Snowmobiling with Sage Outdoor Adventures stands above the rest | VailDaily.com

Snowmobiling with Sage Outdoor Adventures stands above the rest

Kimberly Nicoletti
Special to the Daily
Sage Outdoor Adentures offers guided snowmobile tours for everyone from beginners to experts.
Photo courtesy of Sage Outdoor Adventures

If you go ...

What: Snowmobiling with Sage Outdoor Adventures.

Cost: Guided snowmobile tour: $175, advanced guided tour $275, private and advanced private tour: $300.

More information: https://sageoutdooradventures.com/snowmobiling/.

If you consider snowmobiling a noisy, stinky-exhaust activity, think again. The main reason guests visit Sage Outdoor Adventures is to experience the wilderness.

Darryl Bangert, co-owner and founder of Sage Outdoor Adventures in Eagle County, has been a backcountry and river guide for 43 years. With a degree in environmental studies and a minor in geology, it’s as if Bangert was born to show people what he calls “God’s country,” while minimally impacting the land.

Not your grandpa’s snowmobile

In terms of environmental impact, “a snowmobile ride is far more ‘green’ than a day of riding ski lifts,” said Ryan McSparran of Sage Outdoor Adventures.

“It’s as revolutionary as short wide skis. Because of that, snowmobiling is a whole new sport.” — Darryl Bangert

New four-stroke engines make sleds quieter and burn cleaner and more efficient than the two-stroke models of yesterday.

The movement began when Yellowstone National Park responded to environmentalists’ concerns about snowmobile pollution. From 2004-14, the park banned private snowmobilers, and when they opened up their acreage to the public, they required snowmobiles to conform to best available technology.”

Around this time, Bangert purchased a fleet of Ski-Doo sleds, which are not only quiet, but are also the cleanest, most efficient snowmobiles on the market, he said.

“It’s unbelievably easy to decelerate and accelerate because of the four-stroke (engines),” Bangert said. “It’s as revolutionary as short wide skis. Because of that, snowmobiling is a whole new sport.”

A remote wilderness experience

“A snowmobile ride offers the chance to escape from the crowds and experience the still silence of the backcountry and the mountains in winter,” McSparran said.

In fact, Sage Outdoors Adventures’ privately owned acreage provides more acreage than Vail Mountain: 6,000 acres of wilderness, compared to Vail Mountain’s 5,289 acres. Snowmobilers are almost as likely to encounter mule deer or elk than they are human beings; riders might encounter another half dozen people at the viewpoint stop, which overlooks seven mountain ranges, the Continental Divide and a 2,400-foot chasm.

Sage guides customize trips based on ability; they cater to never-ever beginners (and they’re happy to rescue beginners’ sleds when they veer off the trail) to super-advanced riders wanting to learn some new tricks. Beginners start with a lesson in turning (move body weight from side to side to turn) and a loose practice circle in an expansive, open meadow, and then set out for fairly narrow trails through groves of bare aspen trees. With the modern, quieter snowmobiles, the fresh crunch of snow below the sled is palpable as riders jet through the forest.

The ranch offers 2,500 feet of vertical and more than 100 miles of maintained trails — plus expansive meadows for open riding. Terrain varies from snow-covered meadows and sage to fir Douglas and pines, with streams, springs and lakes and steep little gullies throughout. While other outfitters must conform to government permit restrictions, which constrict riding to roads and small areas, the fact that Sage leases the private ranch opens up a vast amount terrain.

Sage guides insist upon excellent grooming with snow cats and drag groomers, so riders don’t have to worry about jarring washboards or nasty dips.

Comfort is one of Sage’s main objectives. It begins with a complimentary shuttle from the Vail Valley toward Wolcott and ends with a warm, wood-burning stove in a cabin with a 5,000 square-foot deck. In between, the crew bundles guests up in snowsuits, helmets, goggles and boots and ensures a safe and adventurous ride.

Bangert and his son, Cole, love sharing outdoor adventures with the public, and their guides extend their knowledge, friendliness and enthusiasm. A trip to Sage Outdoor Adventures echoes Bangert’s general awe with the Colorado Rockies.

“Out of the all the places we could have popped up in this world, we are here,” he said. “How amazing.”