Chasing the Snow
Chase Bunting used to be “that guy,” patrolling campgrounds to enforce the rules as a young man with the U.S. Forest Service. Now 26 — still young — Bunting is one of “the guys” in the Colorado outdoor recreation scene. He works as a professional backcountry snowmobile guide with Burandt’s Backcountry Adventure out of Buena Vista and as a custom snowmobile builder for Kremmling’s Alpine Motor Sports.
For his job as a snowmobile builder, Bunting, a 2010 Palisade High School graduate, modifies basic manufactured models into clients’ dream machines by increasing engine power, adding exterior style, and more. “There are some custom builds up to $50,000,” Bunting says.
A keen knowledge of a snowmobile’s capabilities is needed while guiding Burandt’s backcountry clients up, down, and over some of the “gnarliest terrain” in North and South America. Bunting calls it “a dream job.”
Initially, however, Bunting had no intentions of making a career atop a snowmobile. He moved to Gunnison after high school to study sociology and criminal justice at Western State College (now Western State Colorado University).
There, Bunting befriended a guy with a snowmobile, realizing the machine was the best way for a snowboarder to access backcountry snow.
Although Bunting grew up as a competitive snowboarder, BMX rider, and dirt bike racer in Palisade, his exposure to snowmobiling, another extreme sport, was limited. “My stepbrother had one when I was in high school and I rode it one time to go ice fishing, I think,” Bunting says.
Regardless, he purchased his first snowmobile during his sophomore year of college because his best friend had one. They watched instructional videos featuring Chris Burandt, Bunting’s current boss, and made sure they were out of class by 9:30 each morning to go ride.
“Gunnison, out of all the places I ride around the world, is still my favorite area,” Bunting says. “It always has good snow, and the community is dedicated.”
The commitment paid off. Bunting went from novice to an expert in the field in only a few years. “I went to school to be a police officer, but I joke that I got my degree in snowmobiling,” Bunting says. :