Snowmobile tour gives grand views of Lake
Some came to tour the snow-covered backcountry of Tahoe, others just to ride a gas-powered sled.
Regardless of one’s motivation, everyone seemed able to relax Sunday morning and enjoy the bluebird sky, the one-to three-foot base of snow and miles of groomed snowmobile trails above Spooner Summit.
“It was neat seeing the views, valleys and the lake,” said Dave Flagg, a 36-year-old from Brentwood, Calif. “I’ve never seen it (the lake) fogged in.”
After climbing 2,000 feet on a snowmobile to 9,000 feet, a group participating in a scenic tour with Zephyr Cove Snowmobile Center took a break near Genoa Peak to absorb an expansive, cloud-covered Lake Tahoe hundreds of feet below.
Excluding the two guides who capped the beginning and end of a train of snowmobiles, 10 customers zoomed up and down tree-lined trails in the Toiyabe National Forest and on land managed by the Forest Service.
“We emphasize on scenery and experience, not speed,” said Mark Tschirgi, office manager at the snowmobile center. “We try and give people access to mountains and backcountry they otherwise wouldn’t get. The views are spectacular, second to none.”
The center leads four tours each day from mid-November (if snow allows) to mid-April, with groups normally not larger than 15 snowmobiles. At their peak, more than 80 sleds are sent out each day making Zephyr Cove Snowmobile Center the largest touring center in the United States.
It owns more than 100 sleds designed for touring, which means they are less powerful and lighter. Each snowmobile weighs about 500 pounds and would cost about $4,000 to buy.
C. T. Rowe, a guide leading the Sunday morning tour, said the sleds can go about 60 mph but that tour groups cruise at 15-to 20-mph. He said performance snowmobiles can cost $8,000 to $10,000 and reach speeds up to 120 mph.
This year the center enjoyed one of its earliest openings ever on Nov. 19. To open, the Forest Service requires a six-inch snow base on the trails. At this point in the season 25 of the center’s 60 miles of trails are open for business.
At the close of each day a Snowcat, specifically designed to groom smaller areas, levels out the trails so they are smooth for the next batch of snowmobilers.
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