By Marie Gilmore
On a recent couples trip to Vail, Colorado—thanks to a conference that afforded us a room in the heart of the village for two weeks in February—we really wanted to take full advantage of the pristine powder snow and the gorgeous terrain.
Of course, the 195 runs on the ski hill were calling but with a short weekend trip and a fear of breaking a bone or two after 15 years off the ski trails, we decided to opt for a snowmobiling tour instead.
This is when we discovered Vail Valley Tours, a family-owned snowmobile tour company located right in the heart of Vail. Vail Valley Tours offers two-hour Adventure Tours and three-hour Lunch Tours seven days a week. Tours include shuttle service to and from most area hotels, professional back-country guide, safety training, hot beverage and snack and a DOT approved helmet. In addition, at check-in riders are outfitted with boots and snow pants as needed. Riders must bring goggles, gloves, jackets and any other cold weather gear.
Once we arrived and geared up, our three-hour Lunch Tour group of six was led outside by our guide Beau Mills. Beau grew up in Boulder, Colorado and has spent most of his life outdoors. He is a snowmobile guide in the winter and does ATV and rafting tours in the summer. His passion for the outdoors, his respect for the craft and his knowledge of the area and the snowmobile was evident after just a few minutes.
“Our tours are family friendly as well as provide an adrenaline rush for our thrill-seeking guests and consist of groomed trails, single track through the beautiful White River National Forest, and open meadows,” described Owner Morgan MacKaben. “We welcome you to jump on one of our Arctic Cat snowmobiles and enjoy miles of freshly groomed trails that wind through the backcountry with spectacular alpine views.”
To start the tour, Mills teaches the basics, how to start, how to stop and how to caravan through the mountains on the snowmobiles as a group.
We started out on groomed forestry roads with views of the Gore Range and the Holy Cross Wilderness and made our way up to a meadow where Mills gave us a little time to open up and have a little freedom. We continued up into the National Forest and stopped for some views and some deep powder runs.
In typical style, I had to be the only one who actually tipped my snowmobile. Mills was calm, cool and collected after I got a little too close to the soft powder under a tree and tipped my craft onto its side. He got a little assistance from the husbands and had us back on our way in minutes.
One of the other guests on the tour was also from Florida. Haden Stoneburner, 23, a recent University of Florida graduate on a break after graduation was visiting a friend working in Vail and made his way onto the tour.
“I’m about to head home and start to look for a job,” said Stoneburner. “I’ve never really spent much time in the snow and this was the perfect tour; it gave me everything I wanted from a trip to Colorado.”
The other guest on the tour, Patti Evans, came snowmobiling while her husband hit the ski slopes. “This is my first time in Vail and there is absolutely nothing on earth like the Rocky Mountains. This is the perfect tour.”
Part of the reason our group selected Vail Valley Tours was because they have a Yurt-a round tent shelter typically covered in skins in the middle of the National Forest, which is the spot for lunch. After a couple hours of riding, we stopped at the Yurt complete with tables, chairs, bathrooms, a wood-burning cast-iron stove, and a hot lunch including lasagna, garlic bread, hot cocoa and fresh-baked cookies.
The tour and lunch were exactly what we were looking for to immerse in the natural beauty of the area and get away from the bustle of the village.
We can’t say enough about this tour other than we hope to go back next year and do it again!
Vail Valley Tours is the only tour company that holds a special use permit by the White River National Forest. Children must be age 6 to ride and can drive at 15/16 with a valid permit.
For more information, visit www.vailvalleytours.com or call 1-970-476-7749.