all about the challenge.
guess I am not much of a sightseer. Don’t get me wrong: I do enjoy
being in the great outdoors and observing the pristine winter
backcountry. There is nothing that compares to the beauty of winter
in the backcountry. However, I tend to become very competitive
whenever I have the power of a motorized vehicle at my finger tips.
I started riding sleds in the late ‘60s, it was a challenge to get
from one side of the field to the other without getting stuck or
tipping over. Heck, it was even a challenge to keep the thing running
for long enough to get across the field and back.
my earliest rides I remember spending a whole day breaking trail to
get to a summit which was only about a third of the way up the
mountain. In those days we couldn’t wait until spring when the snow
would set up so we could actually get into the high country. By
today’s standards we don’t even consider it a challenge to get to
the first summit. In fact, it’s not a challenge getting into the
high country at all. I have to search for challenges and that
generally leads me into the trees where I rarely find any tracks,
where the snow is deep and avalanche risk is at a minimum.
the sleds progressed we found ourselves climbing hills and some days
we would sit at the same hill all day just beating a trail to the
top. This was a challenge and we built and modified sleds for this
purpose. Finally the OEMs started building sleds that would perform
in the deep and steep terrain without modifications. This is when,
for a time, I was somewhat bored with riding because it seemed like
we went to the same place and played on the same worn-out terrain
every time out. Then, with the release of the 2005 M Series from
Arctic Cat, I suddenly found myself easily doing maneuvers that
previously I had to work at.
more I rode, the more I found how easy it was to ride. And I had a
renewed challenge to explore new terrain because the rules had
changed. To quote Chris Burandt, “It’s as if I am in a video game
and the perimeters of reality are gone.” Incredible maneuvers are
achieved when aboard any of the new sleds available today.
when I go to the backcountry there is always a new challenge. There
is no reason to ride the trail to get to one’s favorite play area.
Why not take the direct route, point to point, cross the ravine,
traverse the sidehill, climb the mountain and descend the vertical
slope. Who cares if we even make the destination point? We accepted
the challenge and had a great time even if conquering the complete
course was blown off. The risk of getting stranded in the backcountry
has become smaller as we have improved our ride technique.
times I have come across tracks that lead me down a ravine to a point
where the evidence showed that the group had decided to turn around
and get out before they got in trouble. When I get to this point I
will just sidehill out and reevaluate the situation. It seems like
way toomuch work to turn the thing around by hand. I think it’s a
matter of trust between a rider and his sled to be able ride the
backcountry any way and every way. If you think it, you should be
able to do it.
best rides are the ones when I never get more than five miles from
the truck and return on fumes.
ride I remember well was model year 2006 and six of us were on stock
M7s. There was about four feet of new snow and the challenge was to
get to the ridge top that could be seen from the trailhead, maybe
five or six miles away as the crow flies. Of course we rode the trail
for about three miles, then navigated through the brush and creek
crossings in the low country and finally we headed up. We faced all
kinds of challenges, from downed trees in the ravines to deep drifted
and bottomless powder that completely engulfed the sled if you turned
up. Every maneuver was done at wide open throttle. I think I could
have duct-taped the throttle lever open and done just fine. Talk
about stuck. I dug myself out and everyone else many times and that
just added to the challenge. If I could turn out before I dug the
sled in it was like a mulligan, ‘cause then I could just keep going
and going. When I did get stuck I couldn’t get dug out soon enough
to continue the challenge.
trip meter showed 40 miles when my sled ran out of gas and the group
was only a third of the way up the hill. This was a good day.
some, running out of gas before running out of energy is an abstract
concept … but learning how to conserve your energy while still
riding aggressively is a trick that needs to be mastered to take your
riding skills to the next level.
about it: if you can do a new maneuver over repetitively, you will be
able to master the move sooner. The problem we all face is that by
the time you think you are starting to get it you’re exhausted,
then by the next time you get out, a week or two later, it’s like
starting over again. My point is, learn to handle the basic maneuvers
effortlessly and without exhausting yourself. You should be able to
roll your sled up by counter steering and using a blip of the
throttle to overcome gravity. Then catch the balance with the
steering. Practice this on the flats, first in a field then on a
trail, and soon you’ll be doing it at will whenever needed.
way we currently ride brings a new challenge every time out. When all
the corridors leading to destination areas are packed down like
pavement it’s only a matter of getting to the edge of the trail.
Enter the trees and welcome the powder, always untracked and always a
test for man and machine.