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Something About Spring | Snowmobile News
March 26, 2014

Something About Spring


Steve Janes

White Out & Wide Open—The Blog

            This is a challenging time of year for many snowmobilers. We’re starting to see nicer days with blue skies and sunshine in the valleys. Spring has really set in and there’s beginning to be a little green coming to life in the grass.

            Yet in the higher elevations, the snow is probably the deepest it’s been all winter. Warm days and cold nights have solidified the base, providing a “go anywhere” surface for riding. This is the time of season when your riding opportunities up high are unlimited. You can go anywhere you have the courage to come down from. (Going up is seldom an issue … coming down, however, shows you that gravity trumps horsepower.) Of course, this is also the time of year when your mistakes on the mountain can be magnified. (You don’t just bend a front end, you relocate it to the middle of the sled.)

            There’s just something about spring and snowmobiling. On one hand, you’re beginning to be just a little tired of the cold and anxious to get back into warm-weather activities. On the other hand, extending the riding season out a couple more weeks, or even months, will certainly make the summer go by faster.

            The challenge is committing yourself to travel to where the snow is. Once you do, you glad you did. Longer days make for better rides.

            This past week I’ve been taking advantage of some good weather in an attempt to re-establish my golf game. But on one particular course, as I walk down the fairways I can see the snowcapped mountains off in the distance. The contrast between the blue sky and the white-topped mountains seem to magnify the view from the valley. (It’s hard to concentrate on the little white ball when I’m thinking about the fun I could be having on a big white mountain/)

            From past experience, I know that there’s good riding left to be had. I also know there are better days for golfing, or yard work, or for whatever tends to keep one content to remain in the city.

            This time of year the storms seem to move through the area a little faster. That’s why there’s so much wind. And the rain in the valley usually mean snow in the mountains. It’s just a matter of looking ahead, planning for the right days and committing to the ride.

            So while it’s still spring, take advantage of the spring riding. After all, come August we’re all going to be whining about how summer had dragged on and looking for the first signs of snow flakes coming from the heavens next fall.

~SJ


Views 510
Bringing Winter To An End | Snowmobile News
March 20, 2014

Bringing Winter To An End


Steve Janes

White Out & Wide Open—The Blog

            The World Snowmobile Expo in West Yellowstone, MT, was created over 20 years ago to usher in the end of winter. You know, that one last hurrah on snow before the white stuff disappears.

            This past weekend the Expo appeared to do just that. The weather was beautiful—bright and sunny. Snow was melting and where snow drifts once stood, now water puddles were forming. The streets in this small southeastern Montana town were clear of snow, yet there were still enough at the trailheads next to town for riding.

            It was a good time to take that one last ride of the season up to Two Top or on the trails in the area. It was also a perfect time to see all the new model snowmobiles coming out for 2015. The crowd was enthusiastic, although at times rather sparse.

            The West Yellowstone expo had seen better days. In years past the crowds were larger, the racing better and the activities at various venues were always filled to the brim with those celebrating winter. But over recent years, due to a variety of reasons, the racing got less important and the attraction to Expo seemed to fade. Don’t get me wrong, the activities are still there … it’s just the crowds are smaller.

            Yet for some, Expo represents a time when old friends can get together and swap stories of the glory days of past expos. Some from as far away as Minnesota dropped by the SnoWest booth to trade stories and renew friendships. That was pretty much the case with all the venders who have supported the town of West Yellowstone over the years.

            The West Yellowstone expo is truly a community effort designed to showcase the town one last time each winter. For those who went, it was a lot of fun, as usual. For those who didn’t go, likely there were some old friends there who missed seeing you. Hopefully we will see you there next year.

            As for the official closing of winter … why was it that I couldn’t see out side my fourth floor office window here in Idaho Falls on Monday due to the falling snow? Sometimes you would think Mother Nature has no idea how to read a calendar.

 ~SJ

            


Views 822
Cross Country Without Skis | Snowmobile News
March 11, 2014

Cross Country Without Skis


Steve Janes

White Out & Wide Open—The Blog

            In my own little effort to foster world peace and to close the gap between environmental beliefs, I took a cross country skier on a snowmobile ride.

            Some of you may think this could be considered a magnanimous gesture on my part to create commonality between two groups of people with varying interests who compete for the same terrain. Some may think it was a hollow attempt to bridge the snowmobiling community with the cross country skiing community. And still others may consider this act as a waste of time and fuel.

            On my part, however, this particular cross country skier is a good friend and taking him snowmobiling was just a mask for an excuse to go snowmobiling. And we’re getting to the time of year when one needs to look for any excuse possible to go riding.

            We picked a good day to ride, considering the recent weather trends. It was partly sunny, middle of the week and mild temperatures. This made for good visibility, no crowds and a comfortable experience out on the snow. Being late in the season for the low elevation trailhead, there were a few patches of bare spots we had to contend with during the first 10 miles of trails. But once we got to the higher elevations, the snow depths were more than sufficient and the riding was outstanding.

            Being a cross country skier, my friend was very familiar to snow conditions. Being a cowboy (yes, there are cowboys who actually cross country ski), he wasn’t intimidated by the horsepower of the snowmobile. (He had ridden snowmobiles in the past … just not in recent years.) But just because he wasn’t your prototypical cross country skier doesn’t mean he still wasn’t entertaining to watch on a snowmobile.

            Even being a cowboy, he still found himself on the wrong side of the sled every now and then. And unlike riding a horse, he didn’t have an extra set of brains helping him make quick decisions. But whether he was riding the sled, or in some cases the sled was riding him, he loved every minute of his experience.

