By Tina Walsh
Aristotle said, “To appreciate the beauty of a snowflake, it is necessary to stand out in the cold.” On a recent trip to Copper Mountain, we decided …“to further explore the beauty of the snow covered mountains, we needed to step away from the ski slopes.” The Rocky Mountains in winter are a combination of breathtaking majesty and Zen-like serenity. We decided on snowmobiling as a way to explore the natural surroundings. Ok, we have a bit of adventure seeker in us as well!
We booked the Scenic Tour with High Country Tours. Being an over 50 and first time snowmobiler, I felt the trails at their Birdseye Outpost and the promise of a “slow-paced ride that takes you through forest trails along the valley floor”, sounded perfect. Additional promises included “views of the two tallest mountains in Colorado and many other 14’ers” (mountains that are at least 14 thousand feet high), as well as stops where you can see the “remains of the gold and silver boom.” This two hour foray into the frozen wilderness starts at $125.00. I opted for the snowmobile sporting heated seats and hand warmers for $135.
After a quick orientation and instructions on how to operate the vehicles, we were off! It was a bright and clear afternoon, the snow sparkling in the sunlight. I found driving the snowmobile a bit like driving a jet ski. I was tentative at first, but quickly got the hang of it. The groomed trail lead us through an evergreen scented forest. Ponderosa Pines and Douglas Firs, frosted with snow, lined the trail as we gently climbed to the summit. I was surprised by the serenity of the forest. The humming of the engines fades into the background as you take in the snowy vistas. We stopped in a glade of Trembling Aspens, for photos and to hear some the history of the area.
Leadville and its surroundings was settled in 1859, during the Pikes Peak Gold Rush. By 1880, the 30 mines and 10 smelting plants were generating $15 million annually. The promise of quick riches attracted colorful characters such as cigar smoking, “Poker “Alice Ivers and Doc Holliday. Also walking the streets of Leadville, was the scandalous Mayor and US Senator Horace Tabor. Tabor made his millions in silver and funded much of the construction of the town before he lost it, with the repeal of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act. Before his reversal of fortune, he built the Tabor Opera House where Oscar Wilde performed.
Back on the snowmobiles, we explored deeper into the wilderness. The pristine snow dotted with animal tracks, absorbed the sound as we glided along. The path was steeper and more challenging on the way down. It ended at a large open meadow. This play area allows for supervised, high speed runs and turns. I took full advantage, catching some air in one of the turns. We stopped for photos with Mt Massive and Mt Elbert, in the background. These are the two highest peaks in the United States outside of Alaska.
As we rode back, I reflected. We experienced both history and adventure, a combination of winter peace and adrenaline rush. It was snowmobiling bliss! High Country Tours rents snowmobiles out of Leadville, Co and Silverthorne, Co. Guests from Copper Mountain, Keystone, Dillon and Breckenridge can easily reach them. They rent single and multi-person vehicles and all the gear you need to ride them. Their website gives you all the details on their tours and individual rider rentals, https://mysnowmobiletour.com/
All photos by Tina Walsh