The Snowcats of Sage Part 2: Operating a Snowcat

Snowcat Grooming

One of the things that makes our snowmobile trips among the best in Colorado, is our fleet of snowcats and our grooming operation. Here on this 6,000-acre private mountain, we enjoy an incredible trail system of custom-designed snowmobile routes, all maintained for ideal riding conditions.

In case you missed the first part in this series, go check it out here. In this second part, we’re talking with Sage Outdoor Adventures owner and director of operations, Cole Bangert, on what it takes to operate a snowcat.

Operating a Snowcat

If you’ve ever seen snowcats grooming a ski hill, cruising up and down the mountain, you might have no idea what goes into operating and maintaining these machines. And it’s probably more than you think!

According to Cole, the blade on the front of the machine is the most crucial part, that is the workhorse of the cat – of course aside from the motor and hydraulic pumps that drive it. But the more you can do with the blade, the better.

“The blade is made to roll snow and introduce heat into the snowpack through the rolling motion,” Cole told us. “Then, the snow passes underneath the tracks that pack the fresh snow downward. Finally, the tiller on the back of the machine that reprocesses the snow And the plastic flaps leave the nice corduroy lines that you’re used to seeing on the ski hill. In one pass, going about 8 to 10 miles an hour, you can take a rough road or a very sloppy road, and turn it into a nice and firm, smooth surface.”

Grooming Snowmobile Trails

Aside from the initial upfront cost of buying a snowcat, the expense of putting them on the snow is pretty high.

“We estimate that it costs about $400 every time you start and run the snowcat, even if it’s only for an hour,” Cole explained. “Of course the hourly expense goes up the longer that you’re out grooming. If you are grooming a lot, that means there’s tons of snow on the ground and that is a very good feeling. But it’s also a big cost to keep up with.”

Why so expensive to operate? A number of factors drive up the cost. From complicated parts to rough winter conditions, it’s not easy to keep a snowcat on the snow.

“Snowcats are mighty machines in a small package,” Cole added. “They run off diesel motors, usually Mercedes or Cummins diesel motors. And all the new snowcats also have an EPA required regeneration system on the exhaust that tends to be very problematic.

“What’s more, the hydraulic pumps that power the tiller, the blade, and the drive tracks are extremely temperamental. Even one small droplet of water entering that hydraulic pump system can destroy a $35,000 hydraulic pump.”

Groomed Snowmobile Trails

Consider the fact that snowcats operate in sub-zero temperatures almost all the time. When you add very cold temperatures, very high pressures and small moving parts, along with lots of snow and ice, it all adds up to frequent problems.

“Overall though, snowcats are very cool tools,” Cole emphasized. “And honestly, they are quite fun to drive.”

But make no mistake; it takes a very skilled driver. When operating a snowcat, many things are happening all at the same time.

“If you can pat your head and rub your tummy, then you’re a fraction of the way to being able to drive a snowcat,” said Cole. “You’ve got your drive sticks on the left hand throttle, with your right foot on the windshield wiper and your left foot controlling the blade and tiller operations, while your right hand is on the on the joy stick. And all the while, you’re trying not to run into trees and rocks or get stuck…and don’t forget the big one – trying not to dig holes!”

Snowcat

An easy way to spot a rookie snowcat driver is if you go on a trail that has the feel of a rollercoaster, up and down, up and down.

“It’s important to look ahead, judge your momentum, the snowpack and snow density,” Cole explained. “You must cut where you need to cut, deposit where you need to deposit, but not overdo it because if you continually dig a hole and then deposit and then dig another hole and deposit, you’re just making one big roller coaster trail. And it’s very difficult to fix once this has happened.”

It may be complicated. And it’s certainly not easy. But there’s no question that we’re extremely proud of our grooming operations here at Sage. In large part, it’s what makes our private mountain experience a fantastic one for our guests.

If you’d like to learn more about our guided snowmobile trips, please take a few minutes to look through the information on our Snowmobiling Page and don’t hesitate to contact us with questions. We’d love to help you plan an unforgettable backcountry mountain experience!