            I apologized to him before we started, saying this experience would likely cost him about $10,000 and several friends. Because once he got on the sled, it would be difficult for him to get back on the skis. And if he ended up buying a sled, none of his cross country sliding buddies would claim him. But that was a risk he was willing to take.

            We rode over 120 miles, from Bone to Alpine and back … which is a good day for even a seasoned rider. And he couldn’t wipe the smile off his face for the entire duration.

            Now, I may not have solved the world peace issue. And I’m sure there are likely some environmental issues in which we still have differences. But I do know he will be talking about that ride for quite some time. And every time he sees a snowmobile, he will have fond memories of a terrific ride.

            No word yet as to whether he’s snow checked anything.

~SJ


Views 877
March 05, 2014

Tough Times For Sledding


Steve Janes

White Out & Wide Open—The Blog

            This is one of the toughest times of the season for snowmobilers. The weather becomes much more moderate. The snow in the valley has cleared up and the earth is starting to dry and come out of its winter hibernation.

            It’s the time of year where we are all just a little tired of winter. We’re tired of being cold. We’re tired of short days, long nights and cabin fever. We want to get out. Even something like mowing the lawn sounds enticing.

            Yet it’s also the time of season when the snow depths in the mountains are just starting to hit their season highs. The days are longer and a little milder making for more enjoyable outings.

            So on one hand, you’re tired of the cold and winter. On the other hand, the snow is deep and the temperatures are much more pleasant. The only drawback is that you basically have to drive up to the mountain to find winter.

            This is the time of year where many snowmobilers start putting away their sleds and busting out the lawn mowers or golf clubs. But it’s also the best time to hit the mountains—the snow has a solid base and the sky seems to be just a little more blue.

            The lower elevation trailheads are starting to get questionable this time of year. It doesn’t make the riding bad, just a little more work to get to the good snow. In the higher elevations, you can’t beat the snow conditions.

            Last week rain showers washed away the lower elevation snow and made the mid elevation areas somewhat soggy throughout much of the West. Depending on the snow line, you could find the snow base pretty firm with some good fresh snow to ride, or you could encounter the type of snow where the base was breaking down and you were fighting with it.

            When you encounter these conditions, look to either gain elevation or get on the opposite side of the drainage (north-facing canyons usually will be a little colder and hold better snow longer).

            So before you park your sled for the season, you might want to take another look at the Snotel sites and see what kind of snow still remains up in the higher elevations. After all, once you quit, it’s a long wait before the season starts again next fall. And when you can stretch this season out through March and April (and even May) it sure makes the summer go a lot faster.

~SJ


Views 892
February 26, 2014

Random Thoughts (Continued)


Steve Janes

White Out & Wide Open—The Blog

(continued)

            I received a little blowback from last week’s blog—no, not about the PETA ad thing (which I half expected), but rather about global warming. It seems there are a couple of things you don’t want to write about: religion and politics. Apparently I tweak some people in regards to religion.

            It seems you have basically three types of people when it comes to global warming: believers, deniers and those who are just plain fed up with hearing about it. For the believers, any negative reference to the topic is blasphemy. Even if one merely points out its unbelievable stance that every type of weather is a sign of global warming or that global warming has become a multi-billion dollar enterprise and a very popular excuse for government money laundering.

            For non believers … well they basically look at my previous comments and recognize a financial scam when they see one. Whether or not there’s any merit to the claims about carbon emissions, that gets lost in the noise.

            For those who are tired of hearing about it … it’s mostly because regardless of the weather—hot or cold—the blame is put on man. Not nature. Not God. But man. (Actually, the first signs that man causes global warming can be traced back to the Bible—unrighteous living will bring the condemnation of God. Now this comment definitely should receive some blowback.)

            So this week I’m going to avoid such controversial topics.

 *          The Winter Olympics in Sochi came to a close Sunday night as NBC managed to run 100,000 hours of Soviet propaganda programming over the past two weeks. Actually, there were 464 channels broadcasting more than 42,000 hours of Olympics this year. Each country seemed to focus on certain aspects of higher importance to their viewers.

            For example, Japan was mesmerized by the figure skating, actually televising the warm ups. Canada was all hockey (but then, when isn’t Canada all hockey). Sweden enjoyed mocking Norway’s misfortunes on the ski hill. The Dutch loved the speedskaters … but then, you know how crazy the Dutch can get about going in circles.

            The final medal count showed the Russian Federation leading the way with a total of 33 medals—13 being of the gold type. The United States finished second in medal total and fourth in gold medals.

            But hey, like they say in Olympics, it’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how many world-class athletes were able to defect to your country.

 *          Did you see that My Track Technology video on SnoWest.com? http://www.snowest.com/2014/02/my-track-technology/  Talk about an interesting concept, that six minute video showing the battery-operated track pulling a man on a toboggan was fascinating.

            That thing looked like it could do anything—even push your car out of a snowdrift. It seemed best suited for work applications. (Maybe we need to get one for Ryan Harris so we could get a little work out of him.)

 *          Finally, as though it’s from the script writers from Seinfeld, there is a quirky story of an Iowa man working at Polaris Industries plant as a forklift operator.

Apparently he put a dollar in the vending machine for a Twix bar. And just like George Costanza, the Twix got stuck. So he put another dollar in the vending machine but nothing happened. So, being somewhat innovative, he used his forklift to pick up, shake and drop the machine.

