As winter approaches, Wood River Valley residents start thinking about one of central Idaho’s more popular pastimes—snowmobiling.
One staunch snowmobiling enthusiast in the area is Woodside Motor Sports salesman Bryan Baird, who has been riding snow machines since 1990.
“When I first started snowmobiling, it was a lot of fun,” Baird said. “I got a big adrenaline rush, and I really enjoyed seeing all of the sights.”
Baird said the key to keeping veteran riders excited and interested in snowmobiling over the years has been the numerous technological innovations to improve the equipment and riding experience.
“The biggest innovation with these machines is the new technology that brings more horsepower,” Baird said. “Another big change is the lightweight machines that make them easier to operate in heavy snow. All these innovations in horsepower and handling are what keep the extreme snowmobilers coming back for more.”
Bald Mountain snowmaking supervisor Dennis Harper is another snowmobiling enthusiast—he’s been riding for more than 40 years. He said he’s been amazed by the numerous innovations and features that have advanced snowmobiling since he first started.
“The main thing is to be alert.”
“I used to go a lot crazier snowmobiling when I was younger,” Harper said. “If we had the modern machines when I was young, I think it would have been a lot more exciting for me then. Over the last 10 years, I think they’ve started making snowmobiles similar to how motorcycles are made. They have better climbability, and better traction. Every move you make the snowmobile reacts, and that’s a huge change.”
Baird said there are many different groups of people that enjoy snowmobiling, and recommended the sport for those who are adventurous people who seek an adrenaline rush.
In addition to the excitement he gets while out in the snow, Baird said he derives enjoyment from exploring new places that he cannot access while skiing. He said Baker Creek, north of Ketchum, is a great place for snowmobilers to go because it offers something for all ability levels.
Along with Baker Creek, Harper said he enjoys snowmobiling in Smiley Creek, in the Sawtooth Valley, and Quigley Canyon, east of Hailey.
Harper said those who go skiing or snowboarding in the remote backcountry can discover the joys of snowmobiling unexpectedly. He said he’s heard multiple stories over the years of people who have gone snowmobiling in order to access good skiing or snowboarding terrain in the backcountry, only to discover that they enjoy snowmobiling more than the originally planned endeavor.
When he teaches his friends how to snowmobile, Baird said he tries “to preach enjoyment and having fun” but acknowledges that “there is a great deal of skill and experience you need in order to become a good rider.”
Harper has taught all three of his daughters how to snowmobile, and said he preached staying focused when they’ve gone riding.
“The main thing is to be alert,” Harper said. “There are so many obstacles out there. There are creek beds, rocks and so many other things you have to be aware of. It’s kind of a crapshoot whether you’re going to get hit by something, so it’s very important to always remain focused.”
During this first winter after the Beaver Creek Fire, Baird cautioned inexperienced snowmobilers to avoid the areas the fire burned when they go riding this winter.
“This winter is going to be a real avalanche danger for the places hit by the fire,” he said.
Eric Avissar: firstname.lastname@example.org