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

Don’t Just Ride a Snowmobile – Learn How to Drive One

We don’t offer a “follow the guide and keep up” kind of snowmobile tour. The experience at Sage Outdoor Adventures is something completely different. On a tour with us, you won’t just ride a snowmobile. You will truly learn how to drive one.

Our snowmobile guides are the best in the business. They are friendly, outgoing, and excellent teachers. And having the most possible fun on any snowmobile ride, means learning some new skills along the way.

Each of our guided snowmobile tours is done with a very small guest to guide ratio. Because of that, we are able to customize every tour. No two rides are ever the same. Our guides will always make the effort to meet the needs of each group and make sure you feel comfortable on your machine.

In addition to having a team of outstanding snowmobile guides, our base area is the perfect place to begin. Just 50 yards from the starting point, you’ll enter a giant “practice meadow” where you can learn the feel of your snowmobile in a pressure-free setting.

Our guests have the opportunity to cruise around the meadow and practice turns. Then you’ll be off to explore this giant winter wonderland!

With freshly groomed trails, practice meadows, and so much beautiful terrain to freely explore, you’ll learn how to snowmobile in the best possible setting. Our hope is that each of our guests will appreciate the joy and freedom of snowmobiling.

For more information on guided snowmobile tours with Sage, please take a few minutes to check out our snowmobiling page. We can’t wait to help you plan a memorable snowmobiling adventure.

Kick Your Holiday Plans Up a Notch with A Snowmobile Adventure

This winter, there may be no better way to celebrate the Holidays than with a big mountain snowmobile adventure! With ski areas requiring reservations and operating at limited capacity, come enjoy the Colorado mountains on a backcountry snowmobile ride. This is the perfect year to elevate your holiday plans, and join us for your own little slice of heaven out here on the snow!

Our private mountain is larger than Vail ski area and home to more than 100 miles of trails. Social distance isn’t an issue and we take sanitizing between each ride very seriously.

From our private mountain, you’ll enjoy towering views that overlook the Eagle River canyon. Feel the wind as you gain speed through open meadows, winding through sage and mountain mahogany. Get a real taste of the Colorado backcountry, riding beneath impressive stands of aspen and spruce. The snowmobiling experience here is unforgettable.

We offer family-friendly guided tours with multiple start times each day. We offer transportation to and from your hotel in Beaver Creek, Vail or Avon. That leaves plenty of time for your other holiday plans. It makes a perfect family event. Our outstanding guides will make sure that beginners and advanced riders alike will have a great time.

Not sure what to bring? Check out our recent blog post to learn more about what you’ll need to bring and how COVID protocols are affecting our gear rentals.

For details and to book your Colorado mountain snowmobile adventure, check out our Snowmobile Trips Page or call us at 970-476-3700. See you on the mountain!

Snowmobiles and the Real Backcountry Experience

The recent changes in snowmobile technology are even more radical than the change in ski shape over the last 15 years. Emissions are incredibly low and the sport of snowmobiling is exploding. But what does that mean from an environmental perspective? How does snowmobiling compare to other winter sports in terms of its impact?

From young families to serious outdoor enthusiasts, snowmobiling is a fast-growing sport. Many skiers enjoy a quiet day away from the busy slopes and a chance to do something different with their families. Here at Sage, it’s not uncommon for us to see three-generations of riders together on a tour.

The number-one reason our customers say they go snowmobiling is to “experience the wilderness.” To us, this isn’t surprising at all. It’s true, that backcountry experience is the primary draw for most snowmobile riders.

Snowmobile TourUnfortunately, there’s also a great deal of misperception about snowmobiling. Some folks see them as noisy and polluting. In reality, neither is true. Our modern snowmobiles are incredibly quiet. You are more likely to hear the crunch of the tracks on the snow than you are the engine. And with low emissions and no smell, snowmobiles offer a perfect escape from the bustle of the ski slopes into the tranquility of the mountains.

Our 6,000-acre private mountain near Vail and Beaver creek is home to resident mule deer, elk and other wildlife. Our riders frequently see wildlife here on the mountain, where they stay undisturbed through the winter. In terms of environmental impact, a snowmobile ride is far more “green” than a day of riding ski lifts. All of our guided trips give our guests the opportunity to stop, look, listen and just enjoy being still in these stunning places.

In the end, our guests’ favorite part of these trips is also our favorite part. We’re here because we love the experience. We are skiers too. But a snowmobile ride offers the chance to escape from the crowds and experience the still silence of the backcountry and the mountains in winter.

For more information on our guided snowmobile tours, please take a look at our Snowmobiling Page. Or give us a call at 970-476-3700. We hope to see you here for a snowmobiling adventure soon!

Preparing For an Awesome Snowmobile Season

We are getting ready for an awesome snowmobile season here at Sage Outdoor Adventures! The sleds are getting tuned and ready, trail groomers are ready to rock and the snow has already begun to fall at the higher elevations here in Colorado!

Here at Sage, we have the benefit of operating on a massive, 6,000-acre private mountain. If you’re looking for a safe, socially-distanced activity this winter, it doesn’t get any better than a snowmobile ride on this expansive mountain.

Our mountain headquarters is home to a comfortable base of operations with a heated lodge and indoor restrooms. We are taking all precautions to clean and sanitize all surfaces and equipment for our guests’ safety.

And with 100 miles of perfectly groomed trails, sweeping views from the edge of the Eagle River Canyon, trails with views of six different mountain ranges and an unbelievable variety of terrain, there’s plenty of space to roam.

We’ve always operated with a very small guide-to-guest ratio. We customize every tour to each group. No two tours around here are ever the same! We want all of our guests to appreciate the joy and freedom of snowmobiling in a way that’s safe and easily complies with COVID-19 guidelines.

Our tours are NOT a “follow me and keep up” experience. We teach our guests how to ride their snowmobiles and have more fun on the snow. In fact, 50 yards from the starting point are some incredible practice meadows. Guests have the opportunity to learn the feel of their sled in a perfect, wide open setting. There are a total of 10 free-ride meadows scattered throughout our 6,000-acre playground.

We are proud to offer guests the very best snowmobile technology. We have a stable of 90 high-end Ski-Doo snowmobiles. They are highly fuel-efficient four-stroke machines. They are incredibly quiet and offer superb handling.

With these industry-leading snowmobiles, we put our focus on our guests’ most-requested tour – and that’s the two-hour guided snowmobile tour. This is a perfect snowmobile experience for beginning riders. Skiing for half a day? Perfect! It’s so close to Vail and Beaver Creek, this is an ideal experience!

In addition to our two-hour guided tour, we also offer trips specifically for advanced riders. But no matter what tour you choose, our guides are there to be teachers. That is a major focus for all of our snowmobiling trips.

For more information about snowmobile tours with Sage Outdoor Adventures, please take a look at our Snowmobiling Page. If you have specific questions or would like to reserve your tour, please give us a call at 970-476-3700 or contact us online.

We look forward to seeing you on a Colorado snowmobile ride this season!