Launched in 1981 as Rode Reports, but later expanded by the snowmobile manufacturers as Snow Shoot, the industry wide weeklong testing event began as a way for snowmobiling media to photograph and test the newest technology and snowmobile lineup produced by the manufacturers of the time. While its location has rotated to areas such as Grand Lake, Colorado; McCall and Stanley, Idaho; Heber City, Utah; Saint Donat, Quebec; Munising, Michigan; Lead, South Dakota; Cable, Wisconsin, and more, its most recent home has been West Yellowstone the last five years.
For Snow Shoot 2020 the majority of the Snow Goer team was able to arrive in West Yellowstone on time, despite two members having their departure delayed from Fargo, North Dakota, due to blizzard conditions. Driving from Bozeman, Montana, to the Day’s Inn where we would stay in West Yellowstone, we made a pitstop at a near-halfway point at the Gallatin Roadhouse Grill in Big Sky, Montana.
The pitstop has become a yearly tradition that began long before my arrival, and it provided an ideal stop for food before we braved the final length of the trip through the nearly whiteout conditions we were faced with. The hotel location is annually chosen as well – located right in town it offers two hot tubs, and a free hot breakfast each morning.
The weather this season presented obstacles for many reasons, none of which made the event any less memorable. Instead of the single-digit temperatures experienced last year, we were faced with highs in the 30s, strong winds and measurable amounts of fresh snow each day until mid-week. The fresh snow and modest temps presented issues with keeping base layers dry as well as visibility and additional hardship for local groomers given the long days of riding. Despite Mother Nature’s best attempts, the entire team kept its spirits high throughout five days of nearly eight hour rides.
Each of the five riding days has an early beginning to arrive at the “staging area” where pre-selected sleds are lined-up in a row from each of the manufacturer, ready to test. Depending on which class of sleds we are testing we either stick to the trails or head into the backcountry. During each test ride a rider will spend quality time on each sled and take detailed notes. The first round of sleds are due back at the staging area by noon, then at 1 p.m. we head out with another fleet of sleds to ride, test and photograph.
Being my second year at the event, I found myself more comfortable with the trail areas we frequented as well as the adjustment needed to acclimate to riding at elevations higher than I have been accustomed to in Midwestern regions.
A longtime goal has been to see a moose in person, and on the final day of the event we were finally able to spot one when we rode the South Plateau and BPA Cutoff trails south from West Yellowstone to the Big Springs, where one stood in Henry’s Fork of the Snake River – he didn’t seem nearly as impressed with me.
As a team we remained impressed with how well the manufacturers were able to pull of the logistics of accommodating such a large event. With multiple media outlets from all over the snow-loving world, we were still able to test, review and photographer every sled we needed in a timely manner, allowing us to provide readers with the most in-depth coverage of all things snowmobiling for next season and beyond. When the overwhelming efforts from each manufacturer culminate in such a successful event, it’s really you who ultimately benefit.
If you’re thinking the season for snowmobiling might be over soon – rest assured, it isn’t even close. With flights and rental car services available daily from Bozeman and snowmobile rentals available at Two Top Yellowstone Winter Tours, West Yellowstone offers an ideal winter send-off vacation for any family or group of friends. After you arrive, be sure to stop at the Three Bear Restaurant, Madison Crossing Lounge or Bullwinkle’s Saloon & Eatery among other fine local places for a bite to eat after a long day’s ride, or just order in a few pies from Pete’s Rocky Mountain Pizza or Wild West Pizzeria to the room.
Editor’s Note: Every issue of Snow Goer magazine includes in-depth sled reports and comparisons, aftermarket gear and accessories reviews, riding destination articles, do-it-yourself repair information, snowmobile technology and more! Subscribe to Snow Goer now to receive issues delivered to your door 6 times per year for a low cost.