December 5, 2009

44 Pro Riding Tips




Everyone wants 
to be a better 
backcountry rider. 
Who better to get 
advice from than 
the guys who do 
it professionally? 
We’ve compiled 
44 tips from different 
riders in the 
sport to help you 
have a better riding 
experience.


Knowing your sled’s capabilities is always good advice. When sidehilling, tree navigating 
or hillclimbing, your greed can get you into trouble. Learning safe strategies 
for turning around or having a route through the trees back to the bottom will ensure 
good backcountry tactics. This will also keep everyone in your group safe because 
most avalanches occur when a slope is loaded … meaning you tried to out-do your 
buddy, got stuck and need help getting out. Thus loading the slope.

-Dan Adams

Have the right equipment 
for the area you are riding 
in. In the backcountry, 
you need beacons, shovels, 
probe, tools, food, water, etc. 
And bring the camera for the 
sick jumps and drops.

-Jeremy Simmons 

Ten things not to do in the 
backcountry

10) Don’t wear cotton under 
your sled clothing (you will 
be wet and cold all day).

9) Don’t leave the truck without 
telling someone where you 
are going and when you’re 
coming home.

8) Don’t ride without a spare 
belt and your tool kit.

7) Don’t leave the house unless 
you know you’re batteries 
are good in your transceiver.

6) Don’t ride without knowing 
how to efficiently use your 
transceiver.

5) Don’t ride without a shovel 
and overnight essentials. 
(matches, emergency blanket, 
knife, twine, Leatherman, 
porto-saw).

4) Don’t highmark above your 
friends.

3) Don’t leave without food

 and water.

2) Don’t leave your friends, 
keep them in sight.

1) Don’t park your sled under 
an avalanche path, no

 exceptions!

-Rob Hoff

Throttle control 
is crucial in all 
aspects; you can 
get yourself out of 
sticky situations by 
hitting the throttle. 

-Ryan Nelson

If you can’t see, you can’t ride. What I 
like to do is totally focus on breathing 
down. You’re basically putting your top 
lip over your bottom lip and blowing 
all of your air down away from your 
goggles. Another thing is never put 
your goggles under the hood unless 
absolutely necessary. Whenever I stop 
and need to take my goggles off I will 
place them with the lenses up over the 
handlebar grip. 

-Chris Burandt


Set up your sled for your riding style. I usually have some good 
shocks on the front and rear of my sled as well as running board 
supports to stop the tunnel from bending. I put screen over all 
my hood vents to stop the pow from filling up my engine compartment. 
I find that without the screens, the sled likes to bog 
out bad in the pow and the snow also hits the engine and melts 
and then re-freezes around your steering and causes problems. I 
also put some venting around my clutches (usually higher up on 
the side panels). You can buy cheap screen door material from 
most hardware stores and it works great.

-Rob Alford

If you are attempting a downhill 
turn and you are in deep 
snow, remember as you are 
coming out of the turn and 
into the next to transfer your 
weight from your uphill side to 
the opposite side and get your 
center of mass over your sled. 
As you commit to the turn you 
will point your skis downhill 
and with your weight in the 
right position, and just the 
right amount of counter steer, 
the sled will dive into the snow 
and you will begin your linked 
downhill turn.

-Dan Adams

Your life is in 
the hands of 
those in your 
group; make 
sure everyone 
is prepared 
with proper 
gear and 
don’t be afraid 
to put someone 
in check 
that is being 
reckless. One 
knucklehead 
could put your 
whole group 
at risk.

-Ryan Nelson

Photo: Jacob “McLovin” White

Check out your sled the night before you go out. No one 
wants to be on the hill with you when you are having to fix 
your sled when you could have done it the night before (you 
know who you are). 

-Jeremy Simmons 

Clearly jumping has always been the part of sledding I 
enjoy the most. One of the first things I learned was to 
not get in a hurry. Take your time and find a jump that is 
safe and easy to learn air control. What your body, brake 
and throttle will all do. You will never be able to drop 
cliffs or jump big air until you know how you and your 
machine will react in the air. Start small and eventually you 
will be hucking with the best.

