Grand Lake: Snowmobile capital of Colorado
November 25, 2008
What world class skiing is to Colorado, snowmobiling is to the alpine village of Grand Lake.
On any given mid-winter day, it’s common to see families on snowmobiles idling down the town’s Main Street, pulling into diagonal parking spots to grab a quick bite to eat at a local restaurant before heading back to the forest trails.
Because of this unique acceptance of the sport in town, along with an average snowfall of 100 to 200 inches on high-elevation U.S. Forest terrain, plus state-of-the-art grooming on 75 miles of trails linked directly to town, Grand Lake is gaining a reputation of being one of the most snowmobile-welcoming areas in the state.
“We get people here from all over the world,” said Mike Ingle, president of the local 74-member Trail Blazers club, a social organization that sponsors group rides every weekend from December through March.
The Trail Blazer social club consists of members who also take part in a uniquely Grand Lake program established by the Grand Lake Trail Groomers organization.
Similar to “Courtesy Patrol” volunteers at ski resorts, snowmobilers wearing fluorescent vests with the words “Trail Host” on back travel the groomed system and assist snowmobilers who are lost or stuck.
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This on-trail courtesy works in concert with the U.S. Forest Service and a well-mapped and way-finder system to ensure Grand Lake-area snowmobile riders have a safe and fun experience.
“It’s a well-mapped out trail system,” said President of the Trail Groomers organization Amy Frutchey. The groomed system offers the entire range of expert to beginner riding, with steep and deep terrain just a half-hour ride in on family-friendly trails.
Nightly, seven times a week, two to three groomers take to the mountain trails to ready them for the next day’s rides. The nonprofit Trail Groomers, which publishes the annual Grand Lake-area trail map, accomplishes this service through rental-customer donations and grants.
There are about four snowmobile rental outfits in and around Grand Lake. Access to the total 200-mile groomed and ungroomed forest trail system can be gained right from town or at the Idleglen parking area on County Road 4 off of U.S. Highway 34.
According to Frutchey, the Grand Lake area consistently has been ranked in the top 12 for having top-notch scenic trails. And with its proximity to the Continental Divide, weather patterns allow for heavy snowfall at high elevations near Grand Lake.
Gravel Mountain, for example, dubbed “Super Chicken,” reaches an elevation of 11,769 feet, offering not only rich snowfalls, but panoramic of the Great Lakes area.
It’s part of what Frutchey loves about the sport, that ability to seek out locations otherwise unattainable. “I like exploring new places ” places you know you couldn’t get to in the wintertime without a snowmobile,” she said.
” Tonya Bina can be reached at 887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.