Several businesses offer guided snowmobile outings, ranging from around hourlong tours to all-day expeditions, making it the perfect way to enjoy the Kit Carson National Forest and northern New Mexico’s stunning vistas.
“We take people on a seven-mile climb up 2,500 feet to the top of Greenie Peak, which is one of the highest spots in New Mexico you can ride to in or on a motor vehicle,” says Jason Akerson, owner of Red River Sled Shed. “You get a fantastic view in three different directions.”
According to the Red River Chamber of Commerce, snowmobiles originally were designed as log haulers but had no steering mechanism so they only moved in straight lines. The first steerable machine was constructed in 1909, and a Wisconsin inventor designed the first “motorized toboggan” in 1924.
Snowmobiles evolved into recreational vehicles around the mid-1950s and first appeared in Red River in the early ’70s.
Today’s snowmobiles are quieter, more reliable and easier to use than ever, tour operators say. They even have heated hand and thumb warmers. The only difference between driving a snowmobile and a car is that drivers use their hands rather than their feet to control the machine’s speed. Anyone 16 and older with a valid driver’s license can operate one; youngsters have to ride with an adult. And even if your “snowmo” outing is spontaneous, the tour operators will have you covered: Each includes the use of snowsuits, boots and helmets. All you need are gloves, sunglasses or goggles and maybe a scarf to keep your neck warm.
There’s usually enough snow in the area for operators to open the day before Thanksgiving and continue through sometime in March. Red River is the only community in New Mexico with more than 50 miles of groomed trails for snowmobiling, according to the chamber.
Here’s a roundup of what tour outfits offer:
Red River Sled Shed (575-754-6370, 800-395-0121, redrivernm.com/sledshed/ snow-go.html): Tour guides try to “mix it up” so participants get a little bit of everything: time to soak up the scenery on winding groomed trails, time to zip around on the machines in large open meadows and time to enjoy scenic peaks and overlooks, Akerson says.
The Sled Shed offers a one-hour tour up Sawmill Mountain for a scenic lookout of the valley below, plus some meadow playtime. The two-hour tour motors to Greenie Peak for breathtaking views and meadow playtime.
The 3 ½ -hour trip zips to Greenie Peak, then cruises back to the meadows of the old gold mining town of Midnight for lots of playtime and beautiful country.
Bobcat Pass Wilderness Adventures (575-754-2769, bobcatpass.com/tours. html): Take a one- or two-hour snowmobile ride through scenic private land in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in the Moreno Valley between Eagle Nest and Red River, suggests mechanic Chris McMinn. Choose from one- and two-hour rides at about 10,000 feet, with trail and meadow playtime.
All-day rides to the Hopewell Lake area are great options for more experienced riders, he says.
There’s a 10 percent discount for six machines or more, and kids age 5 and younger ride free. Call for prices.
Red River Ski Area (575-754-2223, 800-331-SNOW, redriverskiarea.com): This is the only operator to offer an evening snowmobile tour.
“We have a special-use permit through the Forest Service,” says resort services director Walt Foley. “Part of it is through the ski area and part of it is behind the ski area, on the way to Goose Lake.”
Snowmobilers meet their guides at the base area parking lot at 4:30 p.m. to get suited up, and the tour starts at 5 p.m.
Riders glide up the ski slopes to the Ski Tip, where they feast on green chile stew and sandwiches. The tour then continues to Placer Creek, passing mining camps with unfinished cabins more than 100 years old, Foley says. Guides share history of the ski area, the town and its mining days.
Guests occasionally glimpse deer and snowshoe hares. Once they reach the open meadow at their final destination, snowmobilers can play around on the machines. The tour lasts about two hours, Foley says.
Cost is $70 for riders age 16 and older; $50 for age 15 and younger. Riders must be at least 5 years old.
Fast Eddie’s (575-754-3103, fasteddies.samsbiz.com): Tours begin in the Mallette Park area and run 1 ½ , 2 ½ or 3 ½ hours, says Kristen Thomason, who owns Fast Eddie’s with her husband, Scott.
“The guides talk to their group and find out what they’re looking for. If the whole group has been before, they can speed up a little bit,” she explains.
Each tour allows for meadow time, in addition to visiting Greenie Peak, Midnight Meadows and several overlooks, depending on the length of tour chosen. There’s a warming hut in the meadows, and sometimes the guides will build fires, Thomason says.
Snowmobilers usually bring their own snacks, but Fast Eddie’s also sells nibbles and drinks in the office.
Prices are $60 for a single rider, $75 for double for the hour and a half tour; $80 single, $105 double for the 2 ½ hour; and $100 single, $135 double for the 3 ½- hour tour. Riders must be at least 4 years old.
Prices are subject to change.