What happens when you get pro hillclimbers, pro freeriders, ride instructors, industry experts and a hillbilly with a camera together for a summer ride? Well, after three broke or bent sleds, buried trucks and getting off the mountain after sunset (in June), most would say that all hell breaks lose. But honestly, it was a pretty typical ride for these guys.
In what's becoming an annual event put together by Boondocker and Chris Burandt, this year's ride was over June 30 and July 1, near Afton, Wyoming.
On day one it rained as soon as we fired up the sleds at 11:45 am (otherwise known as first-thing-inthe- morning Preston time). It hailed so badly that you swore your face was bleeding. People who stuffed a jacket into their pack were scrambling to put it on. But no one was about to run for cover a tree-let alone slow down. So you just had to squint your eyes and take it on the cheek.
By 2 p.m. it was so hot and sunny you wanted to stick you head in a waterfall and sit in a dark closet for an hour to rest your eyeballs from the sun's glare off the brownish snow surface. It was almost like riding through all four seasons in the space of a few hours. But that's mountain riding-even in June you can't count on the weather.
Day 2 was high 80s and sunny, even as the group was unloading dirt bikes up a canyon near Afton. Dust, mud, rivers, logs and snow. Riding bikes with this group is enough to make you take up knitting.
Most of the crew from the sled ride came back for the dirt ride. Plus a few new additions that didn't make it out on sleds the day before.
The first half of the day was total hillclimbing carnage. Bikes looping out, the sound of cracking plastic ringing down the canyon, guys nearly being run over. And then, on the afternoon singletrack mountain ride, things got interesting. Apparently taking fellow snowmobile competitors away from sleds and sticking them on bikes is like taking sticks away from fighting kids and handing them aluminum bats.
Afton sits at the south end of Star Valley. Star Valley is an absolutely beautiful slice of North America, one of the best locations in the mountain west if you ask us. It's stacked with Warren Miller-ish mountains on both sides, lined with the Salt River that flows south to north up the valley. The trails and public lands make it an outdoor motorsport enthusiast's dream destination.
We stopped at the Alpine Market on the way through town to grab breakfast, a sandwich for lunch, waters, Styrofoam cooler and bug spray. Typical weekday morning stuff.
At the fuel check stand, this sweet gray-haired woman is working the til. As I'm standing there while she's ringing stuff up, a cell phone behind the counter rings. I can tell by the way she ignores it that it's not hers. It rings one normal ring, and then the ringtone changes to a familiar song: Rodney Carrington's Don't Look Now, Mama's Got Her ----- Out. The polite elderly lady tried not to let it disturb her as she continued to bag our items.
But the song kept playing, quite loudly, and we weren't exactly pretending that we didn't hear it. Finally, during the chorus line, she looks up at us, pretty well embarrassed, grins a little and shakes her head. But she just kept on bagging and let the phone ring until voice mail picked up.
Leaving Alpine, it's about a 40 minute drive south to Afton. Past that, we arrive 13.2 miles up Smiths Fork road around 11am to a parking lot of diesel pickups loaded with sleds. Up the road a hundred yards is Rasmussen's F450-buried to the frame rails in a 40-footlong snow bank. Keith Curtis pulled him out a couple times. But Bret would just hit it again until it was so stuck wouldn't even budge with a good jerk. Not one sled had been unloaded yet and already everyone's beginning to worry about following Rasmussen.
With all six tires freely spinning on the high-centered 10,000- lb truck, Rasmussen shuts it off, gets out and unloads-leaving the truck to deal with later.
The last guys didn't get back off the snow until close to nine that night. The day was full of big jumps, tight tree lines and sketchy descents that should have smashed sleds against trees but didn't.
Phatty had a phenomenal line up and over an exposed cliff band. Curtis, Burandt and Cowett all did some sidehilling that had no escape line. It was either make it up and over or get the cameras ready for a cool 300-foot cliff drop. They made it.
Dan Adams launched his sled over a roller jump and followed the contour of the backside dang near all the way to the bottom transition. It was huge. He popped over the top of the roller and then just floated for days down the backside. And he did it two or three times.
Rasmussen was leading a small group into some new area and dropped into a steep ravine that probably is a waterfall in the summer. His speed accelerated so quickly that he and the sled parted ways to avoid the rocks. When he returned to the main group, his sled was covered in snow like he had been busting powder in January. He just pulled up, shut his engine off and sat there quietly like the rest of us were weird for not having snow on our hoods in 70-degree weather.
If you want to see more shots from the ride, find SledHeads on Facebook, click the Like button and check out the gallery. There's also a thread with lots of photos on the SnoWest forums in the General Snowmobiling section. Join for free if you haven't already. Only nine more months until the next All-Star Summer Backcountry Ride!