Experience Leadville from a Snowmobile
This month I got to go snowmobiling for the first time! Thanks to our friends at White Mountain Snowmobile Tours in Leadville, CO. Leadville is the highest incorporated U.S. city, at 10,200 ft above sea level. And it is a hidden gem for the adventure recreation community. Leadville may seem like the middle of nowhere, but don’t be fooled, there are so many cool things to do there!
To start out the day, our guide Mark, introduced us to the snowmobiles – Polaris 550’s. These are newer snowmobiles and are very easy to start, control and drive, and there was no shifting involved! I learned some pointers on starting, stopping, and making turns. You really have to throw your weight around on the turns, think about it like making turns on downhill skis, except its very heavy, bulky and wants to generally stay in a straight line.
Luckily, we all got to get the hang of things on the practice track for quite a while before heading out onto the trails. The practice track was very wide, relatively flat and had some nice curves to it. It was great for learning how to accelerate (up to 40 MPH on straight aways!), slow down, steer and turn. My biggest fear was rolling, but I never felt like I was unstable enough to roll over or slide out of control, which was a huge relief.
After practicing, we followed our guide onto wooded trails and climbed almost 2,000 ft in elevation, entered into the White Mountain National Forest and popped out above tree line at about 12,600 ft.
You know those white capped mountains you see way off in the distance as you’re driving down Highway 24? Well I got to go up there! And it was breathtaking. We got to see beautiful views of Mount Massive, the second highest peak in Colorado at 14,428 ft and the Sawatch mountain range.
It was also interesting to get an *almost* bird’s eye view of the Arkansas River Valley and the headwaters to the Arkansas River. The snow we were playing on is part of what melts off every spring and makes the Arkansas River so perfect for whitewater rafters and kayakers in the summer – deep snow, means big rapids!
After riding around above tree line for a while, and soaking up the sun and the views, we started to descend back towards the White Mountain Tours base. Going down the steep hills was the scariest part for me, but I just took it slow and everything turned out to be alright!
On the way down we got to stop and check out an entrance to an old mine! In the 1860’s, gold was discovered on the south side of Leadville; in the 1870’s, silver was discovered in the area as well, and by 1880 the population in Leadville had jumped to 40,000 people! (As opposed to about 2,500 people today.) The town still throws an annual Boom Days festival to celebrate its rich mining history.
After one last joy ride around the flat, open space at the base camp, we parked our snow mobiles and made our way into town.
It was a great treat to eat at High Mountain Pies in Leadville, they have some really unique pizzas there!