In the past decade or two, there has been a lot of controversy over SnoWest publisher Steve Janes' ability to guide snowmobilers into remote areas. In fact, Steve's Touring Upper Country Knowledge (STUCK) has led hundreds, if not thousands of unlearned snowmobilers into the backcountry, and has led at least 80 people back out. Hence Steve's bad reputation.
Being uneducated as I was and officially still am, I have remained one of the few students of STUCK. Yep, everything I know about guiding large groups of riders deep into mountain territory and sometimes returning that same day, I learned from Prof. STUCK himself, Steve.
Getting this far through his crash course in guiding hasn't been easy. Like any good professor would do, Steve has more than once tried to scrape me out of his group during the initial years. But I passed each course by implementing a few of my own techniques (like carrying the keys to the truck).
I've taken notes, whenever possible, on different teachings of STUCK. One lesson I made note of early on is that trails are for wussies; real men ride the trees. Similarly, trails that follow easy drainages into mountain bowls are for wussies; 2,000-foot drops off vertical ridge tops (through trees) is how real men get into bowls.
Also, we implement the concept of Natural Selection. That means the guide determines the required minimum skill level (his own), and anyone below that (the sick and the weak) should be "naturally" eliminated. It isn't cruel, it isn't mean. It's just nature taking its course. Without it, the natural evolution of species would be diluted. It would be like having an NBA full of white guys.
But thanks to this process, flatlanders, short-track riders and any other riders who have a tendency to get stuck a lot are naturally eliminated from the evolution of boondocking.
At any given STUCK-sponsored ride, we always get one or two (or sometimes 10) arrogant, cocky riders who sincerely believe they can do anything and everything. These are the most enjoyable of the bunch to scrub. You have to put up with the bragging in the parking lot about how high their sled can highmark, ("despite carrying his fat-," to quote Prof. Steve) before the ride begins. But once the helmets go on, the lead guide blazes through the small timber like Randy Moss at a rent-a-cop convention. At the next stopping point, the group will always be shy of a few arrogant riders-physically and mentally.
Occasionally, a few of the arrogant highmarkers will make it through the trees, cliffs and crags quite well. To the uneducated student, it might look like these guys will make it through the entire ride. But, Prof. Steve never leaves a job half finished. Plan B involves riding to a secluded backcountry bowl that no highmarker in his right mind would pass up. Wait for the highmarkers to shoot up the hillsides in repetitive fun, and then mosey out of the bowl unnoticed. (This is where I have nearly flunked out a few times.)
For those interested in the STUCK course, keep in mind that no grades are given, nor is it a "pass/fail" type course . more like a live/die thing.
Common comments participants make include:
"How the hell did he make it through that?"
"Which side of trees does moss grow on?"
Common remarks made by Prof. Steve are:
"I thought you were right behind me."
"Survival rate doesn't mean anything if you're one of them."
"It sure seems like there were more of us when we started."
"Let's pause for a moment and reflect upon just exactly what happened here."
"This is the easy way."
"I was following you."