It’s fun going (snow) mobile |

It’s fun going (snow) mobile

Tim OmarzuA view from a mountain top in the Eldorado National Forest accessible by groomed trail. The state pays to groom about 2,200 miles of snowmobile trail each winter.
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

Snowmobiles are noisy and stinky, but a whole lot of fun and surprisingly easy to get the hang of.

And they’re getting less noisy and stinky.

Those are some things I learned Monday, at a media snowmobile ride put on each year by state officials, Forest Service officials and snowmobile enthusiasts.

Reporters get to ride snowmobiles for free, eat a free lunch, and then figure out how to turn the freebie into a useful, meaningful story to justify their day of fun.

So here goes:

Four-stroke engines are coming.

The media ride (held at the Bear River Resort, a beautiful snowmobile mecca 37 miles east of Jackson off Highway 88) featured some new Arctic Cat snowmobiles with four-stroke engines.

They’re quieter, more fuel-efficient and don’t put out clouds of blue exhaust as can the two-stroke engines, which burn a mixture of gas and oil.

“If you ride behind one of the four-strokes, you’d never know it,” said Ari Makinen, owner of Lake Tahoe Adventures snowmobile tour company. He just bought sixty four-stroke snowmobiles made by Arctic Cat, a Minnesota manufacturer.

Makinen is switching over his fleet of 85 snowmobiles.

“I finally decided it would be the smartest thing, with all the pressures of the environmental stuff,” Makinen said. “We wanted just to try to be in the forefront.”

The new four-strokes aren’t as blazingly fast as the two-strokes. But Makinen said Yamaha is working on a high-end, high-speed four-stroke snowmobile. He also pointed out that four-stroke motorcycles are not beating two-strokes in races.

Here’s another thing I learned: In some states you can rent a snowmobile and head out on your own.

But in California, you have to go out as part of a tour group, with a guide leading the way.

Due to insurance liability concerns, “I don’t know of any place in California where you can rent a sled and take off,” said Jay Dobler, a member of the Bear River Trail Riders snowmobile club, a fun bunch of people who helped put on the media ride.

Still, snowmobiles are easy to drive.

Within two or three minutes of climbing on a 600 cc Yamaha, I was racing along at 50 mph through the woods on a groomed trail.

Whipping past the huge trees reminded me of that scene in “Return of the Jedi,” where Luke and Princess Leia ride speeder bikes on the forest moon of Endor.

However, you can get the same experience yourself at a much closer location than Endor: Eagle Ridge Snowmobile Outfitters in Truckee is the closest tour company to Grass Valley/Nevada City.

Rates begin at $85 per person (or $115 per couple) for a two-hour tour.

On the Net

Eagle Ridge

Snowmobile Outfitters

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Grass Valley and Nevada County make The Union’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.


Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User