Unlike George, he was successful in acquiring his Twix. But then, much like George, it met with disapproval from his supervisor, costing him his job … that lead to stress, costing him his girlfriend and ultimately his home.

You see, this is the type of stuff I have to write about when it doesn’t snow. Damn that global warming.

~SJ

 


Views 770
February 18, 2014

Random Thoughts


Steve Janes

White Out & Wide Open—The Blog

The other day I received a request from a PETA representative requesting SnoWest to run free advertising for the animal rights activist organization.

            At first glance, you know we laughed this off since we would never be aligned with such extreme organizations that consist of liberals who place the value of human life below the value of all other life forms.

            But then I started having some second thoughts. No, not because I can relate in any way to their message … but they use attractive women (not wearing clothes) to advance it. I wouldn’t need to worry about anybody reading the words in the ad. Most men wouldn’t even notice there are words on the page.

 *          So much for global warming. Up to now we are looking at the third coldest winter on record in the United States. Ironically, even when it’s cold the global warming crowd claims that is a sign of global warming.

            So let me get this right: When it’s hot—global warming; when it’s cold—global warming; when it rains—global warming; when there’s drought—global warming; when one day is just as pleasant as the next—global warming.

            It is funny how much money has been spent researching global warming … if we were into conspiracies, we would start to think that many of these so-called global warming experts are really capitalists, because if you follow the global warming money the trail seems to lead right to their bank accounts.

 *          Snowmobiling can save lives. Well, actually I came to this conclusion after reading an article that says loneliness is a potentially lethal heath risk that can lead to premature death.

            We all know that you snowmobile with friends … and if you’re with friends, you’re not lonely. So for those of you who have invited friends to go riding: Thanks for saving lives.

 *          For those who have been following the Winter Olympics in Sochi, you have likely seen how the U.S. speed skaters have been left behind in the snow dust. Going into the Olympics the U.S. team had shown well at the World Cup and was expected to compete for a bunch of medals. So far, nada.

            Now some skaters have complained that their special “Mach 39” speed suits are to blame. And that’s something we can relate to. After all, how many snowmobilers are a good 10 mph faster with their hi-tech gear in the parking lot? The suits make the rider.

            But in the case of the speed skaters, perhaps the suits just weren’t fast enough. Like snowmobile gear, it’s not how good you look, it’s how good you are.

 *          Finally, again over the weekend an avalanche has claimed another life of a snowmobiler. This is the fifth snowmobiler who has been killed in the United States this winter (plus seven skiers, a snowboarder, snowshoer and hiker). And the snow conditions are ripe to pose a threat to many more winter enthusiasts.

            A couple of weeks ago Klim held a private avalanche seminar for several of its key employees. John Summers graciously allowed the SnoWest Test Staff to participate.

            We’ve attended multiple avalanche seminars over the past two decades, but this was one of the better ones—probably because is was just a handful of hardcore riders with an avalanche expert, asking questions of a specific nature. (Even the expert expressed how impressed he was at the level of understanding that came from the group.)

            Although non of us plan to put ourselves in harms way when it comes to the treacherous conditions of snow, it’s always great to learn just a little bit more in what to look for while out in nature and how to read snow conditions.

 ~SJ


Views 951
The Higher, The Dryer | Snowmobile News
February 12, 2014

The Higher, The Dryer


Steve Janes

White Out & Wide Open—The Blog

This past week we’ve had some fast-moving storms blast their way across the West leaving behind a bunch of snow followed by a thawing pattern. In the valleys that meant water puddles everywhere. In the mountains that meant some wet sticky snow.

Now there’s one thing you need to know about wet sticky snow … other than it sucks to be stuck. Usually, if you keep climbing in elevation, you will eventually climb out of the bad snow.

            Understanding snow quality can go a long way in turning a day where you spend all your time wresting sleds out of holes to a day where you bypass tough areas until you get to the good snow. And snow will change from bad to good in literally a few dozen feet change in elevation.

            Often when we’re riding during a warming trend, we’ll find ourselves fighting our way through sticky snow with no base for part of the ride, and then within a 200 yard stretch you can literally see the snow change to a dryer, crunchy snow (snow man making texture) where the snow will pack under the track.

            The key is to recognize where the bad snow is and be wise about picking your fights. Staying on a packed trail or off the steep slopes for a little while longer as you climb in elevation may be the difference in whether you spend all day tugging on the skis or all day grabbing a fistful of throttle.

            This week we were taking advantage of those recent storms while riding in some of the deepest powder yet this year. Early in the day we found the snow to be quite dry. But as the temperatures became warmer, the snow started to become a little sticky.

            The area we were riding is notorious for having deep creek drainages with the southwest slopes open and exposed to sun. We would drop through the deep powder in the shaded east-facing slopes only to fight with the snow as we tried to climb out of the west-facing slopes.

We kept encountering the kind of snow that would trench and you needed to keep momentum or you would plant your sled. And once the sled was planted, when you stepped off your sled you would sink all the way to your armpits.

            This is the kind of snow that would fight with you. You can’t walk in it. You can’t get on top of it. It just sucked your strength and created more work.

            Our problem was we were just riding at the wrong elevation. We needed to be 300-500 feet higher and we would climb out of this mess. Although its fun to take on challenges, it starts to get old when all you do is roll one sled out after another.

            What we should have done is stayed on the trail another five miles and we would have been at the elevation where the temperatures were more compatible with what we had started at. By the time we finally reached those elevations, we were all too tired and low on fuel to ride the good snow. It was time to head back to the trailhead.

