Explore Tahoe: Reach new heights with a North Shore snowmobile tour | SierraSun.com

Explore Tahoe: Reach new heights with a North Shore snowmobile tour

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Lake Tahoe Snowmobile Tours expertly guides tours on groomed and powder trails through the pristine Tahoe National Forest offering incredible views of Lake Tahoe from above the North Shore. Beginner through expert riders are welcome to make memories that will last a lifetime. Visit http://www.laketahoesnowmobiling.com to learn more.

TAHOE VISTA, Calif. — Since 1985, Lake Tahoe Snowmobile Tours has been spreading the adventure bug to locals and visitors — especially those itching to get breathtaking scenic views along with a dash of adrenaline.

"We specialize in getting people to amazing destinations," said Jon Wilson, who works as a snowmobile guide and also handles marketing and operations for Lake Tahoe Snowmobile Tours during the winter, as well as its Action Watersports of Incline Village sister company that runs during warmer months.

The wonderful guides of Lake Tahoe Snowmobile Tours live to get people outside enjoying the amazing local landscape; during our excursion last week, we even saw another guide named Mark Dent parked on our tour and enjoying the spectacular views on his day off.

"I come up here multiple times a week, but it's still amazing each time," Dent said. "It's just breathtaking. And I think this is the first time I've ever said it, but I think we've got enough snow."

Standing at the top of Mount Watson above Kings Beach and Tahoe Vista, looking out over the landscape covered in some 600 inches of snow, Wilson said, "this tour is such a cool opportunity because it gets you to a spot like this after what, not even a 20-minute ride? It's way more fun than hiking and post-holing or having to snowshoe all the way up here, and anyone can do it."

'A WONDERFUL COMMUNITY FEATURE'

Whether in winter or summer, Mount Watson is a famous North Lake Tahoe spot for locals and visitors, and the crew often witnesses engagements, celebrations of life and other momentous occasions hosted on its peak, where you feel like you're on top of the world.

Lake Tahoe Snowmobile Tours grooms the nearby trail system known as the "Fiberboard Freeway" for the public to use. The connecting trails span from Truckee to Tahoe City and offer community members a place to enjoy the great outdoors.

"It's really a wonderful community feature," Wilson said. "We groom these trails for everyone, not just us with the tours. The high school kids train for cross-country skiing out here, people of course use the trails to ride their sleds on, and some even like coming out here to walk their dogs."

Wilson and Dent said one of the coolest parts of their job is getting to work with people from all walks of life to deliver a one-of-a-kind experience. They've hosted everyone from small children (who, we're told, oftentimes fall asleep in their parent's lap, as the ride is so smooth), to members of the Wounded Warrior Project.

"We've been able to bring out quadriplegic and paraplegic people, amputees with the Wounded Warriors, people with emotional and cognitive disorders," Wilson said. "We're able to get all kinds of people up here who ordinarily couldn't.

"These people led active lifestyles before their life changing experiences and we're able to get them back outside, doing what they love."

All ages and skill levels

Snowmobiling with the Lake Tahoe Snowmobile Tours crew is a very safe activity. As the only snowmobile company in the Lake Tahoe Basin that's permitted by the U.S. Forest Service, these tours are suitable for explorers of any age.

And in case you're feeling a bit nervous about operating the heavy machines — let me tell you, those sleds are plush and you will be just fine.

The tours operate out of two locations, with 100 snowmobiles parked at Brockway Summit's staging area leading up Mount Watson, and another 40 snowmobiles staged for tours out of Jackson Meadows, located 20 minutes or so north of Truckee off Highway 89.

The company exclusively uses 4-stroke sleds because they are cleaner for the environment and quieter for others nearby who are also enjoying nature. They extend the lifetime of oil needed to run and keep smoke from emitting into the air.

Another plus — "people don't smell like they've been in a gas station all day after a tour with us," Wilson said.

The seats are quite comfy and it's easy to stand up and get through any bumps on the trail. If your hands get cold, fear not, for the grips on your handlebars are heated. Another luxurious feature of these sleds – no pull cord; they all start with the push of a button.

SLEDDING ON A FROZEN WATSON LAKE

Before firing up the sleds, Wilson went through a safety and instructional talk with us, making sure we all felt comfortable controlling the snowmobiles and knew a safe distance to keep between ourselves and the rider ahead. He reminded us to keep our tracks in a straight, single-file line to be courteous to others, keeping from disrupting the trail too much.

There are several stops along the tour for photo-ops, and the crew even stages a photographer of its own to send you home with a sweet action shot on your snowmobile for the day, with the lake in the background.

One stop on the tour is at Mount Watson's (currently very frozen) Watson Lake. With 10 feet of snow piled up on the frozen-solid water, this is the perfect safe spot to see what the sleds can do. Guides welcome tour participants to make some fun turns and really let 'er rip.

Snowmobiling at Lake Tahoe is always a fantastic experience, but learning from the guides of the Lake Tahoe Snowmobile Tour is as good as it gets — they keep safety top of mind, followed very closely by fun.

With the snowfall we've seen, Lake Tahoe Snowmobile Tours will be able to operate well into springtime, meaning its 20-person staff will be able to work a longer season than most in recent years.

Cassandra Walker is a features and entertainment reporter for the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at cwalker@sierrasun.com, 530-550-2654 or @snow1cass.