If we were talking football instead of snowmobiling, most would probably think of Matt Entz as a shifty wide receiver with finesse and the kind of skills that makes everyone stand up and take notice. He's the guy who kind of comes out of nowhere, breaks away from his defender, catches the ball and you stand up and point at him as he runs with the ball down the field and you say, "Wow, who is that guy? He's good."
Thin as a rail but impressively strong, Entz can manipulate a snowmobile like nobody's business. He's a part of the new breed of snowmobiler who looks for and attacks nasty terrain with passion. He doesn't shy away from it or the challenges it presents. When the score is tied and the clock is ticking down, he's the guy who wants the ball so he can see what he can do with it. He wants to score.
On his field of choice-mountainous terrain draped with a deep blanket of snow-Entz feathers the throttle on his Arctic Cat as he approaches a cliff that most of us would prefer to admire from a distance, not drop off, surveys his options and floats off the edge, dropping into a touchdown of powder. Or he's looking for a wind drift or just about anything else that would provide some lift that he can launch off. Or he wants that hillside so littered with trees that sunlight barely breaks through to the snow so he can carefully thread his way through as he looks for the next challenge.
Watching Entz ride reveals equal parts of trust in his machine and in his skills as a true backcountry rider.
While he's no rookie to snowmobiling-he's been riding for 25 years, the first time when he was 4 or 5 years old on a 70s Ski-Doo-it's obvious that Entz has taken his riding to the next level, that of a hardcore backcountry technical rider. "I've been riding beyond a casual level for about 6 years," he said.
We asked him to describe this beyond the "casual level" style he has honed. "I am an aggressive rider who loves jumps, drops and, most of all, technical terrain. I love being in the trees on an off-camber hillside knowing that if I make a mistake, the result won't be good. I'm always trying to progress and push myself to improve. I love to be challenged and try to improve every ride.
"I like trying to do things on a sled and make it places others can't. Even more fun, is when another rider pushes me to or beyond my ability and comfort zone. I watch what other riders do and try to learn new techniques and apply them."
That requires a lot of time on the field or, in Entz' case, on the snow. "Actually, considering I have a non-snowmobile related full-time job, I feel fortunate to ride 50-60 days per winter," he said. "My boss is very cooperative and I don't get a lot of free time in the summer, so we even things out in the winter."
The 29-year-old Entz talks about his idea of a perfect day of riding like he's lived the day over and over again. The Colorado native grew up in the San Luis Valley and learned his amazing riding skills in the mountains south and west of the valley.
Here is a description of the perfect day of riding in Entz' own words. "A perfect day of snowmobiling would start off with a very small group of my favorite riding buddies, unloading at first light after checking the avalanche forecast, of course, and taking along the proper safety equipment."
"The snow would consist of two feet of fresh, dry, fluffy, Colorado champagne powder on top of a firm base. Cold crisp air and not a cloud in the sky would set the scene for great visibility and perfect filming conditions.
"Everyone would have their shot at a big cliff drop. Once everyone goes big, we then work our way through ravines, across hillsides and over ridges, all the while enjoying the ever-changing natural terrain and carving up the fresh pow, face shot after face shot.
"After lunch it's time for the ride to get technical. We head for the trees, sidehilling the diverse landscape and riding on the edge of our sleds and our own capabilities, taking turns leading, getting stuck, somehow making those close calls where bouncing off of an obstacle is the only thing that keeps your sled moving.
"No one is exactly sure of where we are or where we're headed. Just as the sun is fading behind the peaks, we drop a ravine that catches our tracks from the morning. Sleds rip all day and everyone makes it back to the trailer safely. That's my idea of perfect."
That pretty well sums up Entz' field of dreams.
The day we rode with Entz near South Fork (his backyard), located way down in the southern part of Colorado, was not exactly the perfect day, but it was close. We had fresh, deep powder but limited visibility for the first part of the day. That's okay, just stay in the trees for some definition and hit some drainages that could swallow sleds whole (don't ask how we know that one). Later, after the cloud cover broke, it was up the mountain to ridgelines and peaks where you could soak in the stunning beauty of the San Juan Mountains.
