March 24, 2018

Early Season Snowmobilers Already Going

fall-snowmobilingWell, I suppose it had to happend sometime. We have a couple of inches of snow and the die-hards are already trying out their new sleds. While we’ve only had about three inches here at Macks Inn, up on Black Canyon they have nearly a foot.

You can ride in a foot of snow as long as you’re darn sure there’s no hidden obstacles to reach out and mangle your undercarriage. So what that means is, if you’re willing to ride nothing but roads, you can ride. If you get off the road at all, you’re going to have a mess.

Last year (kind of pre-winter) I saw a guy at the gas station there at Elk Creek who had just come from the dealer in West Yellowstone. The repair bill on his sled was nearly $4,000. There was precious little snow and he decided to do a wowie on the bank where the road had been carved out. He hit a big rock (apparently disguised as a sagebush) and tore the whole bottom out of his sled.

So if you’re thinking about coming and trying out your new sled, don’t. There isn’t enough snow yet. We’ll let you know the minute there is, but right now the risk is too high. If you just can’t stand the thought that someone got to the snow before you, make sure you never leave the road (or trail.) See you soon!!

First Snowfall Of The Season

snowy-roadWow! Snow at the end of September has to be a good sign if you’re a snowmobiler. It started snowing about 5:00 a.m. today and has continued throughout the morning. We’ll see what happens this afternoon. I had heard earlier that El Nino was blowing in this year, which would normally be the harbinger of a “below average” snow year. But who knows when the first storm comes on the last day of Sept.

And it’s odd, in some ways. Yesterday was a beautiful native american summer day with temps in the low 70′s and severe clear blue skies. Everyone here said, “No, there’s now way it will snow tomorrow. It’s too warm.” But overnight the temperatures dropped into the 20′s and we’re headed for a high today only in the mid 30′s. My dad would tell you that even the brass monkeys are pulling out their long underwear.

Of course summer’s not over. There will be many beautiful days yet to come. But with the cold making its arrival so soon, there will start to be more and more cold days as well. What all this means to me is that fishing is going to be getting real good here in a couple of weeks. If you’re a fisherman, you don’t want to miss that. Of course, if you’re a snowmobiler, you’ll be praying for an early start to the season.

Whichever way you see it, this is a great time to be in Island Park. No crowds. No competition for the streams and trails. No overbearing heat. Just a quiet, pleasant, crisp and cool atmosphere in which to recharge your batteries. See you soon.

Mt. Jefferson Snowmobilers Under Attack . . . Again!

snowmobileIsland Park has been a winter playground for more years than snowmobiles have been around. It is a mecca for snowmobilers all around the country. In spite of the claims on the Utah license plates, Idaho has the best snowmobiling snow that ever fell on a mountain (hence all the Utah license plates here in the winter.)

Well, if Montana Senator Jon Tester has his way, much of that will change. Mt. Jefferson, long a favorite of boondockers and experienced riders is once again under attack from the tree huggers. They were willing to “allow” Tester to broker a deal with loggers, miners and others in the rest of Montana for increased use if he included closing Jefferson to snowmobiling in his bill.

I’m not sure what the environmentalists have against snowmobiles. They cause no erosion. Since nobody but snowmobilers use Jefferson in the winter, they aren’t a noise nuisance. Since the animals all leave up there in the winter, they aren’t offensive to animals. Basically, as near as I can tell, they just want public lands closed to the public. That’s the only explanation I can come up with.

The closure of Mt. Jefferson was defeated once before by the outcry of snowmobilers across the nation. I guess we’ll have to keep it up. If you would like to comment, please contact your own government representatives and let them know what you think about Senator Jon Tester’s “Forest Jobs and Recreation Act.” This is a good bill for Montana. No question about it. But it’s devastating for snowmobilers. There is no good reason for the closure of Jefferson other than to appease the tree-huggers. Let’s let them know that public lands are for the public.

To comment go to and give them a piece of your mind.

Snowmobile Season Winding Down

tracks-in-snowEarlier this week we were talking about fishing (and it’s likely we’ll be doing even more of that in the weeks that come.)  With temperatures yesterday near 50 degrees, this may well be the last post on snowmobiles until next fall (well, we’ll probably make an announcement when they stop grooming the trails.  Other than that, snowmobiling is old news.)

As for today, it’s unseasonably warm and the snow is mushy down low.  If you get up higher (especially early in the day) the snow is still good.  For those who don’t like getting stuck, you can go just about anywhere this time of year with impunity.

There are probably about 3 – 4 good weekends left and then it will be over (except for those guys who ride until June.)  So if you’ve been thinking of making one last run at it, there are plenty of places to stay, plenty of rental sleds available, plenty of good snow (up high) and no reason not to get one more good ride.

Don’t wait, or it will be six months before you get another chance.

Open The Doors And . . . Where's All The People?

snowmbilingIt’s been interesting to see how the economic crisis has slowed the flow of  visitors into Island Park (and everywhere else in the world) this year.  For some that’s a boon.  We have the greatest snow imaginable, hundreds of miles of groomed snowmobile trails, a state park (Harriman State Park) with groomed cross-country ski trails, wildlife, and unequalled natural beauty and we don’t have to share it with hardly anybody.  

Last year they groomed the majority of the trail I ride on Wednesday, and by Friday, they were bumpy again.  This year, it doesn’t seem to matter when you go.  The trails are fresh and ready to go.  You also don’t have to worry so much about who’s going to be coming around the next corner on the verge of out-of-control and you can have more fun than you’ve ever had.  Snowmobiling doesn’t get much better than that.

But on the other hand,  it has been a difficult year in the hospitality industry.  Rooms that were filled last year have gone empty a lot more this year.  Restaurants that had a 30 minute wait last year will seat you right when you walk in today .  While those things might be good for customers in the short run, they are bad for business in the long run.  It’s profit that allows our restaurants to continually upgrade their menus.  It’s profit that allows them to upgrade facilities. It’s profit that allows them to hire the very best help.  When things are slow and profit is marginal, those upgrade have to wait another year.  So it certainly isn’t in anyone’s best interest to have a slow year (except maybe for snowmobiler’s who’d probably rather not share.) 

But what about you?  What does all this mean to you?  It means if you’ve been thinking about coming to Island Park, now’s the time.  You can enjoy all the things you ever did (and more) and do it less expensively, and without 10,000 of your closest friends at your side.  If you’ve never been here when things are slow, you really owe it to yourself to come now.  This is really Island Park at its finest. 

See you here!!!

Avalanche Claims Life Of Idaho Falls Man

avalanche111On Monday I commented that anyone venturing into the back-country should be equipped with a shovel, a probe and an avalanche beacon.    The snow this time of year is very unstable and unpredictable.  Those who don’t have experience digging snow pits and assessing the danger (or who don’t take the time to do so,) are at risk this time of years. 

That’s exactly what happened  to 21 year old Josh Jenkins of Idaho Falls.  A tragic avalanche on Mt. Jefferson on the 17th of this month claimed his life.  Jenkins was riding with friends on Jefferson when the avalanche occurred burying him under eight feet of snow.  By the time friends had found and recovered him, more than an hour had passed.   Attempts to revive him were unsuccessful and he died at the scene.  It was not immediately clear if he was wearing an avalanche beacon.

I sincerely hope this horrible accident will cause everyone who rides in the back-country to make sure they have (and use) the proper gear, give the mountain the proper respect and live to ride another day.   The sympathies of all of us here at go out to the family and friends of Josh Jenkins.  If his passing helps one other person to live, then maybe at least some good can come of it.