Snowmobile adventures to Mount Watson

The sky was azure blue and the sun was shining bright when I arrived for my first experience on a snowmobile. There is so much to do in Tahoe in the winter; it was one of the activities this former Florida girl hadn’t found time to do.

Snowmobilers enjoy some freeriding over frozen Watson Lake. | Katherine E. Hill 

Lake Tahoe Snowmobile Tours invited the Tahoe Weekly staff for a private snowmobile tour. Dustin John, lead guide for the operation, and Jon Wilson, the company’s business manager, were our guides for the adventure. Before speeding off into the national forest, John went over safety tips, what to do and what not to do and how to operate the snowmobile and a bit of history about the company. He explained how to ride corners – lean into them – where to ride on the trail to avoid running into other folks either snowshoeing or cross-country skiing and other snowmobilers, and what to do when riding uphill on the terrain – lean into the mountain.

Kill switch, power button, throttle and brake, I was ready to hit the trail. Anne Artoux, our sales manager, was also ready to ride fast as an experienced snowmobiler. We lined up behind John, I was in the middle and Katherine Hill, our publisher, was in the rear.

Austin Taylor | Lake Tahoe Snowmobile Tours

The tour took us through the national forest, behind the backside of Northstar and to Mount Watson. I made the necessary adjustments on the rolling terrain and tried to become one with machine. As I sped up, I learned quickly how to manage the bumps and avoid any low-hanging pines. Winding through pines on the trail, we were surrounded by deep, beautiful white powder.

Winding through pines on the trail, we were surrounded by deep, beautiful white powder.

John pulled over for a moment so we could witness a stunning view of Lake Tahoe and Heavenly. We got back on our machines and I hit the throttle to speed up on the hilly trail becoming more comfortable on the terrain and at times feeling a bit like I was riding a bucking bronco. As we were guided higher up the mountain I had to remember to keep my eyes in front of me and try not to get distracted by the views of the lake and the surrounding environment. As the terrain became steeper, I leaned in harder. We passed a group of young guys who had built a snow jump over the trail.

We reached Mount Watson, elevation 8,200 feet, with panoramic views of Lake Tahoe from Diamond Peak to the east, Heavenly to the south, Homewood Mountain Resort on the west shore, and the peaks of Squaw Valley. Above us a circular rainbow around the sun added to the beauty of the outing. Our crew spent some time goofing around and taking photos when another tour group arrived. A young woman was asked by her boyfriend to marry him on top of the mountain, a magical moment with the snow, mountains and Lake Tahoe as their backdrop.

Panoramic views of Lake Tahoe are plentiful on the tour. | Katherine E. Hill 

We prepared to continue our tour, John who moved from Louisiana 19 years ago, fell in love with snowmobiling and has been with the company for 14 years and said that he wanted to make sure he took us on an adventure. He rode off the trail to explore the terrain and came back to lead us off the trail and into the powder. We came upon a field of standing dead trees, each spaced out over the top of the hill that gave it other worldly feeling. Driving the snowmobile in the powder was a much different experience than riding on the groomed trail and it took some adjusting to make my turns.

We also took a spin around Watson Lake, the trail circles the lake like a racetrack and everyone had a chance to run some laps at high speed. As we made our way back down the mountain, the crew from Green Bandit Productions were filming and taking photos of snowboarder Matt Douglas jumping over the trail. Apparently our timing was perfect and just as I rode by, Douglas sailed over me on his snowboard. I looked up just to see him flying overhead while Hill, who was behind me, let out a whoop as she witnessed the feat. As our tour culminated and we pulled into the lot, I was breathless.

Lake Tahoe Snowmobile Tours has been offering guided tours for the last 20 years with tours leaving from Brockway Summit to Truckee and Tahoe City on a trail system groomed by the snowmobile company. The trail systems are also used by cross-country skiers, snowshoers, dog walkers, fat tire bikes and snowmobilers. As well, the company offers tours to Jackson Meadows north of Truckee.

For more information or to make a reservation, visit