Gallery: Snowmobiling in Montana’s Bitterroot Mountains

We used Alpine Falls Ranch as a base for wintertime powersports bliss.

We spent a few days in February at Alpine Falls Ranch in Superior, Montana to check out the ranch’s wintertime powersports offerings. That meant getting acquainted with snowmobiles, machines we had never seen in person, let alone ridden. We found out that when the snow falls thick and fast, a snowmobile is the difference between being stuck inside for days on end and being able to get out and enjoy the weather and the scenery. Whether you’re on a playful mountain sled or a workhorse touring machine, snowmobiles open up possibilities that no other machine can.

It would take you hours to hike to this spot from Alpine Falls Ranch, even in good weather. On a snowy winter day, a snowmobile is your only hope of getting there.Camden Thrasher
Guide Steve Polites’ steed of choice is a 180 hp, turbocharged two-stroke Ski-Doo. It’s a monster.Camden Thrasher
Our experienced guides, Steve Polites and Jeff Johnson, brought out their ultralightweight, two-stroke mountain sleds to show us what snowmobiles can do. Namely, 80 mph across the surface of a frozen lake.Camden Thrasher
The big touring sleds we rode can feel heavy and cumbersome, but the mountain sleds our guides piloted are more akin to dirt bikes. They’ll do properly crazy maneuvers without a second’s hesitation.Camden Thrasher
The higher you go into the mountains, the skinnier and more off-camber the trail gets. That means a UTV, even a tracked UTV, isn’t going to get very far. That’s where the snowmobiles shine.Camden Thrasher
When the wind swirls through the mountains, snow tends to drift on the forest service roads, and the more exposed the section of road, the steeper the drifts. Learning to sidehill a 700-pound sled along a steep drift above a hundred-foot drop is, to put it simply, terrifying.Camden Thrasher
The Ski-Doo Expeditions each had a generous cargo box out back, which were perfect for extra layers, lunch, and all of our camera gear. Camden Thrasher
As we pushed higher into the hills, the snow got thicker, which meant drifts that had been pretty unnerving on the way up were straight-up scary on the way down.Camden Thrasher
Polites gives another safety briefing over lunch.Camden Thrasher
At speed and in deeper snow, the move is to get the sled up onto one ski, where you can countersteer and use the throttle to rotate the sled the way you would on a motorcycle. At slower speeds with both skis on the ground, that doesn’t work.Camden Thrasher
Alpine Falls Ranch maintains groomed trails on the property throughout the winter, which allows snowmobiling and cross-country skiing in a more controlled and beginner-friendly environment than the mountains beyond the ranch.Camden Thrasher
Associate editor Gage Cooper getting used to the Ski-Doo Expedition.Camden Thrasher

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