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  • Rylee T

What They Don’t Tell You About Snowmobiling in Estes Park, CO

If there’s one thing that experienced travelers know, it’s that good planning can make or break a vacation. We know that even though summer just rolled around, there are folks out there making plans for a winter excursion to Estes Park, and for good reason - researching all of the activities, places to stay, restaurants, etc. in a tourist destination like Estes requires time! The last thing you want is to show up, ready for your adventure, only to find that the activity you thought you were going to do isn’t an option, or isn’t a good option for your group. One such activity is snowmobiling - an idyllic winter adventure that seems like a great fit for an Estes Park winter wonderland. This week, we’re taking a deep dive into why it actually isn’t, and what you can do instead to still have a thrilling winter adventure.

It might come as a surprise that a place like Estes that often gets significant snow in the winter would not have the right conditions for snowmobiling, but it is the case most of the year. Estes Park sits in the perfect location to get lots of snow, but that snow is more often than not followed by winter winds that take the snow from smooth and snowmobile-friendly to drifted piles that snowmobiles are unable to pass over or around. These windblown piles are unforgiving and are often the reason prospective snowmobilers are unable to go more than a few hundred feet before turning around.

Additionally, the Estes Valley often receives less consistent snowfall than is required for a worthwhile snowmobile season. With lots of storms dropping smaller amounts of snow throughout the winter, the snowpack does not grow enough for safe travel via snowmobile down an entire trail. Slow, careful maneuvering to navigate around dirt patches, exposed stumps or rocks, etc. can really hinder an adventure usually depicted as fast-paced and wicked fun. 

That brings us to the next issue - snowmobiling in most areas is very different than what some tours may show online or in the media. If you’re picturing ripping through the woods, your buddies fanned out around you, making jumps off of rocks and drifts and catching big air, you are unlikely to experience that in a real-world tour. Some companies offer more independent rides than others, but ultimately, your experience is more likely to resemble a horseback trail ride - everyone lined up behind a guide, going a steady pace single file down the trail. That is absolutely some people’s jam, and if that’s your thing, more power to you, but it is very different from the independent ride some folks are looking for. For this reason, there are no companies in the Estes Valley that rent snowmobiles - the driving distance to get somewhere you can actually use the sleds is too great for it to make sense to do so.

If at this point, you are feeling discouraged about your Estes Park winter adventure opportunities, don’t fret! There is an excellent alternative that still allows you to get out in the snow and rip around on the trail, with the added benefit of a heated cab if you desire one - a Polaris Northstar. Equipped with a heated cab (or roll down the windows and let the snow fly if that’s your thing!), winch, sound and navigation systems, the Northstars are the perfect alternative to snowmobile sleds. Not only are they safer, but they handle the Estes Valley’s snow conditions like a breeze. With room for up to six people, they are a very fun choice for your group to get out into the snow and tear it up on the trail. Polaris 1000 XP are another fun choice for groups who want to face the winter conditions head-on, with an open cab primed for a snowy adventure. Turn up the tunes and get groovin’ down the trail during your winter UTV adventure.

For some folks, the desire to snowmobile may outweigh the inconvenience of having to drive ~3 hours to get to the right conditions to do so. In that case, we recommend checking out On The Trail Rentals in Grand Lake, CO. The folks there are good people, and Backbone Adventures is glad to recommend them to folks who are wanting a safe, fulfilling snowmobile adventure with the right landscape and snow conditions to do it. Getting there from Estes Park is a trek in the wintertime, as Trail Ridge Road is closed, but if snowmobiling is the activity that is going to really make your vacation, you can absolutely make an adventure of it. In fact, consider trying both a Northstar from us and a snowmobile from OTTR to see which option you like best!

Overall, we know it can be disappointing to learn that snowmobiling is not a great option for the Estes Valley. But with so many awesome alternatives to get out in the snow and have a blast, we hope you feel a little more prepared for your Estes Park winter adventure. Ready to book a Northstar or UTV? Secure your spot today!

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