Have you ever picked up a hot iron or perhaps a hot dog stick that was used for roasting that was inconspicuously set down for an innocent and unexpecting bystander to grab? As you grab hold of the stick you hear the warning come, “Careful, that might be hot,” all while your senses still haven’t communicated the burning flesh feeling. But you know it is coming.
This certainly deserves the catch phrase made famous by Homer Simpson, “D’oh.”
That same feeling easily carries over to the world of snowmobiling.
I hate to admit an error so I always try to act as though nothing happened and conceal any injury as best I can, which can be kind of hard when I have only one ski left on the sled or the handlebars are bent down to form the same profile as the fuel tank. Or when my leg is bent in a very unnatural way and I am yelling at the top of my lungs in pain. Or I am bleeding profusely from an extremity.
There was that time in last year’s Schooled video that shows me getting off my sled at the top of the hill and watching helplessly as it ghost rides into a rather large tree. The top of the tree snapped off and actually looked very spectacular and entertaining for a split second.
Of course, that left me sitting at the top of the hill wondering what just went wrong. The d’oh moment was when the sled would not respond the way I was asking and I ultimately had to step off and let it go. It was when I watched the replay that I realized why I threw the sled away. I was running a new high rise seat that I wasn’t accustomed to and I tripped on the seat multiple times trying to get across to the other running board.
Have you ever been the last one at a creek crossing and all the options are gone? One ski finds itself on top of the opposite bank and the other underneath, while the rear of the sled is under water and all your buddies are long gone. After finding myself in this predicament a number of times I started using the jump-the-creek method. I usually ride along the creek bank for a while, looking for a spot with the most lip to help lift the skis as I grab a handful of throttle… it’s just the landing that hurts.
Now I’ve learned to sacrifice the sled in those cases. In my younger days I would sacrifice my body to save the sled. Not any more. Snowmobile parts are like Doritos—they make more every day. Body parts are a little harder to come by, especially my vintage.
More recently in my riding career I have learned to seek out the line that can only be reasonably negotiated once. When I get to the other side I can sit and watch the group mill around and point and wonder how he did that.
When you pick this ploy up it will make you a better rider than you actually are. It generally doesn’t take long for the group to figure this out and then you’re back to square one. On the other hand, if you ride with a different group every time out like myself, it will work over and over. That is, unless the likes of Chris Burandt show up to ruin my day. That’s another subject, but it seems that if he is along I try extra hard to outdo him and almost every time I get myself in some kind of trouble.
If you are a very competitive person, most likely you have a friend like this. If I learned anything from Burandt it is the fact that he does not believe in dead ends. There simply is no such thing.
One day the group had been left for the wolves as Burandt and I were chasing each other around the hill. I had this feeling he should be the one leading. At that moment I found myself grabbing the brake and stopping on the sidehill with one ski hanging off a cliff. This was a situation where I couldn’t get off and pull the ski around. After a quick evaluation and realizing that Burandt was hot on my trail—besides the fact that he wouldn’t have stopped here anyway—I grabbed a hand full of throttle, held the brake for just long enough to build some turbo boost, released the brake and shot off the drop, landing with a poof in the powder and never letting off the throttle.
I did a quick look back and saw Burandt flailing off the edge. You see, he didn’t see the drop, only me off in front and gaining distance on him. Of course he is a good enough rider that he recovered gracefully and soon had me in his sights again.
I recall one time while testing with the Arctic Cat engineering group in Sicamous, B.C., one of the guys (read: flatlander) got out of shape and found himself and the prototype sled hung up in a tree. I was the self-elected rescuer and began to make my way up the hill. Well, I didn’t read the line right and zigged when I should have zagged and I never made it to the tree with the sled. The sled rolled 18 times to the bottom. Doritos, right? Wrong. It was a prototype so spare parts were scarce. D’oh.
It’s the second guessing that will always cause the pain. Pick your line early. Look ahead, way ahead and have plan “B” and “C” ready and then don’t deviate from your instinct. It’s like, “Which side of the tree should I go to?” and at the last minute you change your mind and end up T-boning the tree.
No whimpering, no cowering, just execute fully and carry through with confidence. Confidence comes when you know the limits of yourself and your sled and stay right at the edge, zoned out and in your game.
Rasmussen, who owned and operated a snowmobile dealership for 25 years, is a long time competition hillclimber, holding multiple world championship titles, and is a founding member of RMSHA (Rocky Mountain Snowmobile Hillclimb Association). He currently owns and operates Snowmobile Research Services, a consulting firm dedicated to advancing the development of mountain sleds and furthering the sport of backcountry riding with his ride clinics. See his web site at www.riderasmussenstyle.com.