            So if you find yourself in a situation where getting stuck is becoming a common theme because the snow is just too wet with no base, get high. Find an area that’s not getting a full day of sun and the temperatures are a few degrees cooler and you’ll likely find a spot where the snow is great. And great snow makes for a great ride.

--SJ


Views 1239
January 29, 2014

Fake Grass In January


Steve Janes

White Out & Wide Open—The Blog

            It’s a beautiful January weekend in Idaho. With a crystal blue sky, it’s the kind of weekend you dream about for snowmobiling. Only on this day rather than being out riding or wrenching on a snowmobile, I’m wandering around my shop working on a putting green.

            Saturdays in January are traditionally set aside to snowmobile with my buddies. My wife knows better that to plan anything that would prevent me from riding. I keep my travel schedule clear for my personal time. This is sacred time. It’s for snowmobiling.

            So why was I working on a putting green? Well, with two straight weeks of blue skies and dry weather, the snow conditions in the mountains have gotten fairly stale. I’m not saying snowmobiling is bad … it’s just that there’s been nothing to cover the tracks we’ve made during the previous three or four rides.

            Believe me, there’s nothing worse than having a bluebird day in January when I have time to ride … but no desire. And I shouldn’t say I have no desire … in fact, I have my trailer loaded and sleds fueled. But I keep waiting for a storm to roll through to create a soft cushion of fluff for the next great ride.

            Right now I’m in a bad spot: I know how good riding can be if we just had another good storm move through the area … but I also know that winter is on a time clock and each day I pass up is one less day I get to ride. And watching the weather channel is sort of like watching a pot of water on a stove … it never boils while you’re looking at it.

Usually this time of year if I’m not out riding I at least have a sled inside the shop and I’m doing some repairs or something. Sadly, I don’t have anything that needs fixed. So I keep on tinkering with imitation grass carpet and three-quarter inch plywood with a hole in it.

            So this past weekend was rather frustrating. It’s like I’m behind in a basketball game but I’m the one running out the clock. For crying out loud, working on a putting green? Even my wife was mocking me.

            Then to make matters worse, a good friend and snowmobiling buddy sent me a text photo of him on a golf course in Arizona. So here I am—too cold to golf, no snow to ride and friends rubbing it in while they’re on vacation.

            Now I haven’t given up on winter yet. I still think all it takes is one big storm to bust through the high pressure system and send a series of snow flurries from west to east that would reload our mountain slopes with the much needed moisture. But I have to tell you, January was almost a total bust … and that’s traditionally one of our wettest months. And it looks bleak for the rest of the month.

Unless February picks up, I will be spending less time working on two strokes and more time working on my putting stroke.

--SJ


Views 916
All Work, More Play | Snowmobile News
January 22, 2014

All Work, More Play


Steve Janes

White Out & Wide Open—The Blog

            During the past couple of weeks I’ve spent the majority of my working time riding and evaluating the 2014 800cc mountain sleds. (And by no means should you take that first sentence where I used the word “working” to mean that I was doing anything other than having the time of my life.)

            The March issue of SnoWest Magazine is anchored by our feature on the 800 class mountain sleds. This is where we match them up and pick which one has proven itself the best on snow for this season.

            In past years we use to bring in a bunch of dealers and take three days riding their sleds. The trouble with that was I had to plan 60 days out where and when I would hold the event. And whatever snow we got at that particular location was all we got. We had little control over the conditions.

            Nowadays, I still have little control over the conditions, but I do have the luxury of riding the 800s over a four week period, not just a three day period. I also can bring in others to ride these sleds and gleam from their opinions. (Don’t bother asking … my waiting list resembles a New York City phone book.) So we test the sleds longer and in a greater variety of terrain.

            Anyway, that’s what’s been going on in my world. To date these sleds have logged a total of nearly 600 miles … and I still plan on logging another 300 miles before I reach any conclusions. (That will be over 300 test miles on each sled in a wide variety of conditions.)

            The weather hasn’t been the most cooperative when it comes to snow depth … but we’ve had some pretty good rides in some decent snow. I’ve gotten stuck several times, and those who have ridded with me have all gotten stuck—all in the effort of pushing these sleds as far as they will go.

            To date I haven’t broken anything on any of the sleds … but then, I haven’t included Lane Lindstrom in any of my tests.  (It’s not that Lane breaks things … it’s that sometimes he doesn’t noticed things like trees until one stops his forward progress.)

            The challenge this year is all three 800s are almost identical to last year’s 800s. And last year we realized that all three tend to handle themselves well in most all conditions. But we still plan to create a few unique scenarios on the snow and see how each of the three sleds react.

            So for at least another week or two I will be focused on those three 800s and trying to put miles on them to see how they perform.

            It’s a tough job … but we won’t go there.      

--SJ


Views 1278
January 15, 2014

Taking Care of the Better Half


Steve Janes

White Out & Wide Open—The Blog

           Last week we were out riding after the big storm had blanketed the area with about a foot of dry mountain powder. We had spent most of the morning picking our way boondocking through trees where the snow had collected, making for one of the better powder riding days in a long time.

            On the way back out, as we picked up the groomed trail, we passed a young woman sitting patiently on her sled at the side of the trail. She had the body language of being bothered by her situation. Just sitting on her sled, she looked cold and bored.

Looking around, we noticed a man who was stuck chest deep in snow some 30 yards off the trail.

            Naturally, we spun around and helped him get out of his mess so the two could continue their ride. But as I pondered this scenario, I couldn’t help but wonder how many women go riding with their husbands or boy friends out of an obligation or desire to spend quality time with them even tough the sport of snowmobiling may not be the woman’s true passion.

