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Snowmobiling in the Eastern Sierras

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Mike snowmobileI purchased my first snowmobile (Sled) in 2005 and am still riding it. Some years I am almost never off of it and some years I never even take it out of storage. In order to ride you need snow, a lot of snow, the more the merrier. There is no such thing as too much snow. Major storms might cause you to wait for the snow to pack down but once it does, wow!

I never ride alone for many reasons including safety. Accidents are not uncommon, you hit a buried object like a tree trunk or a barbwire fence. We can also hit objects that we should have seen like tall trees or even a large rock. Finally you can tip the sled over and be thrown off and into the surrounding country side, you are injured and are unable to ride the sled.

There is always the possibility that your sled could become stuck in deep snow and the only way out is a combination of man power and having the right equipment. I like to carry a shovel and rope to first dig a pathway out of where the snow has swallowed my sled, using a combination of the snowmobile’s engine, human pulling, pushing and sometimes using a second snowmobile to help get the sled out.DSC_0064

I also worry about getting lost or broken down, with no one to help getting my sled running again or towing me back to town.

Finally you need someone to share the experience with you. The sights, sounds, and thrills associated with riding in the Eastern Sierras.

The list of equipment needed to support the sled includes a trailer to haul the sled, appropriate clothing including a full face helmet, warm gloves, a  rescue system which locates the rider in the event the rider is lost or even worse buried under 6 feet of snow after being caught in an avalanche.

DSC_0193There are miles of groomed trails in the Mammoth area to launch from which give both the beginner and the advanced rider access to varied terrain like access to trail riding, hill climbing, or  terrain that would not be accessible without the sled. There are snowmobile maps available at the visitor’s center in Mammoth which show you where snowmobiles are allowed and which trails are available to access the open areas where you can ride without worrying about trees, fences, or any other obstacle which could ruin your day.

Sleds are available in various configurations starting with the number of people that they are designed to carry either one or two people. Engines can be either 2 or 4 stroke. Sleds can be started with battery or by pulling a starter cord. New snowmobiles start at around $8,000 and run up to $15,000. Then add trailer, clothing, helmets, gloves, etc. and you are looking at a startup cost of $10,000 to $17,000.

Finally there is the problem of where do you store them when not in use?

I suggest that your first experience be with a rental company before making a financial commitment. Mammoth Mountain rents sleds out of Main Lodge and can be either guided or self-guided rides depending on your ability.

But most importantly, go out, enjoy the scenery and have fun!

Written by Mike Shuttleworth


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