While we were allowed to see some of Entz favorite and most secret riding spots, we were sworn to secrecy as to the exact location. Try to pin him down on his favorite riding spot and he'll say something like, "The Wolf Creek Pass area." That's south and a bit west of South Fork and the pass itself reaches 10,850 feet. He said, "The snow is super dry and deep. There is a lot of technical tree-filled terrain that provides constant challenges and every ride is truly an adventure. The view from the 12,000-foot ridges is literally breathtaking."
It doesn't matter if Entz is on his home field or someone else's, he loves the game of snowmobiling and looks for every opportunity to play, which includes other parts of his home state.
"Rabbit Ears, in northern Colorado, is becoming one of my favorite areas to ride," he said. "I've ridden some awesome areas in Utah, also. I've come to the conclusion that there is incredible riding just about everywhere in the mountains, as long as you ride with someone who knows where to find the terrain that excites you. The snow quality has to be good as well."
Some of those favorite spots and rides have been with the Boondockers crew shooting video for their DVDs. You knew the name Matt Entz rang a bell but you weren't sure where you heard it. Now you know. "I have ridden with the Boondockers crew-when we can make it happen-for four years," he said.
To help pay for his play in the winter, Entz works full-time and then some as a potato farmer during the warmer months in the San Luis Valley. Entz' description of a typical day as a potato farmer is quite different than his ideal snowmobiling day. He said, "During our growing season, I start the day out with a drive to check our irrigation sprinklers and once everything is on schedule, I head to the shop. During the day we work on equipment and monitor the weather to maintain proper irrigation.
"When something breaks, the time to fix it is right then, if possible. Many nights are spent applying chemicals and fertilizer through the sprinklers. It's an awesome experience to watch the crops grow throughout the season and know that you've had a hand in the process. Of course, I'm doing this all the while thinking about the upcoming winter."
And that full-time gig helps Entz pay for his current rides, a couple of Arctic Cats. He still remembers when he decided it was time to switch to the M Series chassis, a ride he calls his "most memorable." So far, that is. "The ride took place in the spring of 2005," he explained. "A few of us ended up on a ride near Pearl Lakes, CO, with Chris Brown, Chris Burandt, Bobby Unser and a few others. This was the first season of the M sled and I saw what Chris and Chris were doing on those sleds and knew instantly that is what I wanted to do on a snowmobile. They told me to get rid of my King Cat and get an M because it was such a more capable sled. I'll always remember that day and the excitement of seeing a new style of riding."
Today's ride includes a 2010 M8 HCR and a VOHK-built Boondocker pump gas turbo-equipped 2011 M8. Those are a step up from the first sled he ever owned. "The first sled I bought was a 2001 Mountain Cat 800 LE," he said. "It had way more power than I needed at the time, considering the sled I previously rode was a 1980 El Tigre 6000. And I sure got stuck a lot back then .."
He continued, "The turbo M Series sled is my favorite. It is a very capable sled in stock form and the turbo takes it to the next level." Referring to the Boondocker turbo, he said, "There is no other single experience-enhancing product with the level of benefits that a turbo provides. The Boondocker kit, along with tuning and setup from VOHK, is the best in the business."
The more Entz gets noticed for his play on the snow, the more others want to jump on board to support his efforts. That includes Dan Gardiner and all of the Boondockers movie crew, Dave Napier, VOHK, Boondocker Performance, Klim, Habervision, IceAge Mfg., 2coolairvents, Timbersled, Sledskinz, Dobbs Enterprise and Ken's Service Center.
There's also Entz' circle of friends and family, including Darren and Mikey and his girlfriend Jesse.
So while Entz is still relatively unknown in the club of hardcore technical backcountry riders, don't be surprised if someday you find yourself saying, "Who is that guy? Wow, he's good."