Snowmobiling can be a bit of a conundrum for those who don’t understand our sport. Many well-meaning friends and family members often reach out to us with concern, reminding us to ride safely and prepared. How often have we heard the words adrenaline junkie or extreme rider?
I’ve personally noticed a double standard when it comes to me, a mother enjoying the sport of snowmobiling as opposed to a male rider. “But Tricia, you’re a mother, are you sure you should be out there highmarking?” Someone no longer in my life said to my children “your mother has some sort of death wish She’s going to die out there.” Internet trolls have taken pot shots at me for my love of snowmobiling citing my inability to mother properly because I’m a back country snowmobiler. Some say you can’t fix stupid, and I’m pretty sure they are right.
The kids and I spend hours discussing snowmobiling safety, and enjoy every moment of our days out riding together. I am a great mother, and my kids say a better mom after I spend a good day riding. It is like my natural prozac, allowing me to physically challenge my skills, get high above the cloud line on foggy winter days, and it makes me burn off stress from life. No different from men who enjoy the sport, it is a way of me making the most of my life enjoying a sport that is exciting, and physically challenging. It’s OK to be a mother and snowmobile.
I suppose my concerned loved ones may have a valid point, for the fatalities, and accidents they see on main stream media usually sensationalize the poor decisions made by snowmobilers. Those who choose to ignore avalanche reports, choose to ride alone, ignore signs of snowpack instability, lack safety equipment or utilize the “here hold my beer and watch this” mentality. Not much media attention showcases the majority of us who choose to ride to survive which is why I’ve made a few promises to my children.
- I will wear my safety equipment including avalanche equipment, protective gear like a chest protector, knee/shin guards and warm, waterproof snowmobile clothing when I’m out riding.
- I will continue to advance my avalanche and back country training and will keep my skills sharp and well-practiced.
- I will not drink alcohol and ride. I enjoy a beer or a nice glass of red wine after a ride, but when I’m out there, alcohol isn’t a part of my day.
- I will speak up to my riding group if I feel a situation is unsafe. I have in the past, and am blessed to ride with a group where communication is a top priority.
- Although I enjoy advancing my skills I will never push my self to the point of stupidity urged by Kodak Courage. Jumps, drops and climbs will be within my skill set, to avoid injury or death.
- I will always choose my riding companions wisely to avoid becoming collateral damage from someone else’s mistakes.
- I will learn from my mistakes, and other’s mistakes. I’ve made many in my sled life, but once I know better I promise to always do better. Better choices, better decisions, to ensure safety.
- I promise to let my children know where we are riding, and what time to expect us home. My kids appreciate a quick text or phone call when we’re off the mountain. That has been our routine for years now. They also know to call for help if we have not arrived home at our specified time. We were delayed a few years ago by a rescue up on our Salmo Creston Pass. Normally we are home before dark, but due to the extended efforts needed to facilitate the rescue we were delayed several hours. Knowing how worried they were about my husband and I we have now incorporated an InReach and Sat phone in our riding group so we can always stay in constant contact even where cell service is unavailable.
- I promise to choose my life as their mother. I found myself in a situation a couple of years ago, where against the words of advice offered, a rider in our group decided to climb a sketchy slope. A size 2 avalanche had already been triggered in the adjacent slope, yet he chose to climb the untouched wall of snow before him, and inevitably found himself stuck halfway up the hill. I’m sure he’d have liked a helping hand digging out his sled as he continually looked up to see if the hang-fire above let loose. Although I wanted no harm to come to this snowmobiler, I was unwilling to put myself in harm’s way to save him from his poor choice. My sled friend and I agreed that we’d sit this one out, wait and watch from a safe distance,out of the slide path. He too had a young family and made a promise to them to always come home. If the hill slid, we’d be in a good place to watch for him, and execute a speedy rescue, but we both were unwilling to put ourselves in harms way because of another’s poor choice. The hill didn’t slide, he made it out giving us the opportunity to talk about the potential consequences of his actions. His response was shocking, “avalanches are fun”. Never again have we rode with him, and I’m quite certain we never will.
- I promise to share the sport of snowmobiling with my kids so that they may enjoy the same sense of adventure and freedom I do when I’m out riding. I will keep them safe, and support their back country education and always provide the equipment they need to ride to survive.