You don’t own a truck, and you’ve never entertained the idea of owning a trailer.
But winter is here, and you’ve always been curious about snowmobiling.
You’re in luck. There are ways to try out the sport without owning a snowmobile.
One option is the Smiley Creek Lodge, about 40 miles north of Ketchum. Whether you stay overnight in one of the rooms there or just want to go out for an afternoon ride, you can hop on a sled and be on your way.
To find a regional snowmobile club in your area, check the Idaho State Snowmobile Association, idahosnowmobile.org or idahosnow.org/clubs. The Idaho Outfitters and Guides Association has a list of licensed snowmobile guides.
“We have guided and self-guided snowmobile rentals, so you can ride on groomed trails that are marked,” said Alan Rooney, Smiley Creek Lodge’s general manager. “It’s a really long groomed trail system up here.”
And it’s a good way for beginners to get in their first ride.
“The guides will go out there and assist you, so you know some of the skills,” Rooney said. “And if you get stuck, they’re there to help you out. ... You’re not just out there by yourself.”
Smiley Creek Lodge has about 20 single-rider snowmobiles and eight double-rider sleds, which are good for parents who want to bring the kids.
“We’ve got a great little place here where people can get some miles under their belt without feeling like they’re at risk of getting hurt before they go out on their own,” Rooney said.
There are three lodge rooms, two cabins and a yurt for rent. Smiley Creek also has a restaurant that seats 45 people, a convenience store and a gas station.
So, you can settle in for a day or two of adventure — or not.
“A large percentage of our customer base is people who are up in Sun Valley who are looking for a day off from skiing,” Rooney said. “It’s a great way to make a combination trip.”
Making tracks in McCall
Another popular destination for Treasure Valley residents is the McCall area, where there are several options for snowmobile rentals.
CM Backcountry Rentals owner Cody Monroe and his staff stay busy in the winter primarily by delivering snowmobiles to the Francis Wallace parking lot on Warren Wagon Road.
And they’re used to training beginners before they send them on their way.
If you can drive a car ... or ride a bicycle, you can ride a snowmobile.
Cody Monroe, owner of CM Backcountry Rentals
“We go over all the do’s and don’ts and give them some tips and make sure that they’re going to be safe and comfortable riding the machines,” Monroe said, adding that the first time out on a snowmobile shouldn’t be too intimidating to most people. “If you can drive a car ... or ride a bicycle, you can ride a snowmobile.”
Monroe said he’s a big fan of the trails that take off from the Francis Wallace lot.
“If you stay on them, it’s pretty hard to get lost,” he said. “But at the same time, it would take you a couple days to ride them all.”
Monroe’s service is handy enough that he’s seen repeat customers over the years.
“We get a lot of people that know how to snowmobile, but they don’t want to spend $14,000 on a snowmobile and have it sit in their garage most of the year,” he said. “So they just rent from us a few times a year.
“Then there’s the people who have never ridden before and they’re up here on vacation and they want to try something new and exciting. It’s a great way to see the backcountry.”
And if you’re looking for an experience similar to Smiley Creek Lodge in the McCall area, Monroe recommends the Bear Creek Lodge.
“It’s a pretty cool spot and they have great trails that lead right to the lodge,” Monroe said. “It’s a pretty cool atmosphere and we work with Bear Creek Lodge and set up rental packages and stuff like that.”
Buying into snowmobiling
Let’s say you own a truck — and a trailer — and you’ve decided to buy a snowmobile.
A great way to get introduced to snowmobiling is to reach out to a club, such as the Boise Snowmobile Club.
Once you come down and join the club, you bet, we’ll take some rookies out.
Kenny Richey, president of the Boise Snowmobile Club
“Once you come down and join the club, you bet, we’ll take some rookies out,” said Kenny Richey, the president of the Boise Snowmobile Club.
One of the best ways to become acquainted with snowmobile clubs across Idaho is to join them on their fun runs.
The Boise Snowmobile Club’s annual fun run is Jan. 23, starting at the Granite Creek parking lot.
“I really recommend the fun runs. The trails are nice and groomed smooth,” Richey said. “There are some people that just go from fun run to fun run.”
Snowmobile safety tips
▪ Let someone know where you are going and when you expect to return.
▪ Always keep to the right on snowmobile trails.
▪ Don’t ride alone; two snowmobiles traveling together are much safer.
▪ Don’t drink alcohol and ride.
▪ Always carry basic emergency and survival equipment.
▪ Get to know your snowmobile. Try short trips and practice in open areas to become familiar with its controls and operation before going on extended trips.
▪ Always wear adequate winter clothing and protective glasses, goggles or face shields. Don’t forget sunscreen.
Idaho Parks and Recreation