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Grand County Colorado Offers Great Snowmobiling Adventures

 by Scott A. Sumner

   As an avid snowmobiler there have been some must destinations I have always wanted to visit. High on my bucket list was Colorado and  in early March of this year I had the opportunity to fulfill my dream  and visit Grand County, Colorado to experience first hand some spectacular snowmobiling.

    My trip began with a quick flight to Toronto and connection to Denver arriving at 11 am. This is a pretty good connection from the east. The busy Denver Airport is one of the biggest in the US with over 50  million passengers per year and was fun to see in full action mode. After picking up my rental car I was on the road to Grand County. At the  beginning you saw little snow and a large urban environment, but soon you  start to climb in elevation and when you hit the Pass the snow is  very evident. The roads are excellent and with 4 lanes going up the Pass it felt very safe.

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   In about 2 hours I arrived at my place to stay in Grand Lake, the  Gateway Inn. This very snowmobile friendly hotel offered a great stay  with your room including a fireplace and western motive. Outside was  a hot tub and the lobby area included a large bar where snowmobilers  were discussing their day’s rides.

It was fun to have lunch at nearby Sloopy’s that is right on the trail and has a great fast food offering. The owners of this  restaurant are very friendly and I enjoyed talking about the area  with them.

    My first day in Grand Lake began with some ice fishing on Grand  Lake. This weekend the Grand Lake Ice Fishing contest was underway  where anglers were participating in catch and release contests in  different fish categories. It was fun to experience and see the area,  which is home to such celebrities as Tim Allen and the founders of  Hallmark cards. It was great touring around the lake by snowmobile  and seeing the excited anglers.

    That afternoon would be my first trail ride snowmobile experience. The day was brilliant sunshine, which meant we would be seeing some great views. Grand Adventures is a snowmobile rental  company that offers four locations in the area and have over 200 sleds  available. They carry all 4 brands in different types of models for trail riding, 2 up and off trail machines.

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     Lance Ward is the Head guide and Trail Manager on the Winter  Park side of Grand Adventures.  He grew up in Los Angeles and has  spent the last five winters in Colorado.”  I love snowmobiling, the  outdoors and the mountains. In the summer I ride dirt bikes-  anything  with handlebars and a motor is very cool,” said Lance who would be my guide this afternoon.

    Our ride began on the Grand Lake snowmobile trail system and went all the way out to Gravel Mountain. “ This is the Mecca and  snowmobile capital of Colorado. This trail system is bigger than any other trail system in the state and has the most varied trails. Where  we rode today is just a small fraction of where you can ride here,”  said Lance. “ We started at 8300 feet and climbed up to over 11,000 feet in a few miles. There are some areas that go to 12,000 feet  here.”

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    The snow conditions were great and got even better as you  climbed the trail. We were able to see views throughout the county including the Mary Jane Ski area and the Continental Divide and Rocky Mountain National Park.

    “  We offer guides here to show you the area and to help you with your ride. There is every different type of terrain with meadows, powder and single tails as well as hill climbing. Some of the  ISOC snocross teams come here before the X Games to get acclimated  to the elevation and experience the snow conditions that are quite  different from other areas of the US, say farther west. Our big hills  are south facing rather than north facing which makes for less  Avalanche issues. Avalanches do happen but may get triggered higher up.”

    Grand County includes the towns of Kremmling, Hot Sulphur Springs, Granby, Grand Lake, Winter Park and Frasier. The county is  about the geographic size of the state of Delaware. Grand County from  Winter Park is located about 90 miles from Denver or about a 1/1/2  hour drive.

   “ Snowmobiling is very popular because of the snow conditions and the towns are very snowmobile friendly. We also have Winter Park ski  area, which is the fourth largest in Colorado as well as Granby Ranch Ski area. Grand Lake is the largest natural lake in Colorado and  borders the Rocky Mountain National Park. It is resort town with interesting restaurants and shops,” said Gaylene Ore of Ore  Communications.  “ I like the outdoors with hiking, biking and  fishing in the summer and snowshoeing, skiing and snowmobiling in the winter. There is so much to do. In the summer golfing is also bigwith 4 courses in the area. There are Dude Ranches as well with  horseback riding. Fly-fishing is really great here because we are at the  headwaters for the Colorado River starting in Grand Lake. We get  people from all over the world including Colorado, Texas and Canada  as well as England and Germany.”

    It was fun to have breakfast brunch at Fat Cats in Grand Lake.   Owner Sally who is from England puts on a great spread complete with  fancy pastry deserts and tea!

   The next day of riding was near Granby at the Vagabond Ranch. Our  trip began with being picked up at the highway entrance and  snowmobiling in with a sleigh some 4 miles.  Vagabond is a very  unique backcountry setting that is off the electricity grid but offers luxury cabin lodging which can sleep up to 16 in one cabin.  You can experience telemark skiing and snow boarding as well as  snowmobiling. My guide today would be Jeremy who is an owner of  Vagabond and offers brand new Ski Doo Summit 800 sleds that can  handle any terrain. It was fun to experience some of the high  elevation rising with Jeremy in this pristine setting.

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   My third day of riding began with a fresh dump of 6 to 12 inches  of snow and a trip to the Grand Adventures location at the Winter Park Lodge Ski Area. The riding would turn out to be my best of the  season with guide Snowmobile Steve and Marketing Manger of Grand  Adventures, Meg Mizell. Our ride began up the trail with fresh powder and included stops at elevation to see an historic tressel and  spectacular views of the Mary Jane Ski are. The sun broke through,  just for us it seemed. We carried on up to a great bowl area to play  in the powder when the snow came back in and created almost a white out condition. As a snowmobiler this was fun for me and reminded me  of earlier years in the east when snow seemed to be more prevalent.

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   That afternoon it was time for my final riding experience withTrailblazer Tours in Fraser. This experience began in their historic cabin with wood stoves burning and included some great single-track  trails. My guide was Josh and we rode with Meg again in some fresh powder though very beautiful terrain. Josh and his coworker, Mouse take great pride in their trail system here. Mouse makes sure the  trails are well groomed and marked and you can really see the effort  they take in their jobs.

   For me it was fun to experience Colorado snowmobiling. I  especially liked being with avid snowmobile enthusiasts and feeling  their passion for the sport. I hope to come back to this area again and it is definitely one of the best snowmobiling I have everexperienced.

Special thanks to Gaylene, Jim, Meg, Lance, Jeremy, Snowmobile Steve, Josh and Mouse for their help on this trip!

 

 

 

http://www.grandadventures.com

http://www.grandadventures.com/index.php/snowmobiling/fraser-valley

http://www.sagebrushbbq.com

www.grandlakechamber.com

www.sloopysgrill.com

www.gatewayinn.com

http://hernandospizzapub.com

http://www.wplodging.com

 

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