April 1, 2003
Drawing The Line
Challenging new technology
It wasn’t the smartest line I could have taken…in fact, it was likely one of the dumbest lines I have tried this winter. Located up against a creek, a 15-foot vertical wall stood out at the base of a small clearing through the trees and up a 55-degree slope that extended for about 100 yards. (This slope interested me because with the north-facing slope and sheltered by trees, there was bound to be fresh deep snow…something of a rare commodity this winter.)
The only way to approach the slope would be to jump the creek, hold a steep sidehill to the right of the vertical wall and make the turn at the top of the wall to shoot up the clearing.
There were no bailout options, no “plan B,” nothing. It was a one-shot, make or break line (with a lot of emphasis on break). Like I said, it wasn’t the smartest line.
I had been riding the new Summit Rev 800 all day. And all day I had been looking for something that could actually challenge the sled. But this year the snow was shallow and the base was exceptional. Everything was working well. Too well. (Any true-blooded boondocker is constantly seeking the most extreme conditions to hone his skills. That’s what we do.)
Jumping the creek was easy. Committing to the steep sidehill required more stupidity than talent. Making the sharp turn above the wall…well, now that was just a little more difficult than I anticipated. As I slid my back end around to square up to the slope, my hand slipped off the throttle, leaving me dangling right on the edge of the wall. This is when a person decides what he’s made of. I knew if I looked down for a way out, I was going to be upside down in a creek with a group of buddies laughing their tails off. Calmly, I grabbed the throttle and prayed the track would hook up and either stick the sled into the hill or allow me to climb up a little ways until I could figure another escape route.
To my surprise, the track hooked up, the sled picked up and I busted my way straight up the hill and over the top. I was more than impressed with my snowmobile that day.
Today’s technology in mountain sleds (coupled with this season’s snow conditions) has caused many of us to seek out some of the more extreme riding conditions in hopes of finding something a little more challenging. Even when I ride with sledders who are conservative by nature, when they get on the some of these newer snowmobiles, they take lines that they generally wouldn’t take, just to try to challenge the sled. We are literally going places that we never used to go.
There used to be an unwritten law that said “never drop down into something unless you are confident there is a way out the bottom.” This saying doesn’t apply to a bunch of crazy buddies I ride with down in Utah. They drop into anything and everything trying to test their ability and the capability of their snowmobiles. (*Special note to other Utah snowmobilers—there is also another unwritten law that says you are safe following tracks…because the makers of those tracks probably knew where they were going. This doesn’t apply if you follow the tracks made by this group of crazies. I’ve been where they go…and I certainly wouldn’t want to go back there.)
Without the deep fluff that sucks the horsepower and engulfs the snowmobile, there isn’t a lot of terrain where snow can stick that today’s snowmobiles aren’t capable of going. The more severe the terrain, the greater the consequences when you make a mistake. Boy, I sure hope next winter we get better snow. I don’t know if I can survive another trip down south.
Although I would like to think that I don’t have a death wish when I ride, nor do those crazies in Utah, as long as the snow conditions are such, many will likely continue looking for the most obnoxious lines to test the capability of the snowmobiles. After all, as boondockers, we’re just trying to challenge ourselves. And with today’s technology, these tests are getting a lot more difficult.