BASIN BEAUTY  Riders on the tour enjoyed fantastic views during lunch at an old mining cabin. Photo by Dan Walton

BASIN BEAUTY Riders on the tour enjoyed fantastic views during lunch at an old mining cabin. Photo by Dan Walton

By Dan Walton, Pioneer Staff

Of all the ways in which one can manoeuvre through the mountains, having a snowmobile underfoot has to be the most empowering. Ask anybody whos taken a ride with Panoramas Toby Creek Adventures.

Theres no feeling of being leashed during one of their group rides. After a two-minute tutorial around some pylons, riders are on the trails at moderate speeds.

Before you can get the thrill of the throttle out of your system during a mountainous ascent, several peaks come into view, forcing spectacular views upon each rider, with the captivating sight evolving en route to the Paradise Basin.

Getting around the valley for me involves a four-cylinder sedan or bicycle, so uphill travel is the bane of my existence. Not on a snowmobile: theres a strong feeling of confidence to be found when its obvious that gravity cant compete with your machine.

While the trails exposed our group of riders to incredible views of vast mountain landscapes on Saturday, January 18th, our guide, Jonathan Martel, also showed us the nooks and crannies of the area. After a short hike away from the trail, we were led to a large frozen waterfall. Riders can take on the challenge of a short climb on the icy slope into a crawlspace formed by the frozen water.

After some photos, we were back to launching ourselves up the trails. While sledding gives one a sense of invincibility, the group was reminded of the mountains hazards along one section, where riders spaced out to mitigate the risk posed by an avalanche.

To try some new things during the day, I rode at the back of the pack, eased off the gas and allowed the next closest rider to gain a fair bit of distance on me, creating enough space for me to avoid tail-gating and to better acquaint myself with the machine.

My sled had wide front skids, which have their advantages, but the wide turning radius was a drawback. After negotiating dozens of corners, my comfort level exceeded my skills at one turn, and I had to leap sideways off of a rolling snowmobile. And since I was riding at the back of the pack, there was a brief period where it seemed as though I went missing. I was able to right the machine after a considerable struggle, but snowmobiles are heavy: its best to keep them upright.

On that note, I was surprised by how much of ones body a rider is required to put into steering. The sleds have a lot more kick than just about any car, but the steering requires a lot of leaning by the rider, much like on a bike.

After familiarizing ourselves during the trip up the mountain, we became surrounded by cliffs as wed reached the basin.

That was timed for lunch, which was served at an old mining cabin. Hot chocolate was in our hands as our lunch was cooking on the barbecue, while we were treated to an incredible view of the basin, including some industrial ruins of the old silver mine.

We toured through some of the ruins en route to the heart of the basin, where John took us on a short tour to mark the perimeter. Then it was free play time.

Surrounded by the basin, riders have a massive area in which to rip around. I felt like I could have easily spent hours burning through all the gas in that tank, and then some, but we were at the mercy of the sunlight.

Theres no question that Toby Creek Adventures trumps my only other experience with a snowmobile tour, when a rinky-dink resort in Ontario stopped me after two minutes of riding, claiming ten-year-olds are too young to ride.

The Paradise Basin route was a perfect place for my first real snowmobile experience, and would be ideal for any first-time or novice rider, whether youre a speed demon or a more easy-going rider.

But if youre beyond my level, Toby Creek Adventures has a handful of other routes available for more advance riders.

Full details of their tours are listed on their website, at .