Ski-Doo Athletes Talk Snowmobiling

October 2019 Feature Steve Janes

Three of the more popular Ski-Doo western snowmobile professional riders tackled a variety of topics during a seminar at the Utah Snowmobile Show held Oct. 25-26. Bret Rasmussen, Tony Jenkins and Jay Mantaberry took on topics ranging from what food they pack with them to riding turbos during the event at the Mountain America Expo Center in Sandy, UT.

The format was question & answer with the three pro riders passing a mic from one to the other to chime in on the question topic. But rather than trying to sort out who said what, the main emphasis on each topic is condensed and listed below. 

  • So what do you pack? Well, although Mantaberry likes eating a nice warm meal on the snow, thanks to his exhaust cookers, both Rasmussen and Jenkins are more into packing light. They recommend something that’s high in energy or protein. Rasmussen did say that you should always have something with you in case your ride gets extended for whatever reason. He said it’s nice to have something that can keep you going if you start to run out of energy.
  • On avalanche awareness, all three western riders expressed the need for snowmobilers to be much more aware of the dangers and capable of recognizing the signs of avalanche conditions. Plus, every rider should have adequate avalanche gear and a basic understanding of how to use it. They pointed out that often it’s the “one rider” in the group who creates a safety hazard for himself and the rest of the group.
  • Do turbos make you a better snowmobiler? Well, according to the experts, a turbo’d sled is fun to ride … but will wear you out by the end of the day. You have to be in great shape and an expert rider to get the full advantage of a turbo. Most riders would do better staying on stock sleds where the power is more controllable. Turbos don’t make you a better rider … it just makes your sled go faster and higher on the mountain. If you’re not experienced, that will just put you into greater danger on the slope.
  • What if you’re just getting into snowmobiling? What can you do to be a better rider? The consensus of the three is to practice and perhaps take technical riding courses. The main thing is to develop confidence. You need to learn to commit to a line. By spending seat time you become more familiar with your snowmobile and more confident in your ability. Then it becomes much easier to commit to a line.
  • Do you have problems with goggles fogging? Well so does everyone else. It comes from heat and condensation. Removing your helmet when your head gets hot is one way to eliminate heat. However, if snow is falling, you don’t want to remove your helmet and allow more moisture (potential condensation) inside. Always pack spare goggles and dress in layers. Again, you want to control your body heat which has the potential of building condensation. Also, try to deflect your breath away from your goggles. Rasmussen likes the breathbox that comes with some helmets. Jenkins wasn’t such a fan of them. Also, make certain your goggles fit your helmet so moisture and condensation can’t slip inside between the face and the goggles.
  • Are survival kits and flare guns necessary to carry with you? Rasmussen said that although you do have limitations with what you can carry on your snowmobile, he tries to pack the basics if he thinks it could keep his group safe in a bad situation.
  • Track lengths? Well, Mantaberry is a fan of the 154s since he likes to jump. Jenkins and Rasmussen lean more to the 165s. As for the 175s … Rasmussen said they take a lot more effort to maneuver in terrain. But the flotation is awesome.
  • Is the Ski-Doo Summit with Expert Package worth the extra money? That would be a big YES. Although it is a pre-season only sled, it has enough subtle changes to make it a great snowmobile. Does it have an over-heating problem in the snow? Not any more noticeable that any other snowmobile. You just have to be careful, use your scratchers and try to get into loose snow whenever possible.
  • Can a trail sled be taken off trail? Well, the answer is yes … just don’t let off the throttle. As long as you’re packing momentum, you can maintain floatability. But once you start to sink in the snow, a trail sled is going to go down fast.
  • What about the politics of snowmobiling, i.e., land use issues? Rasmussen noted how active all the manufacturers are behind the scenes working with land use managers. Mantaberry added it is important that we as snowmobilers follow regulations and don’t do things that could give snowmobilers a bad reputation.
  • How do you properly balance the use of throttle and brake? Quite simply, the throttle offers momentum. The brake offers control. If you work both simultaneously, you can ride smooth lines while maintaining control. It’s also important to read your terrain. The more technical the terrain, the more you should be using your brake in conjunction with the throttle.
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