Snowmobile Trail Grooming

What to Wear on Your Colorado Snowmobile Adventure

We’re looking forward to a great winter of snowmobiling here in the Vail Valley. As we prepare, our staff is busy grooming trails, prepping equipment and getting ready for a busy season of outdoor adventure. While we’re working to get ready, we want to make sure you’re ready too!

Not sure what to bring? We’re here to help. COVID has forced us to make a few adjustments to the way we handle winter gear rentals. Here’s what you need to know…

Because it’s time consuming to sanitize gear between trips, we are asking our guests to wear their own winter clothes. This includes boots, face coverings, gloves and goggles. Some gear will be available for rental. But because we will carefully sanitize all items after use and let them dry overnight, availability will be limited.

We provide guests with DOT approved snowmobiling helmets on every trip. Do not bring your ski helmet – you won’t be allowed to wear it. Helmets that we provide will only be used once per day. We will sanitize all helmets overnight for the next day’s use.

To learn more about our COVID response, please click here.

Want to know more about what clothing, boots and other items you should bring? No problem! Here’s a quick rundown:

Starting from the toes and moving up, you’ll want a decent pair of winter boots. We recommend an insulated, waterproof snow boot that comes well above the ankle.

Next, you’ll want to bring your own ski apparel. Dress just like you were getting ready to go skiing – layer long underwear and your ski pants on bottom. On top, bring your ski jacket and appropriate layering underneath. Depending on the current weather conditions, you may want to layer a puffy underneath the ski jacket, or perhaps a lighter fleece along with a long underwear top.

Next, bring a neck gaiter or full-face balaclava to keep your face warm. Additionally, bring your ski goggles. These two items are critical when ripping around the mountain on your snowmobile!

Finally, bring a warm pair of ski gloves. Our new, top-of-the-line of Ski-Doo snowmobiles do have hand warmers on the grips. But you’ll still need gloves for your ride.

Check out the video as Cole explains how to dress for the trip:

If you have any questions about guided snowmobile trips with Sage Outdoor Adventures, please visit our Snowmobiling Page or you can contact us. We hope to see you here on the mountain soon!

A New Winter Season of Snowmobiling Adventures

Snowmobiling Near Vail Colorado

We’ve already welcomed the first snowfall of the season here in the Vail Valley, and we’re getting excited for a winter full of of snowmobiling adventures!

The snowmobiles are ready. The snowcats will soon begin grooming trails throughout this 6,000-acre private mountain playground. And our guides are thrilled to start welcoming guests for these incredible trips.

To get a feel for the snowmobiling experience here at Sage Outdoor Adventures, check out this tour of the operation:

This is winter fun at its finest!

Having a base of operations on a beautiful private mountain near Vail, Colorado allows us to offer a snowmobiling experience that’s unrivaled. It’s one of our greatest points of pride here at Sage Outdoor Adventures. It’s a big part of what makes us different.

A snowmobile tour with us means having access to 6,000 rideable acres. What does that mean for our guests? To put it in perspective, that’s bigger than the Vail ski area. And it’s entirely private. The only people you’ll see on the entire mountain are other Sage guests. Most tour companies rely on Forest Service permits. They are forced to deal with public conditions and are restricted to specific trails and small play areas.

Our riders get to explore the entire mountain. This mountain paradise has 2,500 feet of vertical, more than 100 miles of maintained trails, and expansive meadows for open riding. Our base of operations sits at 8,100 feet elevation, the same as Vail and Beaver Creek Villages. Most of our mountain is north-facing, which preserves snow conditions on our trails.

Trail quality is another major point of pride. Our crew sets the standard for excellent trails and grooming. We operate three Snowcats for grooming, plus five drag groomers that are pulled by snowmobiles. Trail maintenance takes a lot of effort and our team is the best in the business. On a snowmobile ride with us, you won’t have to worry about hitting washboard sections or nasty dips. You’ll be free to enjoy the incredible scenery and an experience like nowhere else!

