Snowmobilers: It’s Time to Rev Up for Season

Enthusiasts Believe East County Rivals Anywhere Else in State

By Carrina Stanton
For The Chronicle

In nearly 40 years of snowmobiling, Jim Beslow has never worn out a trailer.

The head of the Lewis County Drift Skippers snowmobiling club, Beslow said there are hundreds of snowmobiling trails across the state. But he prefers to stay closer to home, logging about 1,200 miles on his machines in the Packwood and Randle area.

Beslow said he’s never been tempted to roam very far because within 15-45 minutes of home he can find miles and miles of both groomed and ungroomed trails as well as some of the best snow pack in the state.

“I think we have the very best snowmobiling in the state of Washington,” Beslow said of eastern Lewis County.

With snow falling and permits being sold, local snowmobilers will soon be hitting the trails. According to Washington State Parks, there are more than 3,000 miles of groomed snowmobiling trails in Washington and about 80 of the 120 Sno-Parks in Washington are designated primarily for snowmobiling. Southwest Washington boasts Sno-Parks at Johnson Creek and Skate Creek both relatively near the Goat Rocks Wilderness and further south at Orr Creek and Wakepish.

Snowmobiling in Washington state is a self-support sport, meaning that when snowmobilers purchase tabs and licenses for their vehicles as well as permits for state Sno-Parks, that money is used to pay for trail grooming as well as clearing of the parking lots at the Sno-Parks. Mark Matchett of Packwood runs the grooming machine weekly on several of the local snowmobiling trails.

He said grooming the trails is an important amenity for snowmobilers.

“Within a day so many people ride these trails that they just get beat up and there’s all kinds of moguls and they’re terrible to ride.” Matchett explained of the reasoning behind grooming the trails. “It’s mostly just a comfort thing.”

Though he does not currently snowmobile, Matchett had for several years before working on the groomer. He said Johnson Creek was one of his favorite areas to ride because of its top sail, or high elevation, areas. But he said the Packwood area also offers some amazing ungroomed trails as well, which appeal to a certain type of snowmobiler with a certain type of machine.

“It’s a few miles out, but there are areas where you can get off and play in some of the old clear-cut areas and that is really fun,” Matchett said.

Beslow said he snowmobiles every week from the time the snowpack is deep enough, usually the beginning of December, all the way until April or May.

“The idea you can glide across powder snow, it’s like flying an airplane,” Beslow said of what he loves of the sport. “The beauty of the snow makes it like Christmas every day on a snowy winter.”

In Beslow’s opinion, one of the biggest happenings in local snowmobiling this year is the reopening of the 47 Road at Skate Creek. The route had been closed because of an unstable bridge, which has now been repaired. He said the reopening of that road opens a large loop of groomed snowmobiling trails that can take a rider to Johnson Creek, Orr Creek and all the way to Tackalack Creek.

But when he is looking for a ride that doesn’t require an all day or more than a day’s commitment, Beslow said his best bet is the Johnson Creek Sno-Park. He said he likes the area because it is relatively new and has a beautiful upper section for those who like hill climbs.

“I still believe Johnson Creek and the 47/52 snow park are the two best Sno-Parks that haven’t really been discovered by snowmobilers yet,” Beslow said.

Drift Skippers Gather

The Lewis County Drift Skippers hold public meetings for local snowmobilers at 9 a.m. the first Sunday of each month at Peter’s Inn in Packwood. For more information, call Jim Beslow at (360) 494-6690.

More information about snowmobiling in Washington state can be found at the Washington State Snowmobile Association Web site at www.wssa.us or the Washington State Parks Web site at www.parks.wa.gov/winter/snowmobiling/.