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Durango, Colorado Snowmobiling:  Plato was quoted as saying "Necessity, who is the mother of invention" and if he could only see some of man kinds creations built out of necessity today.  The snowmobile is a machine born of the need to get around in deep snow but inventors also found a way to make something to take out just for fun! Snow machines had a slow and troublesome beginning with numerous tinkerers converting existing vehicles like cars and tractors. Ford model T's were one such type. Fitted with tracks and skis they saw limited success in the mid 1900's but because of reliability issues never really took off. Dog sleds were also being used at the time and for many purposes were faster, more reliable and economical.  It wasn't until 1927 that a man named Carl Eliason patented his "Motor Toboggan" which was quite literally a toboggan with a Johnson boat engine driving it! It was very successful and had the basic look of a snowmobile which spawned the innovation of other people to build upon. Snowmobiles came into their heyday by the mid 1950's and they quickly became a popular winter activity with races and competitions all over the world. They have become so successful people use them for getting to work, wildlife management, ranching, rescue and of course, enjoying the winter outdoors. One thing that qualifies a machine as a "snowmobile" is, Snow! And Durango can get a lot of it with mountain area snow depths in the hundreds of inches annually.  There are also a lot of national forest and back roads where snowmobilers can get out and enjoy all the open space.  Popular areas include many places along North Highway 550. Hermosa Creek (the road behind Durango Mountain Resort), Cascade Creek Road, Lime Creek Road and the very popular summit of Molas Pass. There are a few places further north near the summit of Red Mountain pass but avalanche danger is a bit higher there. To the east on Highway 160 near the summit of Wolf Creek Pass is a great place to break out the sleds. There is adequate parking and access to some steep terrain to drop off a back country skier or snowboarder.  There are plenty of places to take your own sled but if you don't have one, Durango has you well covered with many quality guides that can take you. This is a great way to get introduced to the sport and offers many levels of challenging terrain. A few words on safety. Snowmobiles have become powerful                     and extremely fast machines with some race models exceeding 150mph which demands a lot of respect. The other major item of importance for sledders is avalanches. The mountains around Durango are prone to snow slides (avalanches) and some of the release zones are enormous which poses a serious threat to safety. It is highly recommended that a safety course be taken before venturing out into the back country on your own. A great website to visit is the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) which monitors snow levels and avalanche danger throughout the state. They have some of the best and most reliable updates and warnings around. Keep in mind though that there is NEVER a completely safe slope and snow slides can be triggered on anything steeper than 30 degrees at any time.  The Colorado Department of Parks and Wildlife also has a good site for local rules and regulations. Snowmobiles are a great way to see a lot of winter back country in short amount of time and can travel hundreds of miles. They are a quick way to access slopes for back country skiing or boarding and in themselves very fun to ride. There are places to go for all levels of ability in some of the most spectacular mountains in the nation. So suit up, load the sleds and Go Outdoors!

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