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Just One Way to Die on a Snowmobile in the West

beautiful mountains in Grand Teton National Park
The Grand Tetons

A snowmobile day trip

Brake, brake, brake, you idiot,’ (it was actually far worse than that but too rude to repeat here) shouts my husband as I careen wildly off the icy pathway, into the snow-covered banking, clinging desperately to the handlebars. Trees loom large in front of us, disturbingly solid – this is not going to be a platform 9 ¾ magical doorway if we don’t manage to stop.

I’m out of control, screaming madly as I try to overcome the involuntary rigor mortis which seems to have clenched my hand to the accelerator (surely that is the brake?) of our monster snowmobile. Visions of the epitaph on my grave flash through my mind, the tears of my step-kids at our graves, and the bitterness of my mother in law for daring to take her baby on yet another hair-brained adventure where danger lurks around every corner.

It’s a rather frightening end to a day, and possibly my life, as we hurtle off the pathway plunging dangerously into the woodland verge, those trees approaching rather too quickly for my liking.

A day in the Grand Teton National Park

It all started so innocently just a mere few hours earlier as we left our hotel (the location of Clint Eastwood’s ‘Any Which Way You Can’ film) on a quest to satisfy my husband’s inner child. A day of snowmobiling in the Grand Teton national park, with a chance to see elk, wolves, moose and bison was an opportunity not to be missed.

the mountains of Grand Teton National Park

After all, we may be here to ski but nature’s fury is on display nearby. Yellowstone’s bubbling rainbow coloured pools may make a pretty picture but if these bad boys decide to put on a show of their strength (we are on a “super volcano” after all), letting loose the full extent of their geo-thermic activity then the Icelandic ice cloud would look like a test run for Armageddon. Also in the area, are the magnificent jagged peaks of the Grand Tetons – just look at those beauties!

Pinterest of Yellowston

What better way to escape into the wilderness and see this untamed part of the States than on a snowmobile?

Into the wild

We head off to the park for our briefing and I nervously take my place on the back of the dual seater snowmobile. I can’t say I’m convinced. I prefer floating to motoring. Give me a paragliding experience, skydive or deep sea dive and I’m happy to while away the time but sat on this machine nervously pondering the possible damage it can wreak on me or my bank balance (should we, sorry I, decide to crash it) has me coming out in a small sweat.

My husband is driving like Louis Hamilton in a strop racing across the tundra like plains, jolting me from side to side. Why he can’t drive like Miss Daisy I don’t understand. Unfortunately, I’m surrounded by testosterone fuelled madness as the guys (and indeed gals) in the group seem to want to outdo one another in their determination to show off their newfound skills on a throbbing machine.

These pathways may meander innocently through the pretty forestry land, reminiscent of Christmas, but that peace and quiet is soon ruined by the roar of the engines of our snowmobiles hurtling around corners at breakneck.

I, however, want to take a leisurely drive through the woodland paths without jarring my spine into a million pieces, falling off or dying. I don’t much fancy being run over by this beast of a machine and this all black motorcycle outfit (no leather in sight) is not a look that suits me. Where are the pink or red suits for god sake?

me on a snowmobile in Grant Teton National Park

Home safe?

So it is, that we approach the final mile of our journey with me secretly thanking God that I have made it back in one piece, haven’t crashed my new toy (that one you got for Christmas which secretly you hated!) or killed my husband for repeatedly calling me a wuss.

A slip of concentration, perhaps a hint of wildlife in the woods or maybe the peer pressure of knowing we are way behind everyone else because I’m enjoying a less frenetic woodland adventure, and here we are hurtling down the hillside at breakneck speed, with me madly clinching the accelerator.

Twigs and branches crunch and snap, the air rushes past my earlobes, birds fall into stunned silence and somehow big bloody Bertha comes to an unruly stop mere inches from a whopping tree.

Thankfully the five-foot snowdrift, with Herculean effort, was our saviour. After bursting into tears of relief, cursing my husband and clambering up the hillside on hands and knees, I can revel in the fact that I am alive (although the embarrassment of having the rest of the group tow our snowmobile out of the snow almost does kill me!) and that my savings haven’t taken a $20,000 hit!

runaway snowmobile
Look at the look of disgust on my husband!