            For men, snowmobiling is a passion. It’s a manly activity where we can go out with the guys and “conquer” nature. For some, convincing our wives or girl friends to go with us is usually a challenge. Naturally, since we’re so impassioned by our activity, we just assume the little woman would find it equally exhilarating.

            In some cases that is likely true. But way too often women agree to go riding with their man just because they believe it’s their duty to “stand by your man?”

            And let’s be real. How often is the little woman placed on an older snowmobile—perhaps one that was actually your old sled before you purchased the latest model, leaving this sled as a not-so-desirable backup snowmobile … or what we’d like to call “the wife’s sled.”

            So we take the little woman out, put her in winter clothes that have zero fashion appeal (and they make her look fat), and certainly aren’t the state-of-the-art Klim gear that we wear; then we throw her on an old sled that rattles her teeth as she rumbles down the trail. We take her out on a rough trail, with her old sled bottoming out in the bottom of every bump, and encourage her to go faster in order to keep up. Once we’re out in the snow, now we want to show her how fun things are by showing off our talents in busting powder … which usually gets us about 30 yards off the trail and stuck in chest deep powder.

            Do we really think she’s going to have fun?

            Then we wonder why she seldom wants to go riding with us.

            Our logic for putting her in crappy gear and on a bad sled is: Why buy her a new sled or new snowmobile gear until after we find out whether she’s cut out for snowmobiling?

            For those of you whose wife or girlfriend is still willing to at least fake enjoying to ride, count your blessings. If she loves you this much, don’t be a jerk and abuse the good thing you have going. Don’t buy yourself a new sled and let her have the old one … let her buy the new sled. Let her buy the great riding gear. Let her plan the trips according to where she wants to go and the types of terrain she wants to ride.

            If we want our women to be as passionate about the sport as we are, we had better start satisfying their needs and desires. And that will pay big dividends for us in the long run.

--SJ


Views 1314
January 08, 2014

Getting Grounded


Steve Janes

White Out & Wide Open—The Blog

Getting Grounded

Some words tend to have multiple meanings. For example, there are at least five different ways you can construe the meaning of “grounded.” On my last ride I encountered a situation which pretty much tapped into all five meanings.

Grounded—to quit dreaming and start paying attention to things that matter.

I was riding with a group of friends out of a canyon and over a peaked ridge. As the other riders stayed to the left of the rocky peak, I decided to veer to the right and sidehill through the steeper drifted side, thus momentarily separating myself from the vision of my group.

Too often we ride past areas that offer unique experiences. Just by going left I was encountering a little more difficult terrain while picking my own line around the ridge peak. But then, the downside was that my following actions were not visible to my group, who continued over the ridge at a fairly brisk pace.

Grounded—an electrical conductivity directed into the earth.

            As I held my sled on its side, clinging to the steep terrain, I cut across the section of the hill where all the drifting snow had collected making for some better snow to lay my sled on its edge. As I crossed beyond the northern point and hit the northwest face of the slope, that took me into the area where the snow had drifted from.

            In other words, I went from sidehilling in deep snow to suddenly finding my hillside ski penetrating deeper than the depth of the snow.

            Without warning, my ski made contact with some object with much greater density than snow, causing it to carom abruptly to the right away from the hill. This sudden unanticipated jolt, combined with my body hanging out on the left side of my snowmobile, removed the handlebars which were once wrapped inside my fingers.

Grounded—beached, aground, stranded.

            Now, with only air in my hand to grip and my body mass suspended a considerable distance from my snowmobile, I truly became grounded—beached, aground, stranded—with one not-too-graceful thump.

            In desperation I lunged for the rear bumper of my sled as it turned downhill and fell victim to gravity. As I tried to upright myself and chase down my sled before it could pick up momentum, I experienced that grounding sensation again as I tumbled face-first into the snow, my finger tips touching, then losing contact with the sled’s bumper as it raced out of sight.

            Now did I mention the mountain I was cresting dropped down into a gnarly canyon about 500 yards below?

            When I finally got myself upright, caught my breath and dusted the snow off my face and goggles, all I could do is look at my snowmobile tracks which disappeared down the mountain.

Grounded—form of punishment … having privileges suspended.

            As I began my descent down the open west-facing slope following the tracks of my sled much like one would track a wounded animal, I listened intently for any sound that resembled an out-of-control snowmobile coming to an abrupt stop due to contact with an unmovable object … like a tree or rock.

            I could faintly here the sound of the other snowmobiles, now two ridges away, and the constant thump, thump, thump of my beating heart as it tried to pump oxygen back into my body.

            With each step I took, the vision of a snowmobile scattered in a hundred pieces across the hillside left me in fear for what I knew would be the inevitable. And with each step the mountainside seemed steeper than the previous. But the tracks continued to wind farther down into the canyon, missing sparsely scattered trees by inches as though it was on a mission to pick up maximum speed before completing its fateful journey.

            This is one of those events where you know there’s just no heroic scenario to explain the inevitable damage. It was going to be hard to tell a snowmobile manufacturer why his demo sled ended up on an insurance claim. There definitely was going to be a price to pay.

Grounded—being mentally and emotionally stable.

            Finally, after what seemed to be hours of hiking through miles of deep snow (it was only about 400 yards and about 10 minutes) I saw my sled. But rather than being in hundreds of pieces, it was parked peacefully between two Aspen trees, motor still running.