-Paul Thacker

What I see the most is riders taking off and getting a few miles into the ride and 
their suspension drops out, bolts fall out or the rear axle comes loose. Or they blow 
a belt and don’t have a spare. Before you go riding, take five or ten minutes and 
check a few things. Take the belt off and look for bad spots, ripped threads, cracking 
or burned sides. Make sure you have a spare. Check all of the suspension bolts and 
axle bolts. Don’t forget to grease it now and then, too. Check the antifreeze, oil and 
gas (it sounds obvious, but you wouldn’t believe how many people forget). 

-Troy Johnson


Looking ahead—and I mean 
way ahead—your mind is able 
to tell your body what to do 
ahead of time. Sometimes 
towards the end of the day 
when I’m tired, worn out and 
starting to bounce off trees 
like a pinball, I have to remind 
myself to stay focused on 
what is ahead of me rather 
than what I’m already riding 
over. Practice this one and you 
won’t believe how much more 
fluid your riding will be.

-Chris Burandt

Photo: Ryan Harris


When the snow is deep 
and the day is really socked 
in, chances are visibility will 
be tough. Having a spare 
pair of goggles will keep 
you ripping up the powder 
all day long if you provide 
a dry, warm area for your 
spare gogs. Putting a wet, 
fogged up pair of goggles 
into your backpack won’t 
do it. You need to get your 
goggles dried out using 
the heat from your snowmobile. 
Come up with a 
way to strap a bag under 
your hood for your goggles 
that won’t interfere with 
the engine. You will be so 
pumped to put on a clean 
and warm pair of goggles 
before you head out for 
more pow shots.

-Dan Adams

Carry a backpack with a shovel, 
probe and beacon in it and 
know how to use the beacon 
and probe. When riding in the 
mountains you should also 
have a first aid kit and matches 
to start a fire if needed. 
Believe me, it can happen to 
anybody. Mother Nature can 
be brutal.

-Troy Johnson

Powder riding is all 
about balance. Lean too 
far into a turn and you 
will wash out, learn to 
turn the opposite direction 
before you hit that 
tipping point and then 
keep the rhythm back 
and forth.

-Ryan Nelson

Ride in the neutral position. Jumping from 
side to side on the sled takes a lot of energy 
and slows you down through the trees. I ride 
the sled more like a dirt bike and use foot (or 
peg) input to effect a change of direction. For 
example, I can stay over the center of the sled 
and push down with my left foot and turn the 
handlebars right for a sharp left turn. And I’m 
still in a position to make a quick right-hand 
turn, too. 

-Chris Burandt

I live by the one-
minute rule. If 
you are at the 
top of a drop 
and you have 
scoped your 
line, your sled 
is ready and 
it takes more 
than one minute 
to get the balls 
to drop it, it’s 
probably not a 
good idea.

-Jeremy Simmons 

Know your terrain. During a recent snow show I got to talk with several Sledheads about 
some of their experiences last winter. I was truly amazed at the number of individuals 
who missed corners, flew off cornices they didn’t see, ended up in creek bottoms they 
didn’t know existed and hit a few rocks under the snow. Not only does this cost thousands 
of dollars in damage, it also poses a serious threat for injury or even death. If you 
are unfamiliar with an area ask someone who is what types of dangers exist in there. 
Take time to scout around and notice obstacles that you can see, bumps in the snow 
are usually tree stumps or rocks waiting to destroy your sled. Slow down and think safety 
first. If you can get out and see the areas in the summer. Notice large rocks on the hillsides, 
fallen trees and deep creek beds. Try to make mental notes of these dangers and 
avoid them in the winter. Knowing your terrain can save your live and thousands of dollars 
in costly repairs.

-Geoff “Phatty” Dyer


Photo: Courtesy www.logchalet.com

Cutting a good sidehill 
depends on how steep the 
slope is and what the snow 
conditions are like. It is the 
same general idea as doing 
a pow turn except you hold 
it in a straight line. You 
counter-steer and lean the 
sled, balancing it on the 
outside edge of the ski. If I 
am on a really steep slope, 
sometimes I will get as far 
forward on the sled as possible 
to keep the front end 
down and stay in control. 
It’s all about balance and 
knowing when to give it 
throttle. You can go and 
practice on some smaller 
pow hills and just get used 
to the sled and be prepared 
to have a few wipeouts.

