New snowmobile company offers private backcountry adventures to customers
Professional snowmobile rider Clay Hockel has had a lifelong passion for the sport, and now the Steamboat Springs entrepreneur is hoping to bring that same passion to his enterprise, Thunderstuck Adventures.
“We get a lot of groups that are looking for that next level backcountry experience,” said Hockel, who studied business at Colorado Mountain College Steamboat Springs. “A lot of our customers have done the trail ride up on Rabbit Ears, they’ve done the trail sleds, and they kind of want that next level adventure.”
To offer something different, Hockel has leased a private mountain in northern Routt County that boarders Pilot Knob and houses the Thunderstruck Adventures compound. The compound offers terrain that is suitable for every level of rider, from powder meadows to scenic trail riding to technical tree riding, ravines, cliffs and drops.
“People that go up north to Clark can see Pilot Knob to the west there,” Hockel said. “It kind of sits behind Sleeping Giant, and from our mountain, you can actually see Sleeping Giant, and over Sleeping Giant you can see the Steamboat Resort, the Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area, Seedhouse and Nipple Peak. You can see everything, and we have really sweet views from where we ride.”
Hockel is professional backcountry rider who has enjoyed starring roles in several productions by Thunderstruck Films and has been a part of that production company’s professional team for the past five years. He started Thunderstruck Adventures — located at 2740 Lincoln Ave. in the West End Plaza building — in 2019, shortly after he purchased Thunderstruck Films from his friend, founder Jim Phelan. Now he is hoping to blend the reputation of the film company with the adventures he offering.
“We’re putting out movies that highlight backcountry snowmobiling, hill climbs, cliff drops, ravine riding and technical riding. It’s the Warren Miller of the of the snowmobile industry,” Hockel said. “(Phelan) knew that I wanted to do what we’re doing at Thunderstruck Adventures, and he offered to sell me the company because he knew that the direction I wanted to go in the industry would be really awesome with the name recognition of Thunderstruck Films.”
To make his adventures real, Hockel offers several tours directed to the ability of his customers and the experience they are looking for from their trip.
The Pro Ride Adventure is the business’s bread and butter, but Thunderstruck Adventures offers packages for everybody, from experienced riders looking for the ultimate backcountry adventure to family rides for those venturing out on a snowmobile for the first time.
Hockel said riders will be able have an opportunity to do power turns, cliff descents and hill climbing, and, once they reach the riding area, will not be on a groomed trail.
“You are on a groomed trail — Oregon Trail — to get to the riding area, but once you get there, it’s all backcountry,” he said.
The Pro Ride Adventure with sled rental, priced at $425, includes access to the private mountain, full-day adventure with lunch and a new 2022 850 Matryx platform snowmobile with the option of upgrading to the Turbo BOOST model. The package also includes a Team Thunderstruck guide, transportation if needed and any additional gear. The same package is available to customers with their own sled for $299.
For less experienced riders who are also looking for adventure, Thunderstruck offers the Trail Explorer Adventure for $245, which is a half-day tour of four hours and includes a new Polaris Indy LXT, a professional guide and access to the private Thunderstruck Adventures mountain. Customers have the ability to add riders — $75 for riders age 15 and up and $45 for riders under 15.
“We try to best point people on which adventure to go with,” Hockel said. “Every once in a while, you get people that are a little bit over their head on The Pro Ride, but the nice thing with us is everyone gets their own guide. So if the guy needs to kind of cater our level and not ride as aggressive, we can do that.”
John F. Russell is the business reporter at the Steamboat Pilot & Today. To reach him, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.
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