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Driven snow: Guided tours offer people the chance to learn about snowmobile usage and safety

Snowmobile riding can be fun with proper safety. (Courtesy of Cumbres Adventure Tours)

There is just something about cranking up a snowmobile and roaring across unblemished meadow of snow.

There’s a freedom and exhilaration that is hard to compare.

“It’s the ambiance of where you’re going and what you’re doing,” said Sue Lewis, whose family owns Bobcat Pass Wilderness Adventures in Red River. “Especially on our tours. We have big, vast open areas. This ability to get out and combined with all these beautiful pine trees covered with snow and covered mountain peaks in the background is just stunning. The feeling of freedom and confidence in driving that snowmobile is sublime. You’re challenging yourself each time. And just being outside in the fresh air.”

For those who have never sat atop a snowmobile, Troy Chambers of Cumbres Adventure Tours, north of Chama, said he caters to newcomers to the sport.

“At least 65% to 75% of my riders have never ridden before,” he said. “When a person tells me they want to ride on back, I ask them if they want to ride around the shop and get a feel for it. Usually they end up riding their own machines.”

For those riders, Chambers said the rolling hills are tailor-made for newcomers to get their feet wet.

“We travel through different ranges,” he said. “They’re more rolling hills versus the steep climbs you see up near Creede and that area. The really steep areas up there are not conducive for beginning riders.”

Since many of his riders are new, Chambers said he uses trails that have been packed down and takes riders to areas where there are no hidden rocks or tree stumps.

“We go to a meadow where they can go out and play, run up the hills and get a feeling for what the snow feels like without it being dangerous,” he said.

Safety is a primary factor with Bobcat Pass Wilderness Adventures, as well.

“The riders are educated by our guides as to what they need to know to understand the snowmobile,” Lewis said. “They go over the safety for their protection and the guidelines they’re expected to follow.”

The biggest danger, Chambers said, is inattention, or wandering attention as scenery can be mighty compelling.

“You really have to watch out for running into the back end of the person in front of you,” he said. “They could be looking off to one of the views and soon you’re doing that then the person in front of you suddenly stops.”

All in all, however, that’s a pretty rare occurrence, Chambers said.

And snowmobiling is a great way to get into the backcountry with very little effort.

“I just like to see what trails I can get on and conquer and see what’s around the next corner,” Lewis said. “I like looking for wildlife. We have deer and elk, mountain lions and bobcats.”

The views are breathtaking, she said.

“We go 20 or 30 minutes through a beautiful valley and travel back into an area where you can share some of the majestic views of Wheeler Peak and the other big mountains in the area,” Lewis said.

The beauty of the surrounding countryside makes every trip worthwhile, Chambers said.

“A lot of people, they drive past on the roads and they have no idea what’s out there,” he said. “You go through the trees and you come out and see these massive openings of fields. When they get out to areas no one ever has been and the snow is perfect, it’s pretty neat. It’s very picturesque with the snow on the trees. It is beautiful.”

Much of Cumbres Adventure Tours rides are near the Continental Divide and a favorite spot is stopping high above Chama, looking back at the Brazos or across at Blanca Peak.

“There is a lot of exposure from atop the hills,” he said. “People like me to take pictures of them looking back at the Brazos behind them, looking at all the space out there.”

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