Now all I have to do is live with the sadist delight of my husband delighting in reliving this story at every opportunity. Oh and avoid ever getting on the back of another one of those monsters EVER again.

Have you narrowly avoided death?

What’s your most embarrassing, terrifying or dumbass travel story? Have you narrowly avoided death, unwittingly got caught up in a terrifying incident or simply done something foolish? This isn’t my only story of mishaps and machines by the way so don’t worry, you can rest assured, no matter how foolish your stories, you aren’t alone.

My top travel hacks for a trip to Jackson Hole

  • Ensure you have insurance and that it covers you for your chosen activity. Snowmobiling (as does diving and skiing) generally requires a small extra premium or specific insurance. In my experience annual insurance always works out better value for those who will take more than one trip a year.
  • DO NOT CRASH a snowmobile. If you think you might, take the extra insurance before you jump onboard, dress in a sumo suit and stick to a speed limit of around 20 miles an hour. I don’t think the elk and wolves will think any less of you!
  • Celebrate the success of surviving any near death experience with an upgrade to business for less than the price of economy with these tips
  • For the best flight deals, book through Skypicker which allows you to search the best flight deals and has a neat feature allowing you to search by region on a handy map
  • For hotels, use hotels.com. This hotel search engine allows you to earn one night free for every ten stayed

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Pinterest of snowmobiling in Grand Teton National Park

About Anne

Anne is the founder and editor of Frommilestosmiles. If she isn't travelling, she is thinking of travelling or planning her next trip. She has visited over 90 countries on six continents and sampled everything from backpacking to bank bursting travel. Her mission is to help you enjoy more luxurious travel without the luxury price tag through the use of airline and hotel rewards and other money-saving travel tips

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  1. Wow, what an experience! Thanks for sharing and happy travels 🙂

  2. We did the Grand Tetons and Jacksonhole when I was a kid. I can’t wait to go back now with my family!!! It is such a beautiful place!

  3. Wow I never tried to drive snowmobiles, or.. actually my experience with snow is not that big at all. Looks quite exotic for me. Yellowstone park is on my bucket list for many years now. hopefully I’ll get to North America once again, in the near future. I’d love to make a 6 month coast to coast + Canada. Greetings from Sahara Desert!

  4. Me and my husband managed to avoid a pretty scary accident while motorbiking in SE Asia. So I can totally relate to your experience. You just have to be extremely careful. Because as dangerous as some experiences might be, they are pretty amazing if done carefully. And this snowmobile experience looks like no exception

    • Yes motorbikes in Asia can be crazy. I managed to get knocked over by one in Singapore (more my fault than theirs!). Vietnam is a whole other level of course trying to navigate the thousands of bikes!

  5. I laughed and cringed all at once. It reminded me a little of the kids who use jetskis to go at maniac speeds in our rivers here and then come almost too close to killing themselves! But they do it all on purpose!!!! I’m so glad you are safe. That would have been one scary ride!!

  6. Never had a major brush with death, but I’m sure your snowmobiling incident was truly terrifying. I am always overly cautious on wave runners or scooters just for that reason. Better to be safe than sorry, right?

  7. I have narrowly avoided death a few times, but I don’t think any of those situations were avoidable. Other than that time I got caught up in conversation walking down a Prague street and was inches from walking into the path of a speeding car. :/ Thankfully, my sister’s yell stopped that one. I normally travel alone, so maybe I can blame that one on her company?

    • To be fair other than the motorway incident above, I usually have myself to blame for such experiences. It’s the other side of the travel coun!

  8. You had me at the edge of my seat! Maybe if I go to Yellowstone, I’ll try walking around in the summer. Great story and I’m glad you survived to tell it.

  9. I’ve been lucky and not had a brush with death, other than a mad taxi driver. I think my husband would love this but I would feel like you!

    • This came just a few months after I was taken out by a lorry on the motorway so I think I’ve had my share of hairy moments for a while!

  10. I’m planning on visiting Yellowstone this July. It looks amazing during winter time and those snowy landscapes look amazing

  11. Glad you got back safely! I bottled before the briefing on my chance to go out on a snowmobile, so I take my hat off to you!!!

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