            In it’s last bastion of open space before dropping over a steep drainage into a creek bottom lined with “impossible to avoid” pine trees, the tip of the right ski had nipped one aspen tree turning the sled slightly and slowing it down enough to allow the left ski to wedge against another Aspen, bring the sled to a gentle stop.

            After a moment of giving thanks to the good fortunes that prevented an impromptu rummage sale, I straddled the sled and wrapped my hands firmly around the grips and rode back up the hill and in the direction my fellow riders had taken—with pride in tack but some confidence shaken, I resumed this great day of riding.

 --SJ


Views 844
Don’t Force Winter | Snowmobile News
January 03, 2014

Don’t Force Winter


Steve Janes

Over the years I have learned that patience is the best policy, even when it comes to snowmobiling. Although we all watch eagerly in the fall for those storm clouds … and the first accumulation of snow creates great anticipation for the season, you still have to show patience to allow snow depths to stack up.

The problem we all have is we all want to get out on the snow. But in our haste, we sometimes compromise safety for ourselves or our sleds. Thus, we tend to hit more things that aren’t significantly covered by snow or we ride in snow conditions more conducive to avalanche.

This past week we have seen two snowmobile deaths directly related to snow conditions. The first was where a rider hit a ditch that during normal years would likely be filled in with snow and unnoticed. The second was a rider who died in an avalanche, likely caused by ground hoar formed during the past cold dry spell.

Could these deaths have been preventable? Of course. They were accidents. Accidents are usually a result of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Sometimes all it requires is just being a few seconds later or a foot or two to one side or the other. These freak accidents leave loved ones wondering why or what if.

Sometimes we put ourselves in compromised positions because our desire to do the things we love … like snowmobile.

Nowadays, with the cost of snowmobiles being what they are, many may feel that to justify such an expense, one has to get out and ride as early in the season as possible—sometimes before snow conditions can improve or stabilize. It’s hard to sit back and wait for the next series of storms to come through to improve riding conditions. Sometimes we just try to force winter, which usually means we put ourselves into the steep terrain on the wind-blown slopes in order to find the best snow.

For some of us, snowmobiling is our passion—that’s what we live for. But no matter how great the sport is, it’s not worth dying for. So we all need to be just a little more careful, especially in early and late seasons when we’re trying to get every bit of winter we can. It’s during these marginal times when we’re exposed to the greatest risks.

Remember, there will always be another great day to ride … let’s just try to remain safe and healthy for that day. It will be worth waiting for.

-SJ

Views 1420
December 26, 2013

Christmas Poem


Steve Janes

Twas the day before Christmas, when all through the house

I was gathering my riding gear while avoiding my spouse.

My snow suit was strung out in the closet somewhere,

But as for my boots, I couldn’t find a pair.

 

The plan was to sneak out and load up the sleds

While the wife and kids slept snuggly in beds.

My desire was to go out in the snow to play

Rather than shopping with the wife and waste a good day.

 

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,

My wife sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.

My idiot friend while backing his truck

Failed to notice the mail box, and that’s what he struck.

 

The muffling crunch of the box was not bad,

But the thought of my exit made my wife really mad.

Thinking quickly I acted as though I had forgot

A commitment to my buddies and mercy I sought.

 

Dressed in her flannel PJs my wife did not buy,

My flimsy excuse that was more like a lie.

But rather than crushing my plan with one NO

She gave me a choice as to whether I go.

 

Realizing the danger which awaited my fate.

If I went with my buddies rather than shopping with my mate.

But I also had to consider my reputation at loss.

If my friends realized my wife was the boss.

 

The sun was a shining, the weather was great

The malls would be crowded, in lines I would wait.

So summing up all the strength I could muster

I told the “old lady” today was a snow buster.

 

These words stunned my wife to silent dismay

Amidst such confusion I made my getaway.

With sled on the trailer, I claimed my rightful seat

In shotgun position right next to the heat.

 

And as we departed I noticed my phone

Was alerting me gently about a message from home.

The words were quite simple and prompt on the text.

“You better enjoy your ride, there will be no more sex.”


Views 1219
Good Snow/Bad Snow | Snowmobile News
December 18, 2013

Good Snow/Bad Snow


Steve Janes

Snow is snow, right? And all snow is good. But there is such a thing as good snow, better snow and best snow.

Any snow is good snow … unless it shows up in the off season and thwarts an early morning tee time. But during the winter season, we take what we can get and just hope that every little bit stacks up in the mountains.

Early season, any snow that separates the track and skis from the dirt and rocks is good snow. This allows you to “wander” about the back country, but falls short of allowing you to perform any aggressive moves. You are basically driving a snowmobile … much like you would drive an ATV.

Better snow gives you enough separation from Mother Earth to allow you to grab a fist full of throttle and lay your sled out on its side to make an aggressive turn. Although you still have to be somewhat suspicious of unusual mounds in the snow, for the most part you feel confident that your track isn’t going to come in contact with any hard objects that are determined not to be moved.

Best snow is when you don’t even concern yourself with what could be laying in wait under the snow. In fact, your greatest concern is the amount of snow coming over your hood and into your face. It’s these days we dream about … when there’s almost too much snow.

So far this winter there has been “good snow;” the kind that if you get too ambitious you may be spending some shop time replacing front end parts. We’re still waiting for one more good storm to move us into the “better snow” category where one can leave the trails in search of greater adventures. Hopefully that will show up before Christmas. Usually we don’t see the best snow until January—after Mother Nature has had a chance to coat its landscape with multiple layers of better snow.

Now I don’t want to sound pushy, but I sure hope Mother Nature does something quickly. Some of us don’t have the patience to wait through all the snow cycles. And I certainly don’t want to be asking Santa to bring me a new front end for Christmas.

