Speculator, New York Snowmobile Trip

Catching the tail end of the Winter Season here in New York, I booked a snowmobile trip to the Adirondack Mountains, about 4-hour drive North on New York City.  I had been snowmobiling once, years ago, and basically, we went around in a big circle for 30 minutes on an old beat-up snowmobile.  I got a taste, but I needed more.  Upstate New York has over 750 miles of interconnecting snowmobile trails, both groomed and ungroomed, available for free public use.  You just need a snowmobile to enjoy the fun.  My son and myself, set out for the long ride North to Speculator, New York.  If you are not from New York, most people have the vision of New York as Skyscrapers and Times Square but drive an hour outside of the city and you are in the middle of mountains and farmland. The Catskill and Adirondack Mountains are the two major mountain ranges in New York State, we arrived at our hotel in Speculator around night fall. Due to the restrictions with COVID-19, we had to pre-check in online and received a pass code to get into our room.  We were both starving and started looking for a place to eat.  We soon found out the nearest restaurant open was an hour and half away, but we were told we can get food at the Gas Station.  Not up for another three hours of driving we went to the nearby Gas Station.  They cooked us up some cheeseburgers and that was dinner for the first night.  This was really a one-horse town, a total population of 324 residents, blink and you already drove thru the town.


I had arranged ahead of time, rentals of two snowmobiles for a two-day period. The next morning, we headed over to Village Motorsports to pick up our snowmobiles.  There are a couple of requirements to know if you want to rent a snowmobile.  You need a valid automobile drivers license, and must be 18 years of age or over, have a major credit card to leave a deposit which will be credited back on your return presuming there is no issues with the snowmobile.  After checking in and signing the mandatory paperwork, we were offered the option of taking insurance out on the sleds.  If you screw up the snowmobile you can be liable for up to $15,000, with the insurance your exposure is $500.  After being told of some horror stories by previous renters we opted for the extra $100 a day for insurance, bring the rental cost per snowmobile to $300 per day.  After we signed our life away, we were now ready to get snowmobiling.  We would be riding number 49 and 50 out of their rentals.  First step was to go over any damage that was on the sled prior to us leaving with rental staff.  Both our sleds had plenty of cosmetic damage caused by previous renters.  My unit was nick named Frankenstein, because the main fairing was cracked and held together with zip ties that looked like stitches were running down the center of the snowmobile.  We were told, that after the season is over replacement parts and fixes are done on the units. No sense for them to fix things mid rental season, due to the likelihood they would only get damaged again.  I was starting to think getting the insurance was the right move.  After noting all the damage on each unit, we were now giving the very basics, where the brake where, the throttle, reverse switch and how to turn the sled on and off.  The key is kept in the sled at all times.  I asked could somebody steal it, the answer was yes, but because everybody has guns in the area. Only somebody with a death wish would be stupid enough to try to steal our snowmobiles.  One last switch on the snowmobile controlled how fast the sled could go, set the switch to Eco Mode and your top speed was 40 mph, switch to Sport mode and top speed was around 75 mph.  He gave us a map of the trails, left the switch in Eco mode and sent us on our way.  Up to us when we thought we could handle Sport mode.


So, you drive the snowmobile right out of the rental place onto an interconnecting system of trails that went right by our hotel.  We had 48 hours before we had to return the snowmobiles, hopefully the units and us in one piece.  Our rentals with both Ski Doo's Renegade models.  The difference from riding a snowmobile and a motorcycle was that a push of the throttle lever and you had instant acceleration, no gradual buildup of speed like on a motorcycle.   The throttle is a lever you push with your thumb on the right side of the handlebar.  You have to find the sweet spot of controlled speed to all out Holy Sh!t Speed.  This snowmobile is heavy.  If you flip it on its side rounding a turn, and you put your leg out to stop the roll over, you will totally incur some serious leg injuries.  For the first hour or two of riding it was like riding a bucking bronco horse.  You would hit a bump and just the force of hitting the bump would force your thumb down on the throttle lever giving the snowmobile a thrust of more speed.  I can easily see how a new rider can lose control of the snowmobile causing the damage we saw on all the rentals, even worse, sustain serious injuries if you are reckless.  Snowmobiles weigh over 600 lbs. and some models can reach speeds of 120 mph.  These are serious machines not to be reckless with. On average over 200 deaths per year in the USA are caused by snowmobile accidents and over 14,000 serious injuries annually.  Know your limits and your capabilities. I am truly amazed by the professionals who race and jump snowmobiles.  You need to be skilled and fearless to get to this level.  My son and myself soon got the hang of riding our snowmobiles and our death grip soon relaxed for both of us.  


The trails where amazing.  There was a series on main trails that had snowmobile traffic in both directions.  Off these main trails were smaller trails that shot off in different directions.  These smaller trails where only wide enough for one snowmobile at a time.  On this trip, I found out my son shared my passion for speed, so with him leading the way, we were flying through the woods, up and down the sides of mountains, racing across frozen lakes and just totally enjoying the speed and freedom you feel riding a snowmobile.  We saw numerous deer and wildlife while riding through the woods.  After a ten-hour day of riding, time to gas up the sleds and head back to our hotel for the night. To get gas, we followed a back trail across from the Gas Station, we had to cross the road on the sled into the gas station.  One thing I learned this trip was you can ride a snowmobile on a road without damaging the sled, the problem is if you are not on snow you have no steering.  You can only go straight either forward or backward.  On top of each ski in the front is a hand loop.  The loop is for dragging the snowmobile in the direction you want to go by hand. So, the trick is to get into the Gas Station and get as close to the pump before you have to get off the sled and start dragging it close to the fuel pump as you need to be.  Once you fuel up, you have to drag the snowmobile again in the direction you want to go to exit the Gas Station.  Before we left, we had our second night dinner at the Gas Station.  We put our meals, into the travel bag on each snowmobile and rode the back trails to our hotel.  Parked the snowmobiles directly in front of our room and settled in for the night.


Next morning, up early, we were both up for another full day of snowmobile riding.  Our sleds where untouched and there were a number of other people at our lodge who had their snowmobiles parked outside their rooms.  A couple of yards from our lodge was Lake Pleasant.  The lake was frozen solid due to severe cold winter and a perfect place to switch our snowmobiles to Sport mode to see how fast these sleds could go.  My son reached 75 mph, oh the joy of being young and with no fear.  I was happy to say 60 mph was my top speed.  Like being on a speedboat, 60 mph felt like you were going over 100mph on snowmobile.  We hit more trails after circling the 12-mile lake.  We had to return the rentals by 4:30 pm. The rental place required you to bring back the sleds with a full tank of gas, or just like a rental car place, they will charge you severely if they have to fill it.  So back to dragging the sleds around at the Gas Station, topping them off, aiming for the trail back to Village Motorsports.  Neither of us had done any new damage to our snowmobiles, so after a quick inspection when we checked back in, we were given the thumbs up, all was good.  Both of us agreed, this was something we would have to do again.  We had only been on a fraction of the trails the area had to offer so for sure we will be back next year to explore the Adirondack Mountains again on these amazing machines! 

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