As part of a fun filled vacation to Colorado to escape the record snow in Dallas, one of our top priorities was to go snowmobiling. As we were doing our research, one firm was consistently recommended as providing good service, excellent equipment, and a great location for a fun snowmobiling experience - Sage Outdoor Adventures. My brother Scott, who is somewhat wild and crazy, did the research and one of the reasons he picked Sage is because they had new snowmobiles with big cc engines and they let you take them out without a guide - which if you know Scott that means trouble!
Part of Sage's reputation for service is that they will pick you up and take you back to wherever you're staying - all you have to do is be dressed for fun and standing outside the door. Their Muddy Pass snowmobile base camp is about a 20 minute ride northwest from Avon. During the snow season Sage starts the snowmobile ride just off Hwy 131 and you take a three mile narrow winding snowmobile trail to the White River National Forest. When we were there in March, the base camp had moved further up the trail thanks to the receding snow melt. That was actually good news because it meant less trail riding to get to the more open and more scenic National Forest. At Sage's base camp we were fitted with some fancy and racy helmets, jumped in Sage's SUV and were driven a little further up the trail by Darryl Bangert who is the owner of Sage Adventures - what a great guy and passionate about his business and ensuring that you have a safe and memorable experience. On the way up, Darryl went over his 10 simple rules, a couple of which were, "stay on the trails or previous snowmobile track because the snow is soft and deep" and "be safe and have fun." He also gave me lessons on a GPS tracking device that would quickly send a distress signal with our location if we got lost - oh boy, if there is a way to get lost, Scott will find it and now I am getting a little nervous knowing that I will have to try and keep up with him because I have the GPS.
After a short snowmobile lesson, we set off racing up the narrow and twisting trail that traversed up the mountain to a ridge at the start of the White River National Forest. Scott was in the lead and I was sure I was going to make one of the turns and see him off the trail and upside down in the snow. But he made it in record time and safely to the ridge line which provided our first opportunity for some Kodak moments. What an unbelievable panoramic view. The grandkids, who are 3 and 4 and have had a lot of unique experiences in their short life span, had the biggest grins I've seen in a long time - as a matter of fact, everyone was grinning ear to ear and commenting about what a blast they were having - and the adventure was just beginning.
From the ridge line, the trail led further into the National Forest and up and down and thru some cantatas scenery - from a narrow tree lined trail to wide open gently rolling bowls with fresh untracked powder to ridges offering magnificent vistas. I could have stopped every two minutes for a great picture and filled a 2 gig memory card with poster quality pictures, but I was too awe struck and having too much fun trying to keep up with Scott leading the way or giving my grandson (and me) a thrilling ride and trying to answer his question "can't we go any faster Dukie?"
Shortly after our first Kodak moment, I took the peak of a small hill and started heading down only to find the rest of our group stopped and huddled around a snowmobile buried in knee deep powder off the trail! As usual, Scott had broken Darryl's first rule ("stay on the trail or in some other snowmobiles tracks") and was stuck. For the next 20 minutes, all of us tried a variety of techniques to get the snowmobile out of this predicament, which was tough thanks to having no clue of what to do to free the snowmobile, our huffing and puffing due to the altitude and the weight of the snowmobile, knee deep powder, and a constant barrage of snowballs from the kids. Oh, and of course as we tried to power out, we only dug it in deeper. Now what!
And similar to the old movies where the pretty damsel is tied to the railroad track and about to get run over by the rapidly approaching train when suddenly out of nowhere and just in the nick of time comes the hero to save the day. That's what happened in our case, as we were scratching our heads and cursing Scott, blaring down the trail in what looked like a good-guy-savior white helmet came Brandon, one of Sage's guides. Had he checked around and found out about Scott's history of mishaps and was following us? It would take many calls or checking to find out about Scott's history of mishaps because it seems like thousands of friends, acquaintances, rental companies, tour guides, and others know that you should never ever let Scott get his hands on anything that has an engine!
When Brandon took off his good guy white helmet, my wife and daughters knees began to shake, their jaws dropped, and the smiles widen thanks to Brandon's good looks, confidence, and pleasant demure. Scott and I just looked at him as our hope to get this thing free, with no damage, and before our rental time ran out. Scott must have also been pretty happy that Brandon didn't question what happened or lecture him, he just got right to it and had the snowmobile back on the track within two minutes - did I see the wife and kids looking at us like "why couldn't the two of you do that - our hero Brandon did it by himself!"
Then it was back on the trail, blasting thru the trees, and enjoying some unbelievable scenery - what fun! As usual, thanks to frequent photo stops, I'm bringing up the rear and as I round a bend, I see everybody is stopped once again! They are huddled around a snowmobile with the engine cover up - you got it, it's Scott's snowmobile. While our four snowmobiles were performing flawlessly, his had suddenly stopped running and wouldn't start. Darryl had said that occasionally this will happen and all you need to do is throw some snow on the manifold, let it cool, and it will start. Why this happened to only Scott is not a surprise, but after throwing snow on it and waiting for awhile, we still couldn't get it to start when low and behold, none other than "our knight in shining snowmobile" shows up, gets it started, and we are once again heading off thru the trees. I think Brandon is now trailing Scott!
After more scenic trails, panoramic majestic views, and open bowls with untracked powder, all too soon it was time to start heading back down to the base camp. What a fantastic winter wonderland adventure! The scenery was stunning and changed frequently from pines to aspens to big open snow covered rolling hills to vistas of beautiful mountain ranges and jaw dropping scenery. One of my daughters had her iPod and favorite tunes and claims that helped make this ride an even more magical trip for her. And the grandkids loved it and couldn't wait to tell there dads who were stuck in the hotel room babysitting the two youngest grand kids - 4 months and 2.
All of the snowmobiles at Sage were less than a year old and in very good shape and as fast as we could handle. Even Scott admitted they were fast enough for him. The snowmobiles are easy to drive, will seat two comfortably (including your kids), and even have hand warmers! If you are an experienced snowmobiler, Sage has a fleet of high performance Polaris 600 RMK, deep snow snowmobiles which will fulfill your yearning to get deep into the back country and powder of Vail - Scott, don't even think about it!
Sage Outdoor Adventures also offers Segway tours in the snow, on some of summer mountain trails, and around Vail Village - which is a fun way to see the village and all it has to offer. During the summer Darryl and his crew offer thrilling white water rafting trips on a variety of different Colorado rivers around Vail. Or you can rent a tube from them and float through the heart of Vail Village on Gore Creek. Give them a call (970-476-3700) or visit their website to learn more.
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