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  • Snow busting

    Hundreds of miles of trails draw snowmobilers to Southern Oregon's high country
  • Blindfolding a snowmobile driver seems insanely dangerous, but actually, it's just a hoot.
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  • Blindfolding a snowmobile driver seems insanely dangerous, but actually, it's just a hoot.
    "It's really funny to watch some of the husband-and-wife teams," said David Jordan, president of Rogue Snowmobilers.
    The blindfold race is just one of many activities snowmobile enthusiasts participate in as they chase their passion over miles of mountains and forests. Goggles are covered with duck tape, and the rider has to rely on the passenger to guide them, making for sometimes comical results.
    Jordan's own passion is climbing hills with his snowmobile, often getting airborne as his machine thrusts him over the top.
    The 34-year-old Eagle Point resident isn't shy about his style of riding.
    "I'm a very competitive snowmobiler," he said. "I don't like being the last one up the hill."
    Other snowmobile riders prefer the thrill of drag racing, bringing along radar guns to check their top speed.
    For those who like to explore the backcountry, an abundance of trails await.
    Hundreds of miles of trails await around Diamond Lake, Union Creek and other high-elevation locations in the Southern Oregon Cascades.
    Diamond Lake Resort grooms the north entrance to Crater Lake National Park, and the 20-mile trip to the North Rim Overlook is an easy trail that offers spectacular views. Snowmobiles and other all-terrain vehicles aren't allowed inside the park, except for the North Entrance Road between the Diamond Lake resort area (off Highway 138) and North Junction.
    Many of the trails are groomed by volunteers from Rogue Snowmobilers to create a better riding experience.
    Some snowmobilers venture across the ice at such places as Lake of the Woods, but Jordan said he's not a big fan of the practice.
    "How do you know how deep the ice has to be to support a snowmobile?" he wonders.
    Snowmobiling isn't a cheap sport. Renting one can set you back more than $100 for a couple of hours of fun.
    Mountain Adventures LLC at Lake of the Woods offers snowmobile rentals for $225 a day, which includes 20 minutes of instruction.
    Mountain Adventures rents the machines in Medford and can transport them by trailer to your destination.
    Dave Norris, owner of Mountain Adventures, said the trailer, snowmobile and helmets are included in the package. He suggests people call him directly at 541-941-3206.
    Diamond Lake Resort rents snowmobiles for $325 a day, with instruction beforehand. Call 541-793-3333.
    Linda Mattos, manager of the Hilltop Shop at the resort, said a two-hour snowmobile rental, at a cost of $110 plus gas, would allow enough time to go from Diamond Lake to Crater Lake and back.
    "It's clearly marked," she said. "That's often the first place people want to go is up to Crater Lake."
    To rent a snowmobile, you need a driver's license. Children can get special instructions and are required to take a test before they can drive a snowmobile. Mattos said it's best to check with the resort about a week in advance to make sure the instructor would be available.
    The resort offers a package deal in the winter, with a motel room and two snowmobiles for three hours. Last winter the cost was $205, she said.
    If you get hooked, a new snowmobile will cost $10,000 to $12,000 or more, depending on how it's tricked out.
    If you're thinking that riding a snowmobile sounds like a chilly idea on a frosty day, you're wrong.
    Most snowmobiles have heated grips, heated seats, and you're generally bundled up with an outer, waterproof layer. Cotton fabrics are not recommended. By the end of your journey, you might work up a bit of a sweat.
    Jordan said Rogue Snowmobilers is the largest snowmobile club in the state, though participation dropped off last winter (to 147 families) because of the lack of snow.
    "This year was discouraging," he said. "Usually we have 200 families."
    Joining a club and participating in scheduled rides is a safer way to snowmobile than venturing out by yourself, Jordan said.
    "The biggest thing is going with someone who knows where they're going," he said.
    Compared to the old days, snowmobiles are generally safer and more comfortable now. Before the 1990s, snowmobiles could tip relatively easily, but now they are more stable, Jordan said.
    Prior to being a snowmobile enthusiast, Jordan was an avid skier, but he got tired of the crowds and waiting in line to catch a lift.
    "Snowmobiling is a way to get into the backcountry where there is not as many people," he said.
    For those who prefer the challenge of hill climbing, a snowmobile can log up to 30 miles a day. For trail riding, a snowmobile can cover about 60 miles a day.
    Kim Greenwaldt, treasurer of the club, said she started snowmobiling in 2006 when she moved to Oregon from California.
    The 52-year-old Eagle Point resident intended to have horses when she moved here, but then she tried a snowmobile.
    "Once you've tried it, then you're hooked," Greenwaldt said. "For a lot of people, that's all it takes."
    She said she bought a used Arctic Cat but has progressed to a bigger Ski-Doo.
    "You can buy used snowmobiles and used clothing," Greenwaldt said. "You don't need the most expensive gear. I started, and still wear, used ski clothes."
    Some riders buy new snowmobiles each year, she said.
    Greenwaldt became a club member, but at first she stayed clear of group activities. Greenwaldt said she would look at the club's calendar and purposely avoid areas where an event was taking place, preferring to go somewhere with a few friends.
    "It's not safe to ride by yourself," she said. "If you do, you better be trained in backcountry survival. Snowmobiles can break down."
    After her earlier quest for solitude, Greenwaldt now participates in club rides, saying she appreciates the camaraderie and the charity events.
    Her favorite style of riding is "boondocking," where you carefully maneuver through trees and essentially make your own trail.
    Her favorite places are Diamond Lake and Thousand Springs near Crater Lake.
    "I joined the club because the money goes to good things," Greenwaldt said. "It's really a fun club."
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