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Zooming through snowmobile paradise

Amanda Holt MillerWestern Garfield County Staff

SUNLIGHT – I approached my first snowmobile with the timidity you might expect from a child cautiously petting her first horse. This beast of a machine commanded respect.”You’ll be surprised, once you get started, how easy it is,” said Clem Lundberg, who manages Sunlight Snowmobile Tours, located about three miles above Sunlight Mountain Resort. He did a lot to put my mind at ease. No big deal. Just fun, that’s how he made it sound. And he was right.He showed us how to start and stop the snowmobile and told us to lean with the machine when we turned. He clicked on the hand warmers and headlights. There was nothing to it.I was never a Girl Scout, and I’m never prepared. I showed up at the Sunlight Snowmobile Tours’ trailer in jeans and tennis shoes. No problem. Lundberg handed me a pair of snow boots, a warm padded snow suit, gloves and a helmet with a visor.”People sometimes say they think it’s pricey,” Lundberg said. “But we supply you with about $300 worth of gear.”That’s not all. In addition to all the fancy clothing and equipment, Lundberg offered up a state-of-the-art $7,000 Ski-Doo 550. The 2005 model.The snowmobiling trail system that weaves through the mountains of the Western Slope is so extensive, I can’t imagine any novice conquering it without a guide. Snowmobilers can ride from Basalt to Grand Mesa in 100 different ways and another 100 on the way back.”Glenwood Springs should be a mecca for snowmobilers,” Lundberg said. “This is some of the best snowmobiling in the country.”We buzzed through an open pasture blanketed in pure white snow. Snowmobiling is just like driving a car but you get to be outside in places you know you won’t find a car or even a driver. We raced along to places where we were alone with the wilderness.After a few fun curves, where I showed my promise as a future snowmobile racer, we emerged from the woods to the most awesome view I’ve seen since I moved to Garfield County three months ago.At Tri-County Point, where Mesa, Pitkin and Garfield counties come together, Mount Sopris stared us down while we took in 360 degrees of breathtaking views. To the south of Sopris, we could just make out the Sangre De Cristo Mountains. To the west, we saw the Flat Tops and the Grand Hogback.Then we hopped back on our snowmobiles and cruised along a straightaway at about 50 miles per hour. I know there are speed demons out there who will scoff, but I got a thrill every time my bottom bounced off the seat.We stopped at Baylor Park, where an unusual burst of wind, or maybe even a freak tornado, knocked down and tore the tops off a patch of trees five miles long in 1997, Lundberg said. No one even knew it happened until the snowmobilers went up to groom trails in the late fall.Near that section of dilapidated forest was an open field where we were able to drive fast, turn fast and attempt jumps. A playground, Lundberg called it. I did my best but don’t think the X-Games are in my future.As we headed back down the mountain along the natural gas pipeline, I was amazed by the quiet I could hear over the roar of the snowmobile. There was no sign of human existence aside from the trail. There were no power lines, no trash, no signs. Bears had clawed a number of aspens close to the trail and Lundberg pointed out the spot where the elk come to have their young.Snowmobiling is a rush. It’s fun and fast. But most of all, it’s a way to escape civilization and get to those hard-to-reach wilderness spots people come to Colorado to see.infoTour times: 9:30 a.m. and 1 p.m.Prices: $125 for a single rider$185 for a double rider$175 for performance machines$60 for each additional hourCustom tours availableCall: (970)945-8885 to make a reservation


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