Pro Riding Secrets

The Downhill U-Turn with Bret Rasmussen

September 2008 Feature

Changing direction on a snowmobile can be tough enough on flat ground. Flipping around on a 40-degree slope without getting stuck or going all the way to the bottom? That's impressive. We shot this sequence of former professional hillclimb champion Bret Rasmussen doing a U-turn last winter. Conveniently, those of us with the camera equipment were stuck in the bottom of a drainage while Rasmussen demonstrated his techniques.


1. Here, Rasmussen has determined which way he is going to turn the sled and shifted his body position to that side of the sled. Notice the track he's left in the snow. The quick S-turn he's just coming out of initiated the sled's roll into the mountain (in deep powder, that isn't always necessary).


2. Notice Rasmussen's left foot. He's actually standing on the left running board with his right foot. This allows him to get extra leverage on the sled. He uses the left leg for additional leverage and steerage while supporting his body with his right leg. As the sled begins to roll up, his left foot drags farther back behind him.


3. The sled has rolled past its fulcrum point, overcoming the center of gravity, and is now carving into the hillside. All Rasmussen has to do from here is control the carve with throttle, steering and balance.


4. At this point, Rasmussen begins to turn the sled across the hillside. He's letting gravity and momentum do a lot of the work until he's gotten far enough into the turn. If he loses throttle control or his balance here, the sled will likely right itself and head for the bottom of the hill. Too much track spin could also result in a washout, with the back end of the sled sliding down below the nose.


5. Now Ramussen has turned the sled far enough that the downward slide has stopped. He keeps enough momentum to keep the back end coming down as the inside ski grabs and turns the nose of the sled uphill. Throttle control is key at this point in the turn. You just want to feather it enough to control the track slide without letting it come too far around, or without letting the outside ski fall back downhill. One wrong move and the sled is either buried straight uphill or heading straight down-with or without its rider.


6. The downward motion has been transitioned into an uphill climb at this point. The track is set and has a firm bite in the sidehill, the skis are pointed in the right direction and Rasmussen is now rolling on the throttle to make the sled's motion turn into climbing energy.


7. The turn is complete and Rasmussen is headed back uphill. At this point you have to correct your body position to prevent the sled from coming all the way back around. You don't necessarily have to jump to the other side of the sled if you are smooth enough, just move your upper body back over the center of the sled. Keep a little weight forward over the skis to prevent trenching and getting stuck, since you have no uphill momentum working for you yet. 

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