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April 21, 2013
It’s A Whole New Season
Steve Janes Blog
The thing about spring snowmobiling is that the only things it has in common with regular snowmobiling are the actual snowmobile and the white surface. The white may be called snow, but it certainly isn’t what we were riding on in February.
The challenge with spring riding is finding easy access to the snow. This time of year, any southwest facing trails or slopes tend to be bare. Anything facing northeast tends to be winter. If you could spend your entire day riding the northeast trails and slopes, then life is sweet. But for most of us, that’s not always possible.
So that means somewhere along the way you have to fight with the lower elevation snow—either with your truck and trailer busting small drifts that haven’t melted, or with your snowmobile negotiating dirt patches, rocks and stumps. And when you do get to the point of the trail in the higher elevations where snow depth is adequate, then you have to deal with the back wrenching moguls until you get above timberline.
But once above timberline, life is good, snow is deep and winter lives on.
The benefits to spring riding are many. You have longer hours in the day, milder temperatures and less crowd. Many times you have the entire mountain to yourself. If you catch the right day following a good rain storm in the valley you can find great snow. But you better be quick, a couple of feet of powder on Monday can become rock hard by Wednesday. (Remember the part about the days being longer? That means the sun is working harder to settle everything down. Add that with cold clear nights and you have the recipe for ice.)
The downside is that mistakes tend to be magnified more during the spring. If your sled gets away from you, rather than rolling 10-15 feet and softly coming to a stop in deep snow, it can continue rolling 1,000-1,500 feet down the mountain … and usually its stop is most abrupt. (We tend to have the most expensive repairs to our sleds after spring rides.)
Usually at a certain elevation the snow base is so solid that you can go about anywhere you want. But keep in mind two things: The tops of mountains tend to have lots of different angles to them that can get you high-sided at any moment; and just because the traction is great climbing up a slope, it doesn’t mean you will have that same traction coming back down (say 500-pound bobsled with no brakes).
It’s a different kind of snowmobiling in the spring. But it’s still snowmobiling. And keep in mind, each time out may be your last ride for seven or eight months. Make it memorable.
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