Somewhere in the whitened wilderness outside Mount Snow, Vt., as the wind whips through acres of huddled pines, comes the thick drone of a herd of high-powered snowmobiles.
It's the only way to go.
"It's a totally different experience," said Mark Pedersen, our guide and owner of High Country Snowmobile Tours in Westover, Vt.. "We have a little over 600,000 acres of national forest that's available to us in our playground."
After a quick orientation, we're off. Once up the Mount Snow ski runs, our group of five enters the blustery snowmobile trails Vermont is famous for an elaborate statewide superhighway known as The Vast Trail System. Snowmobile enthusiasts can follow Vermont's trails all the way into Canada, but 14 miles into the woods is far enough for us.
"It was amazing," said Christian MacDonald of Madison, "one of the best experiences I've had since skydiving.?
Moose tracks are all around, though we miss the nocturnal moose. The highlight of the trip? Speeding our 550cc fan-cooled machines over ice three feet thick at Somerset Reservoir, a 2.5-mile expanse with wide-open territory in every direction.
"The views are spectacular and the ride was pretty great, too," said Jesslyn Fromme of Clinton.
Pedersen, a former Stratford resident, started his signature snowmobile tours 17 years ago.
"The experience of snowmobiling offers you the ability to cover ground in the winter that you can't do any other way," he said. "You don't have to get on a plane and fly to the Rocky Mountains, you can take a quick car ride and get up here just for a day."
High Country Snowmobile Tours is at the Mount Snow Resort in West Dover, Vermont. Winter tours are offered every day. You must be 18 years old to drive, but passengers can ride if they are over age 4. There are 1-, 2-, and 3-hours tours. Midweek tours start at $60; weekend tours start at $80.
For full pricing and schedule information go to Snowmobile-Tours.com .