Finally, the private mountain experience offers an unparalleled level of comfort. Whereas operators on public trails are forced to use temporary check-in trailers and outhouses, our guests enjoy a cozy cabin at our mountain base. Our base is nestled in a scenic valley with incredible views. The cabin is a great place for customers to relax, with wood burning stoves, fully equipped restrooms and a 5,000 square-foot deck overlooking the valley.

The best mountain and the greatest facilities wouldn’t mean what they do without our incredible team. Our people are still what make a Sage experience truly special. But having the opportunity to operate in such an incredible location sure doesn’t hurt!

To learn more bout the winter experience here at Sage, please take a few minutes to scroll through our Snowmobiling Page. You’ll find information on trips, pricing and more. To reserve dates, just follow the “book now” button on the website. Or if you’d like to discuss it with our team, feel free to give us a call at 970-476-3700.

Something Completely Different: Horseback Rides With Sage

When was your last horseback ride? Was it a nose-to-tail, hardly thrilling experience? Well, you can forget it. We’ll show you a horseback riding experience the way it was meant to be.

Here at Sage Outdoor Adventures, we explore big, wide-open spaces. We ride through open meadows, aspen groves, stands of old-growth spruce forest, and along mountain lakes. Our horses are trained to ride side-by-side rather than in single-file formation.

Where most outfitters are limited to single-track Forest Service trails, we offer something completely different. Operating on a historic, private mountain ranch near Vail, Colorado, we get to explore 6,000 acres of spectacular scenery. The Ranch is the size of Vail Ski area, and it’s exclusive to our guests. Not only will you be able to break formation, you’ll have the place to yourself!

Our base of operations on this incredible mountain provides the perfect summer home for our horses. There’s nothing quite like experiencing a beautiful new place on horseback, and our excellent wranglers will help make sure you feel comfortable and ready to enjoy it. We can accommodate riders of any ability level.

Perched above the Vail Valley and overlooking the Eagle River Canyon, this mountain retreat is a quick drive from Vail and Beaver Creek. We offer free hotel pickup and two-hour rides that will have you back in time to enjoy the rest of your day.

 

To learn more about horseback rides with Sage Outdoor Adventures, please visit our Horseback Riding Page. For availability and reservations, please give us a call at 970-476-3700 or contact us online.

Ready For Summer? Experience a Side-by-Side ATV Adventure

While rafting trips need no explanation and horseback riding is always a popular mountain activity, we often receive questions about our side-by-side ATV tours. What makes these trips so special? Why explore the Vail area in a side-by-side?

It’s a valid question. While many regular Vail and Beaver Creek vacationers can lay claim to at least one previous horseback ride or rafting trip, we get a lot of first-timers on our ATV trips. But after their first time, we can almost guarantee – it won’t be the last!

What makes these trips so special? First and probably most obviously, it’s the wind on your face and the fast-paced, driver’s seat view of Colorado’s spectacular mountain country. On our side-by-side ATV tours, you are the driver of your own adventure.

Next, we are fortunate to operate on a 6,000-acre private mountain base area. To put it in perspective, that’s larger than Vail ski area. Plus, we enjoy exploring an additional 14,000 acres of adjoining public land. We have a ton of country to explore, and it’s only accessible to Sage guests.

In addition to the exclusivity, what’s the biggest benefit of having access to this historic private mountain? We’re driving on trails that are specifically designed for side-by-side ATV adventures. These aren’t your average Forest Service roads. On private land, we custom design our ATV trails to be extremely entertaining. And that’s exactly what they are!

Finally, the Sage experience is special because we run new, top of the line machines. Our Maverick’s offer outstanding handling and performance that makes the entire experience that much more fun!

Here’s a quick look at our ATV touring experience:

For more information about our ATV tours here at Sage Outdoor Adventures, check out our Side-by-Side ATV Page. For booking and availability contact us or call us now at 970-476-3700.