Extending Winter

Spring offers unique opportunities

April 2019 Feature Steve Janes Web Exclusive

Come mid April most of you have already stored your sleds away for the summer. Too bad. You are missing out on some great snowmobiling opportunities.

Although the days of deep, dry powder are likely over for the season, it doesn’t mean winter is over. In most high elevations in the West winter lasts well into May. You just have to have a different mindset when it comes to riding.

First of all, spring rains likely turn into fresh snow above 7,000 feet. So even though the grass is greening up, the mountains are still growing whiter. And the higher the elevation, the deeper and lighter the snow.

In late March, we rode into the Mt. Jefferson area in eastern Idaho only to find every inch of snow tracked up and frozen solid—like riding on asphalt. It was the worst ride of the year … one that made you think the snowmobiling season was over.

Three weeks later we rode into the same location. The entire mountain was covered in fresh, untracked snow. In fact, one would think that we were the first people to ride the area all season.

The snow was set up with about two to four inches of loose surface snow which allowed the skis to float and turn effortlessly. The base was solid so you could go anywhere you wanted as long as you carried enough momentum to defy gravity.

Best of all, we were the only snowmobilers on the mountain. We didn’t have to share with anybody. It was a perfect day for riding. Not like the perfect powder day … but still, the go-anywhere, do-anything type of riding that makes this sport so unique.

Spring Riding Tips

1) Cooling and lubrication is a must. Allow the snow to soften up in the morning if the previous night was clear and cold.

2) The snow will change throughout the day and at different elevations. Even a solid base will start to collapse on a warm day, especially around trees, rocks or anywhere that collects heat. Be aware of the changes and adjust your riding style accordingly.

3) Watch for avalanche signs. If there is evidence of shifting or sliding snow, you probably should stay off those slopes and spend more time in less severe terrain. Pay attention to what’s above you and what’s below you. You want to be able to see what’s coming and know your escape route.

4) Dress in layers. As the temperature rises, you will want to be able to shed some layers.

5) Remember sun screen. You have several things working against you: the higher elevation means thinner air and stronger UV rays; snow will reflect these rays so you get it from above and below; and even though the temperature is cool, the heat stored in the UV rays will eventually collect in any exposed skin.

6) What goes up must come down. You will find it easy to climb even the steepest slope … but eventually you need to come down. That’s when gravity takes over. So before you climb, be sure you have a run-out area because your descent will be much faster than your ascent.

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