maps of all the snowmobiling trails in the area. No matter where you decide to go snowmobiling, and how you decide to do it, be sure to dress warm, and have fun!