 -SJ


Views 1055
Cold Is A Good Thing | Snowmobile News
December 11, 2013

Cold Is A Good Thing


Steve Janes

This past weekend left no doubt that winter is here and we might as well get use to it. It was so cold that some of us even had to use a blanket just to sit on our recliners and watch football on TV.

Actually, it was so cold that even my diehard riding buddies decided that Saturday was a better day to get things done around the house … earn up some of those bonus points from the wife so there won’t be as much grief when they string together the next 17 Saturdays for riding.

The big difference between this year and last is the cold. Last year we received great early snow but everything under 7,500 feet elevation vanished during December due to mild temperatures. This year, although we’re not receiving the huge snow accumulations, an inch here two inches tends to stack up in elevations above 5,000 feet. It’s white in the valleys where the majority of people reside. Nothing sells snowmobiles more than shoveling driveways.

So the cold temperatures are doing their thing at promoting winter and keeping the little snow that does fall.

Mark Twain once said: “Everyone talks about the weather, but no one does anything about it.” Well, eventually (like about the time you receive this email) the cold temperatures will moderate and the mountains will extend an invitation for those of us who have been patient to do something about the weather. There’s going to be some great fluffy powder just waiting for us. And we believe it will be well worth the wait.

_SJ

Views 835
Preparing For Winter | Snowmobile News
December 04, 2013

Preparing For Winter


Steve Janes

Looking out the window this past Monday morning one would think that the heavens were preparing to unload a winter storm destined to get us all out on our sleds by the weekend. The wind was pounding, the clouds were dark gray, yet the snow still seemed a bit elusive.

A quick look at the SnoTel site shows that in the higher elevations we’re beginning to see an adequate amount of accumulation … but we still need that one “knock out” blow from Old Man Winter to put us on our way to a great riding season.

About 10 days ago Lane Lindstrom and I were able to slip over to Pinedale, WY, and log about 40 miles on our snowmobiles. We were able to unload at the Sherman parking lot (about 7,800 feet elevation) and ride west toward Blind Bull. (Last year our first ride wasn’t until a week in December.)

The nice part about the ride was that we didn’t have to climb much to get into a couple of feet of snow. The main trail in was still being used by hunters so the road was somewhat rutted. But off the road the snow was about as good as what we experienced for most of last season in similar terrain.

As we climbed higher and got into some of the north-facing slopes shaded with pine trees, we managed to get into over three feet of snow, making for a good test for our fat, out-of-shape bodies.

So looking forward, if November offered as good of riding as last February, then there’s no way we can do worse. And for all reasonable expectations, we are bound to see much better in the days to come, especially if these fast-moving storms continue to drop a couple inches here and six inches there … with an occasional down pour of 12-18 inches.

I’ve been accused of being the eternal optimist when it comes to predicting snow … but I really do expect a banner year for riding—to the point to where rather than spending my time now lounging in my Lazy Boy and watching football, I’m getting into riding shape by lounging in my Lazy Boy while watching aerobic exercise programs on TV. (Physically I may still be an overweight couch potato … but mentally, I’m a lean mean sidehilling machine.)

But one thing is certain: I have my sleds fueled and loaded in the trailer ready to go at a drop of a snowflake.

Let’s ride.

-SJ

Views 1172
October 15, 2013

Color Me Winter


Steve Janes Blog

             By popular demand I am compelled to fire up the computer and start pounding out my weekly blogs (okay, so nobody actually demanded my blogs, but my newsletter director threatened me if I didn’t giver her something to send out).

            Actually, the reason it’s been so long between this blog and my last was frankly I found golfing much more enjoyable than writing about snowmobiles. After all, 90-plus F temperatures tend to put a damper on snow conditions. And it hasn’t been until these last couple of weeks when it finally became apparent that global warming was giving way to global cooling for the next six months.

            The other day I had an opportunity to drive up to Alpine, WY, from Idaho Falls. There’s nothing like the fall colors along Palisades Reservoir  to make you realize that summer is over and Old Man Winter is about to make his entrance in a big way. The deep blue water of the reservoir bordered dark green pines mixed with bright yellow aspen and brilliant orange bushes to make the landscape appear more like an artists paint palette. For those who know the drive know what I’m talking about. Those who don’t … well, I guess life’s not fair.

            If those colors weren’t enough to remind one that summer was over, then the blinding snow storm that accompanied my return trip home that evening was more than enough to tell me winter is just around the corner. And one can’t help but believe that some of this snow that is stacking up in higher elevations has a fighting chance of staying through the winter.

            So my first proclamation of this season will officially be: We are in for a very snowy winter.

            Now I’m not a weather man (which actually boosts my odds of being right from 30 percent to an even 50 percent coin flip), but there are three indicators that might point to a good winter.

            First, the Old Farmer’s Almanac has indicated that this could be a good winter. (And here at SnoWest, we’ve always been a fan of the Old Farmer’s Almanac.)

Second, there have been no hurricanes this year; that means there have been no weather fronts coming from the Atlantic Ocean that can stall weather patterns coming from the Pacific Ocean. With no competing pressure fronts, the colder low pressure systems dropping down from the north can drop down on top of the moisture flowing east from the Pacific … which tends to turn the moisture white and unload it across the West.

And third, the Pipeline Masters surfing tournament in Hawaii this fall has recorded the biggest waves ever for the event—and that dates back four decades. So there must be some major cold air contrasts building somewhere. No wonder the Arctic ice cap has increased 60 percent this year.

