Planning Your Vail Snowmobile Adventure > Vail Snowmobile Rentals FAQs > Vail Snowmobile Trails

1. Make Sure You Have the Right Gear

Colorado Backcountry Rentals will provide the snowmobiles and helmets, but it is strongly suggested that you bring your own eyewear (googles or glasses).

The Colorado high country can be unpredictable to say the least. In winter, be prepared for snowy and extremely cold conditions, so be sure to layer your clothing appropriately. Temperatures can drop at a moment's notice due to the extreme altitude (12,500 feet) that the Colorado snowmobile trails cover. But, before you hit the trails, even if you've been riding for many years, be sure you have the necessary equipment and gear you need to make your Vail snowmobile trip as comfortable as it possibly can be.

Wearing a helmet (provided) is required, but snow boots and warm gloves are strongly recommended for snowmobile riding. The entire portion of your snowmobiling trip will be spent outside, so you should dress as you would for a day on the ski hill with some kind of wind and water resistant jacket and pants. Also, make sure to wear layers. When getting dressed for your Vail snowmobiling trip you will want to wear enough layers so that you will be warm, but not sweating, and be able to put on or take off the layers depending on temperature changes. We recommend avoiding cotton jeans and sweatshirts that do not allow sweat to evaporate easily.

Other items not to forget include, face masks and/or neck gators, sunscreen (the high altitude makes the sun's rays stronger), a camera, and a valid ID.

2011_Polaris_RMK_600155.pngDo you have questions about your upcoming Vail snowmobile adventure? Don't fret as Colorado Backcountry Rentals' knowledgeable and qualified staff are here to answer all of your questions and address any concerns. But, we've also got a few tips to give when planning your adventurous vacation in the Colorado high country.

First of all, when planning to take on Mother Nature and the Vail Pass Winter Recreation Area, be realistic about everyone's physical abilities. Knowing your capabilities will help our fantastic staff make your experience the best it can be. Our staff will ask the right questions to ensure that your group signs up for the perfect trip for your experience and abilities.

Secondly, be honest with yourself and with us: we're famous for our inspired hospitality and awesome adventures, and those things are made even better when we know just what you need. Remember, if you have any questions or concerns about your next Colorado snowmobiling excursion - whether it's about safety, our expert guides, our mountain adventures or really, anything - don't hesitate to call and ask!

2. Choose the Correct Trail for your Riding Ability

Depending on what kind of snowmobiling experience you are looking for, there are trails available for just about every level of rider. Remember, though, our snowmobile rentals are unguided, so you are on your own out there. Be sure to be honest with yourself about your riding ability and be assured that our staff will thoroughly go over the trail map before you set out on your snowmobiling trip.

The White River National Forest and the Vail Pass Winter Recreation Area include trails for all levels of riders. The Holy Cross Ranger District is a designated Wilderness Area with the trail system covering roughly 225 miles throughout the Sawatch Mountains. The scenery is breathtaking no matter which trails you choose, the only difference is the amount of expert, beginner, and intermediate terrain available for those who are looking (or not looking) for a greater challenge in their snowmobile riding experience.

3. Make Sure You Know What Else To Get Into

Green Bridge Near Red Cliff AttractionWhen the sun sets over the charming town of Red Cliff, the fun continues into the evening hours. There are a plethora of other activities to get into while visiting Eagle County.

If enjoyed your backcountry experience so much that you are looking for more to do in Red Cliff,  Mango’s Mountain Grill is right near the trailhead where you can grab a bite to eat from a menu that offers a little something for everyone. Looking for a place to stay? Well, you’re in luck as we are adjacent to the historic Green Bridge Inn, offering classy lodging to complement your perfect mountain vacation.

For some more day-to-day activities, you’re in luck, as CBR is located 20 miles north of Leadville and just 12 miles from the center of Vail. Leadville is a legendary frontier mining town that offers historic museums, coffee houses, Victorian bed and breakfasts, antique and gift shops, and classic Colorado dining. Leadville is a great place to visit for that much-needed change of pace. Constructed after the European town of Zermatt, the Town of Vail, on the other hand, is a more modern type of city equipped with shops/boutiques, world-class restaurants, bars, après hot spots and of course, the world-famous Vail Ski Resort.

4. Get Area Information

COflag.jpgIt is not only necessary that you know how to find us in Red Cliff, but it will be helpful to have a map of the area just in case you decide to create your own adventure off the trails. We will provide you with a trail map of the Vail Pass Recreation Area, but this won’t help once you leave the trails.

Here are some helpful links:
Eagle County Online Printable Maps
Eagle Visitor & Information Center

Eagle, Colorado Visitor Information

Vail Pass Recreation Area OHV
(Off-Highway Vehicle) Riding

5. Know the Basics

All snowmobile riders were at one time beginners. The first time on a snowmobile can be both a fun and challenging experience, so here is a list of some of the basics to get you started:

snowmobilesitting.pngBASIC RIDING POSITIONS
  • Sitting

Sitting provides a low center of gravity for the utmost stability and safety. This position is recommended for carrying passengers (if so equipped). Feet should be seated firmly on the running boards and in the foot wells.


