Guided tours offer a safe bet |

Guided tours offer a safe bet

Graphic by Elusia Andrus

SUMMIT COUNTY – If the prospect of getting swept away or buried in an avalanche bothers you, a guided snowmobile tour may be the ticket.

Summit County’s local touring companies say they can show the sights and keep you safe at the same time.

Scott Young is a guide at White Mountain Tours.

“We’re out here as guides to make sure that people have a good, safe time,” said Young, who is in his sixth winter with White Mountain. “This is our backyard. For the most part, we know the bad spots.”

Young said the guides at White Mountain are extremely aware of snow conditions and adjust their routes daily to avoid trouble spots.

“Being a guide is about knowing the risks, knowing the conditions and being able to take a group out there and have a good time,” he said. “A lot of what we do is avoiding areas that make us nervous or are terrain traps.”

The guides determine snow conditions by digging snow pits to test the strength and avalanche potential of the snowpack.

Young said they dig pits every two days or more frequently as the conditions dictate.

The guides also check the daily forecast from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center and keep their own records of evolving conditions in the area.

“We don’t take people into areas that are inherently dangerous,” he said. “We let everybody see mountains without becoming part of them.”

Young has been a member of the Summit County Rescue group for three years and is an EMT. He is certified, as are all guides at White Mountain, in CPR and first aid. They receive a week of guide and avalanche training prior to ever leading a group.

Outside avalanche training is encouraged, and the company pays for expenses incurred.

Asked how his company dealt with avalanche dangers, Good Times Adventures guide Eric Elder had a simple answer.

“That’s easy,” he said. “We don’t go there.”

Elder said his operation sticks to designated trails.

“We groom our trails on a nightly basis with a snowcat, and all day long with a small groomer,” he said. “We’re very aware of our trail conditions, and they are the same trails that we’ve ridden on day in and day out for 12 years.”

Though some companies offer unguided rentals – allowing the customer to take the sled into the backcountry on their own – most have guidelines as to where their customers may travel.

“Our unguided rentals are confined to the Turquoise Lake area,” said Stacy Petty, owner of Alpine Snowmobiles. “It’s actually pretty flat trails. We really cater to the beginner riders.”

Dan Kelley can be contacted at (970) 668-3998, ext. 231, or at

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