November 2014

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2 WESTERN GUIDE TO SNOWMOBILING 2014 many times those areas have been in the Top 15. After reviewing the results of the past Top 15 surveys, here are a few observations: • West Yellowstone, MT, reigns supreme on the list having appeared in every Top 15 survey since we started with 14 No. 1 spots. West Yellowstone has never finished lower than second. • The only other area to hold the No. 1 spot—four times—is the Continental Divide Snowmobile Trail in Wyoming. The CDST has also found a spot on the Top 15 since its inception, only once not finishing in the Top 10. • There were only one year where there was a tie in the Top 15. • Nine riding areas have been in the Top 15 ever since we started. • Three areas have finished in the Top 10 on every Top 15 survey we've published. • The state with the most areas— four—consistently on the Top 15 is Wyoming. • The only western states that have never had a riding area in the Top 15 are New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and Alaska. In Alaska's defense, the state hasn't really had a defined trail system until the past few years. And, whereas the Lower 48's western states see a fair amount of sledders who travel from state to state to ride, Alaska only has a few out-of-state riders. We're sure that if every mountain sledder had a chance to ride in Alaska, the state would be well represented in the Top 15. • Speaking of travel, it's no secret that Midwestern riders love to ride the West and they tend to have a good representation of voters in our Top 15 survey. We regularly send out surveys to riders in North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin, who respond at higher per- centages than those surveyed in some western states. • The riding areas that made it on to our first-ever survey in 1996-97 were (in order): West Yellowstone, MT; Continental Divide Snowmobile "But where is the best place to ride in the West? We at SnoWest Magazine have our favorites, but what do other snowmobilers think? We decided to find out so we randomly mailed hun- dreds of surveys out to snowmobilers across the snowbelt, as well as state associations and club officers, state snowmobile administrators and a host of others to ask them where their favor- ite snowmobiling destinations are." Some of us around here still remem- ber the trepidation we had when dis- cussing that first Top 15 survey. We wondered if people would respond to our survey and if they did, would they be honest in telling us their favor- ite riding spots? Lots of sledders did respond and did indeed tell us where they like to ride. Over the years, as we have continued to send surveys out for the Top 15 Trails in the West, we have had a handful of our readers tell us they would rather not share their favorite riding spots with the rest of the snowmobiling world. That's fine. We have our own secret backcountry stashes that we don't share with others either, so we get that. One other hesitation we had when we first mailed out that Top 15 survey was the actual title of our survey, Top 15 Trails in the West. After touting for years the off-trail opportunities the West has to offer, for us to ask our readers their favorite trails might have been a bit confusing. Maybe the survey should have been titled Top 15 Riding Areas in the West but that is kind of cumbersome. The truth is that anyone who rides the West knows that trails are sometimes part of the riding experi- ence and the means to access the back- country. And anyone who has filled out one of our surveys knows that many of the areas we ask to be ranked have to do with off-trail riding. LOOKING BACK We thought it might be interest- ing to look back at all the riding areas, a.k.a. Top 15 Trails in the West, that have ever made it on our Top 15 sur- vey. We also did a breakdown of how We haven't made nearly as big a deal about the Western Guide to Snowmobiling's anniversaries as we have Snowmobile West and SnoWest Magazines over the years, but as we started putting together all our 40th anniversary stories and information on SnoWest, we felt we should at least give a nod towards the Western Guide. The Western Guide to Snowmobiling, which started out as the Western States Guide To Snowmobiling, first became a stand-alone issue to the then Snowmobile West during the winter of 1980-81. That means the Western Guide to Snowmobiling turns 34 this year, six years behind SnoWest. While there have been some changes to our travel guide over those 34 years, the focus has always been on where to ride in the West. Whereas SnoWest Magazine has found a great niche in the snowmobile market by zeroing in on western riding, the Western Guide has become a niche in that niche— where to ride in the West. Among the changes we've made to the Western Guide over the years was a fairly significant one in the winter of 1996-97 when we introduced our first- ever Top 15 Trails in the West. FIRST SURVEY Here's how we introduced the results of that first survey. "Snowmobiling the West. "The mere thought conjures up dreams of deep powder, towering mountains, wide open play areas, for- ested hillsides, the best scenery in the snowbelt and late-season riding. WESTERN GUIDE TO SNOWMOBILING TURNS 34 Western Guide To Snowmobiling

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