Incredible Flathead Valley Views Via Snowmobile

   If you want to explore Flathead’s winter wonderland, there’s no better way to get to the big scenic vistas—many times more than one of them—than snowmobiling. From atop a mountain you can have a 360-degree view that gives you glimpses into Glacier National Park and Canada on the same peak. And with the inconsistent snows of December and January finally settling down, these later winter months mean some of the best times for getting going on a snowmobile.

   Ask any snowmobiler—there is no better way to access the backcountry and get some miles under your belt than by snowmobile. With over 200 miles of groomed trail and another 2,000 miles of National Forest Service roads, the Flathead is perfect for any level of snowmobilers—from first time riders to intermediate to expert. Plus, top-notch guide services—including one local outfitter who recently trained the military on backcountry snowmobiling skills—mean that your trip into the backcountry will be safe, fun and beautiful.

    A typical half-day guided tour can range from 50- 60 miles, a full day can take you 70- 80 miles. Guided tours have the added benefit of meals and snacks—outfitters know the best restaurants to access by snowmobile. They’ll have you dining atop Whitefish Mountain’s Summit House or regaling in a backcountry chef’s gourmet lunches near Olney—but guides know the territory and love to share their knowledge.

     According to local outfitter Ron Caldbeck, owner of Winter Wonderland Sports, Stryker trails are a local favorite and offer the most spectacular views of the Flathead. Take a two-and-a-half mile ride top ride across a mountain saddle and catch glimpses of the Yak, the North Fork drainage, Glacier National Park and even into Canada. This ride lets you see the beautiful mountain lakes that are the hallmark of summer recreation in the area. Eagles abound in this area, so keep your eyes open for these majestic birds.

     Other local favorites include Canyon Creek—a trail system that takes you into the North Fork and parallel to Glacier National Park; Desert Mountain—a deep woods tour of the Whitefish Mountain Range and Upper Whitefish Lake; and finally Crane Mountain—just outside of Bigfork this area takes you into the Swan and Mission Mountains and features meadows that make for great play areas. 

    Many of the trails are interconnected and allow access to large swaths of wilderness and state trust lands, but checking with a guide service and getting a good map is always your best bet.

    If you’re new to snowmobiling, there’s no better place than the Flathead to get started or brush up on technique, local outfitters are a surefire way to add to your skills and your fun. Rentals, lessons and safety equipment are all part of the package at local shops and outfitters take safety seriously.

   “Before people go out they get hands on training, they can’t leave until they are 100% confident.” explained Winter Wonderland Sports owner, Ron Caldbeck. Caldbeck has been in the business since 1984 and his company has bragging rights to training the military in snowmobiling skills.

    Avalanches are a risk in any mountain area; so a little caution goes a long way. Guides always carry shovels, beacons, overnight provisions and blankets—it’s the kind of preparedness that every snowmobiler should consider. Local snowmobilers are also constantly aware of the snow and snow conditions, and stopping by a local outfitter to access that knowledge is always a good idea.

   “We continuously look at the snow. We want to make sure we have enough knowledge on snow pack and backcountry,” Caldbeck noted.

   Area chamber and convention bureau’s can get your snowmobile trip started on the right foot. Flathead Convention and Visitor’s Bureau has information at www.fcvb.org

    Plus Trail maps are available throughout the Valley, at snowmobile distributors from the US Forest Service and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. For information on local snow pack and avalanche risks visit Glacier Country Avalanche Center at www.glacieravalanche.org

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