-Rob Alford


Sled prep is one of the 
most important aspects 
of riding. Riding style 
setup and preventative 
maintenance can 
prevent serious issues 
when sledding. It’s 
important to have a 
sled that fits your skill 
and style of riding as 
well as something that’s 
not going to leave you 
stranded on the hill 
somewhere or worse.

-Paul Thacker

Photo: Dice K.

Sled maintenance has 
always been a good 
learning experience 
for me. It can really 
put a damper on the 
day when you get up 
to your favorite riding 
spot and realize nuts 
and bolts are missing. 
Always check your sled 
for the obvious, you 
don’t have to go crazy, 
but keep in mind that 
snowmobiles tend to 
rattle themselves loose 
throughout the season 
and staying on top of 
your sled’s maintenance 
will prevent you from 
being “that guy.”

-Dan Adams

Powder turning is one of 
those trial and error kind of 
things. I turn the bars the 
opposite way that I want to 
go, lean the sled over and 
apply a healthy amount of 
throttle. It has to be done 
all at the same time and, 
depending on what sled 
your running, you may have 
to really lean the sucker 
hard.

-Rob Alford

Ride with people you can trust 
so that if there is a problem 
you know they are prepared 
to handle it.

-Jeremy Simmons 

Looking ahead is probably the most important tip for riding 
trees. You want to have a way out if possible. Try and be 
smooth on the throttle and in your body English. Keep your 
head up and maintain momentum. You don’t want to go too 
fast through trees; you could miss that perfect turn into a good 
route and end up with nowhere to go. But if you’re going too 
slow and have to turn uphill you won’t have the speed to make 
it, so knowing your sled and what it will do is very important. 

-Troy Johnson


When riding on potentially 
dangerous hills, only allow 
one rider on the hill at a 
time. That will keep everyone 
else out of harm’s way and 
watching the rider in case of 
an avalanche. 

-Ryan Nelson

Don’t talk trash 
you can’t back up!

-Jeremy Simmons 

Photo: Jeff Danielson

www.bondockersmovie.com


Pick your line in advance and 
study the potential obstacles. 
Always have an escape route 
around those obstacles if 
things don’t go as planned.

-Ryan Nelson

Photo: Cari Johnson

When in doubt, pin it. -Troy Johnson

In addition to a morning avalanche report, I look for as many signs as I can to help maintain a safe 
environment for myself and my buddies I am with. There are several ways to gauge snowpack stability. 
What is the weather doing? Did it dump three feet last night? Was it 30 below overnight? 
Is it going to be cold in the morning and real warm in the afternoon? Weather conditions play a 
huge role in predicting snow stability. When you call that report or look at it on the net, read the 
whole report. What information are these forecasters sharing with me? Don’t just look at the highlighted 
item that says “high” or “moderate,” etc. Read it all. This will help you with your awareness 
when you head out into the backcountry. 

-Rob Hoff

For all of you out 
there who run 
those tall handlebars, 
what the heck 
are you doing? I 
do have to admit 
I used to be that 
guy. However, as I 
started riding more 
technical terrain 
I found that my 
leverage point 
being that high 
and away from the 
center of my body 
was really killing 
me. Instead of 
doing the big 4- or 
6-inch riser, try a 
simple 1- or 2-inch. 
It will make a huge 
difference.

-Chris Burandt

At a minimum, always 
carry a beacon, shovel, and 
probe and know how to use 
them. However, sometimes 
the best protection from 
avalanches is staying alert 
to which slopes are dangerous 
and keeping your group 
away from them. Check the 
avalanche forecasts before 
every ride, it only takes a 
couple minutes and could 
save someone’s life.

-Dan Gardiner

Photo: Geoff Dyer

www.boondockersmovie.com

To improve your ability 
you must push yourself—
but use your head. Know 
your limits. If you ride the 
same terrain you will not 
advance your skills or

riding abilities.

-Jeremy Simmons 

It’s important to use good gear when you ride. I 
ride with waterproof clothing, like my HMK pants, 
jacket and boots. I run a moto helmet to protect my 
head. I also have an ABS 30 avy pack with probe, 
shovel, spare gloves, water, food, survival kit, GPS 
and long range radio. I also wear a transceiver and 
check the batteries frequently in it. Always wear 
your shovel and probe on your back. You can’t dig 
your bro out when all your gear is under the snow 
on your sled.



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