Where a rider places his feet in relation to the snowmobile can have major impacts. The biggest mistake I see riders making when riding technical terrain is standing too far forward. By this I mean all the way forward. In this position, your torso is in/over the handlebars. I often refer to this rider as T-rex. T-rex has no leverage and is a terrible rider.
Our body needs space to work with. The ideal body position is knees and elbows slightly bent. From here, you have a lot of power and leverage to manipulate your snowmobile and apply technique to make it do what you need it to. You can get too far back on the running boards as well. From this position you become stretched out and lose strength, leverage and control.
Foot position is all about finding the sweet spot for the current situation. That sweet spot will constantly be changing a little bit so you have to be active and seek it out with small movements. This is relative for riding neutral (right foot on right running board and left foot on left running board) as well as wrong foot forward (left foot on right running board with right foot hanging off machine or right foot on left running board with left foot hanging off machine). Stepping a bit farther back in this position will put more weight on the rear track shock, allowing it to compress and hold the snowmobile on edge easier.
Taking this a step farther (literally) is what you are doing with your “off” foot when riding wrong foot forward. This “off” foot can be very helpful. When timed with a quick application of throttle, pushing off the snow will help propel your sled out of a hole. If you watch someone sidehill through the trees, you will notice them planting that “off” foot and using it quite frequently. There is a little bit of planning and awareness involved.
For example, don’t step too close to a tree. If you do, you will end up in a treewell. To prevent this, recognize where the soft zone around the tree is and plan to take a step just before that and land just beyond it for your next step. Another advantage to your “off” foot is controlling how far on edge your snowmobile is.
Momentum is important in all aspects of riding. More specific to technical riding is controlled momentum. Too much and we’re risking a crash or not being able to maneuver around an obstacle. Not enough and we’re simply not going to make it and probably end up stuck. Controlled momentum is finding that balance. It’s like combining aggression and precision. It is also a skill being able to understand when you don’t have enough momentum and need to turn out or implement Plan B. An important element riders often forget about that is very helpful in regards to controlled momentum is the brake.
If you come into a situation a little too fast, you can always tap the brake to achieve more control and the precise speed that you need. On the contrary, when you approach a situation too slowly, it’s impossible to gain speed beyond a certain point. The on/off throttle application that I talked about earlier is a key aspect to controlled momentum.
Far too often I watch riders attempt a line and fail simply because they don’t think they can make it. In that case, I ask them why they would try something they don’t think they can do? It always leads to a great teaching moment.
Once we take some time to evaluate the entire situation and talk through the different aspects, options and riding techniques, they realize that they CAN make it. Simply approaching with the mindset that you can and knowing what you need to do to execute will set you up for success.
Confidence is built by starting small and being successful. Experience also builds confidence. We don’t always succeed at everything on our first try. Learn from your mistakes and apply that knowledge on your next attempt.
The combination of these habits all being applied in harmony is where the magic happens. There are a lot of little tricks to technical mountain snowmobiling. Each one complements the others. As you form these habits, you will find that you apply them all the time. It is important to make sure you are performing each aspect correctly to get their full benefit. If you have any questions, join us for a day or two on the mountain and we’ll have some fun.