The Payette National Forest fulfilled a long-standing public request by permitting two outfitters to run guided snowmobile tours this winter in the McCall area.
Brundage Mountain Resort will focus on family-friendly tours, while CM Backcountry Rentals & Adventures will mix family-style outings with “steep and deep” tours and clinics.
“We do know that this is something that the public and also the outfitters and guides have wanted,” said Susan Jenkins, the recreation program manager for the McCall district of the Payette. “It’s nice that it came together this year, finally.”
Brundage and CM will operate within the same footprint that covers 326,259 acres adjacent to Brundage Mountain. Possible destinations include Burgdorf Hot Springs, Clow Point, Granite Lake, Brundage Reservoir, Hazard Lake, Warren and the Brundage Mountain Lookout.
Brundage is installing a yurt that will be used for its lunch stops.
“There was a sense that there were people who were interested in snowmobiling but maybe didn’t have the confidence or training or equipment to go out by themselves,” said April Whitney, the communications manager at Brundage. “The McCall area ... all the way down to Cascade and Smiths Ferry ... is building a really strong reputation as one of the premier snowmobiling destinations in the West.”
Cody Monroe, the owner of CM, started his company about five years ago and has been trying to acquire a permit for guided trips ever since.
“There’s a huge need for guided activities up here so people can come up here and do stuff safely,” he said. “We’re doing clinics as well, so we’re actually teaching people how to snowmobile.”
CM chose to focus on off-trail snowmobiling because of customer interest in reaching the backcountry and the potential risks associated with inexperienced riders going off-trail.
“Without the experience or the knowledge of the terrain, it’s pretty unsafe,” Monroe said. “... People want to backcountry snowmobile off-trail and learn some techniques and tricks to do it safely. It will be miles off-trail, way off in the backcountry from any kind of snowmobile trail.”
Brundage’s snowmobiling program will be under the same supervision as the resort’s cat-skiing program.
“We have a very strong emotional connection and sense of stewardship for some of these backcountry areas, particularly because that’s where we’ve run our snow-cat program for so long,” Whitney said. “... We can really go out there and have our guides be advocates for good snowmobiling practices on the forest.”
The permits open Dec. 15.
Brundage offers a full-day trip (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) for $295, including snowmobile, gear and lunch. A half-day tour (noon-4 p.m.) is $235.
CM offers full-day trips on trails (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) for $300, including snowmobile and gear. Beginner clinics going off-trail cost $250 per day, not including snowmobile ($200 extra). Advanced clinics cost $350 per day, plus snowmobile. Avalanche gear is required for the clinics.
Both companies also rent snowmobiles for self-guided excursions.