            Now I can’t really remember the last time we had some of those storms dumping several feet of snow at a time … but I’m hoping that will change this year. During the past several seasons many snowmobilers have become frustrated in trying to find good snow. If we could just get the return of one traditional that piles the snow right on top of us, you can bet some of our former snowmobiling buddies will realize what they’re missing and get back into the swing of things.

            So this is my first blog, my first proclamation and my first prediction of the season. You may want to print this up for no other reason than to send it back to me in the spring with either an appreciative thank-you note or with a scathing “you’re-such-an-idiot” note. I’ll either bask in your praise … or head back out to the golf course.

—SJ


Views 493
May 05, 2013

Is Global Warming Cool?


Steve Janes

Now I don’t want to be a party pooper … but is global warming still cool? I mean, for the past decade there has been a movement that asserts that if you are anybody important, you have to assume that global warming is hot. And anyone who doesn’t agree with this philosophy is not.

After all, the ice caps are melting, polar bears are floating out to sea and civilization as we know it is near extinction.

Yet, this spring marks the second-coldest on record … just slightly warmer than the spring of 1975.

But if you’re in with this whole global warming thing, you understand that global warming can also mean global cooling. Actually, it tends to mean whatever is happening to the weather at the moment.

Bottom line, the combustion engine has caused our earth to turn into an out-of-control thermostat set on high. Translation: We’re all going to go to die. (I’m not sure if these environmental extremists were aware of the fact that since the beginning of time, we have all been destined to die.)

Al Gore made a movie about the disastrous consequences of global warming (he also made millions of dollars with this scam as well), so it must be true. The CIA opened an entire investigative branch as part of national security to monitor global warming (although they really didn’t monitor much … mainly sent their top-ranked agents and political appointees to some beach in the Caribbean  to work on their tans during two-week government paid “fact-finding” missions). (New York Times, 11/20/12)

Democratic lawmakers have even warned us that if we don’t give them authority to legislate global warming, then all our women will likely have to turn to transactional sex for survival. (The Hill, 4/29/13)

Oh, and for the record, when environmental extremists realized the phrase “global warming” was becoming a joke because anybody with any intelligence knew that the earth has always experienced climate change, these politically correct whack jobs hijacked the term “climate change” to adopt the meaning of global warming.

To lead the charge for the government to have control in everything we say and do, President Obama has invoked the name of God and science to call us to repentance. According to our president, science recognizes “climate change” (although that doesn’t necessarily separate the true definition that the earth goes through heating and cooling processes over time from the environmental extremist definition that the combustion engine has turned up the thermostat on the earth’s heating system). He also says that it is our responsibility to God to allow the government control to regulate our lives. (Obama Inauguration Speech 2013)

Perhaps if we were a more righteous nation, or a more righteous world, God would adjust the earth’s thermostat to be more moderate when it comes to weather patterns. Or perhaps we’re experiencing a cold spring because throughout the course of history some springs are warmer than others and some springs are colder than others. Fact is, there is no science that can separate facts from opinions. Environmental extremists have been predicting these meteoric conditions for the past 20 years … the Bible has predicted them for the past 2,000 years. Somehow the Johnny-come-latelies haven’t connected the dots with the words of God.

I just wish global warming (now known as the new climate change) wasn’t so cool. And that today’s “cold” isn’t the new hot. It’s just getting too hard to keep track of things.

SJ


Views 1031
One Last Ride | Snowmobile News
April 28, 2013

One Last Ride


Steve Janes Blog

Ever since I’ve returned from my snowmobiling trip to British Columbia, Lane
has been whining about wanting one last ride. Although he had a chance to head north to ride with Carl Kuster (I always offer Lane the best trips to keep him happy), he chose to head south to ride Kawasaki ATVs.

But all he could do once he returned from the “land of the sun” was sulk around
the office saying he needed just “one last ride” to finish up his winter season.
So Wednesday I obliged him, taking advantage of a bluebird day to slip up into
Mt. Jefferson for a quick ride.

Lane was like a child in a candy store—excited and giddy. Packing all his
camera equipment, he wanted to make the most of this ride. There’s nothing like full
documentation of one’s last ride of the season … and Lane was going to capture it with still shots and video.

Actually, it was a great day for shooting. A recent snow storm put a couple of
inches of soft, sticky snow on top and a solid base. It was the kind of snow that made it easy to steer your sled, providing the track with great hookup and eliminating the jolting vibrations that emanates from your skis making contact with frozen surfaces.

So with the blue skies and fresh snow (and did I mention there were no track
marks on any of the snow that day) we took full advantage of our opportunity to meander throughout the area, taking photos from almost every ridge top and shooting video through every open meadow. I figure there is about 25 square miles of riding in the high country surrounding Mt. Jefferson. We managed to put tracks in every one of the 25 square miles.

Perhaps the best part of the day, unlike many previous “one last ride” days, is we
managed to keep the rubber side down and cruise back to our trailer without any broken plastic or bent metal. And best of all, both “low fuel indicator lights” were flashing on Lane and my snowmobiles. Finishing with no fuel left to burn makes for a perfect riding day.

The satisfying look on Lane’s happy face at the end of the day made me feel good
inside. It was time well spent out of the office. It was a good day at work.
The following morning when I walked into my office Lane was already there
waiting for me. “Do you think we could go out again next week?” he pleaded. “You
know, so I can get one last ride before summer?”

SJ

Views 948
It’s A Whole New Season | Snowmobile News
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.

SJ


Views 896
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