  • snowmobilekneeling.pngKneeling

Kneeling enables you to lean uphill and/or easily shift your body weight. Kneeling is also a good riding position for crossing a road or moving around areas flooded with other snowmobilers. When riding at low speeds, switch from sitting to kneeling (and vice versa) to avoid fatigue.


  • Standing

snowmobilestanding.pngStanding gives you the most visibility of all positions. If there are obstructions, this position can help you to see over an obstacle, and at road crossings provides the furhtest line of sight. Standing permits you to quickly shift your in any direction and change riding positions easily.


  • snowmobile-posting.pngPosting

Posting will allow you to absorb the harder bumps on rough trails much easier than when in a sitting position. This crouching position is useful for climbing steep hills, crossing creeks, and other rough situations.

snowmobileuphill.pngRIDING UPHILL
  • When riding uphill, it is beneficial to utilize the kneeling position.
  • Lean uphill.
  • Increase the throttle to a steady speed. The more snow there is, the more speed you will need.
  • Do not stop the machine until you get to the top of the hill. If you do, you may lose your forward momentum and will not be able to start climbing again.
snowmobiledownhill.pngRIDING DOWNHILL
  • When riding downhill, it is beneficial to utilize the sitting position.
  • Move to the sitting position as far back on the seat as possible.
  • Be prepared to stop so you won't lose control.
  • Be sure not to release the clutch. Leaving the snowmobile in a lower gear will help keep the snowmobile's speed slow.
  • Try pumping the brake every few seconds to maintain a slow speed if you start going too fast. Be sure not to apply the brake abruptly as it can ultimately cause the snowmobile to slide.
  • If you are at the apex of a hill and other snowmobiles are approaching, allow them to pass you before heading down.
snowmobiletraverse.pngTRAVERSING A HILL
  • When traversing a hill, it is wise to use the kneeling position.
  • Be sure to move your body to the uphill side of the seat and lean uphill.
  • Your machine may slide on hard-packed snow, so you may want to look for more loosely packed snow.
  • To gain more control when turning, lean into the turn or maximum control
  • Placing your weight forward, and into the turn, will place more load on the inside ski to keep it firmly placed on the snow, giving your snowmobile a better bite.
  • When stopping your snowmobile, it is best practice to pull over to the extreme right of the trail.
  • Get off on the right side of the machine.
  • Be sure not to stop on a curve or hill, as other riders may not be able to see you.
  • An obvious one ... Be sure to respect the rights of other snowmobilers on the trail.
  • The right side of the trail is where you want to be to allow others to pass if they want to.
  • Slow down when passing other riders.
  • Ride only in areas where snowmobiling is permitted.
  • Leave all gates and entrances as you originally found them.
  • Yield the right-of-way to all other kinds of traffic on the trails.
  • Report any fallen trees and/or trail maintenance issues to the appropriate parties (land managers, Forest Service etc.).
  • Report any sort of illegal riding and dangerous riding to the authorities.
  • Always carry out what you carry in. Keep the high country as you found it.
Deep Snow:
You would be wise to try to stay on the hard-packed snow areas.Loosely packed snow may allow snowmobiles to sink and ultimately won't give you as much traction. If you're in deep snow, be sure to make a wider turns and move to harder packed snow if able.

Hard-Packed Snow in Drifted Areas:
Wind drifts will sometimes harden the snow pack, resulting in hard-to-see bumps and dips. Painful back injuries can result from riding over these drifts at high speeds, be sure to reduce your speed and pay attention to what you're doing.

Whiteout Conditions:
Whiteout conditions appear when the sky is overcast, the wind is howling, and the ground is covered with snow. During a whiteout, the landscape may appear entirely white with no visible horizon. You would be wise to pull over and wait it out.

  • During a whiteout, distances will be difficult to judge, and variations in the terrain will not be easily recognizable.
  • Try not to operate a snowmobile in whiteout conditions if you can avoid it. But, if you must: (1) Be very cautious and operate your machine at lower speeds, (2) Stay in familiar areas and keep an eye out for dangerous hazards such as drop-offs beneath the snow.

Ice presents much of the same problems as riding on pavement. Ice also has the potential to cause spin-outs and make it hard to stop your snowmobile quickly.

  • On ice, maintain steady and slow speeds. Try not to speed up or abruptly apply the brakes.
  • The safest way to stop is to release the throttle and let the machine coast to a stop on its own.
  • Never ride on frozen rivers and lakes, but if you must: (1) Make sure there's at least eight inches of clear ice, and (2) Watch for streams flowing on the ice. Typically, the ice will be thinner and weaker in these areas.