The low down on Tahoe snowmobiling – guided and alone |

The low down on Tahoe snowmobiling – guided and alone

Jim Grant / Tahoe Daily Tribune fileSnowmobiling is a good option for non-skiers or for folks who are looking to give their legs a break.

There are a million things to do in Lake Tahoe, but in the winter at least half of them seem to revolve around skiing. Well, what happens when there’s a few non-skiers in the family? How can you enjoy Lake Tahoe’s grandeur and beauty without a ticket to the slopes?

Snowmobiling is a good option for non-skiers or for folks who are looking to give their legs a break. Chances are if you’ve made the investment in your own machine you’ve put anywhere from $3,000 (used) to $11,000 (new and high end) into your machine and you probably already know what you’re doing. More likely, you’re interested in renting a snowmobile for the day or joining a tour to explore.

Ask what options are available. For instance, Lake Tahoe Adventures offers two basic tours, both lasting approximately two hours. The Scenic Tour is designed for beginners and/or non-experts. It takes folks on groomed trails. One guide leads the way for up to seven snowmobiles. Machines are designed to hold from one to three people. The Ultimate Tour is designed to explore un-groomed trails and is only for people who consider themselves an aggressive rider and have a good amount of upper body strength.

“If you can’t control your machines you’re going to dig,” advises Barbara Cunningham, 14-year veteran of the Lake Tahoe Adventure offices. One guide per seven snowmobiles leads the way on an “Ultimate” adventure as well. Rates for scenic trips start at $100 and go up to $205 including fuel costs.

If you’re on the South Shore, there’s really only one place to go according to Jean Dion, snowmobile guide for Lake Tahoe Adventures, and that’s Hope Valley. Inside the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, the Hope Valley area which runs south from the Tamarack Junction and north from the Hope Valley snow park, features 12 miles of groomed trails and hundreds more miles of un-groomed trails. But before you go there’s some pre-trip planning that should be done.

First, pick up a snow park permit. Permits are sold at a variety of locations including the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest offices at 1536 South Carson St. in Carson City, Nev. Snowmobilers coming from outside of California also need to make sure their machines have the “green sticker” to be compliant in California. Green stickers can be found at any outdoor recreation store. For heaps more information, check out for direct links to laws and safety for snowmobilers.

And while out on the trail, be aware of specific wilderness signage. For instance, it’s legal for snowmobiles to travel in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, but illegal for machines to venture into the neighboring Mokelumne Wilderness. Keep an eye out for signs on bamboo poles marking the boundaries.

On Tahoe’s north side, there’s plenty of places to ride. Jackson Meadows outside of Truckee and the Fiberboard outside of Tahoe City which goes all the way up to Brockway Summit are two great choices.

Extra water


Cell phones

Warm clothes


First aid kit

Tow rope

DOT approved helmet – does not include most ski helmets

Appropriate snow boots

Goggles and/or sunglasses

Waterproof gloves

*Snowmobile suits (can be rented for $10 at Lake Tahoe Adventures)



2-stroke is lighter and will have more power than a 4-stroke of equal weight. 4-strokes are heavier and will need twice the engine for the same power output. 2-strokes do not require oil changes. 4-strokes do.

Keep everything tight. Things rattle loose because they’re vibrating. Make sure the track stays tight too.

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