Should Professional Women X-Country racers be shackled with 1/2 throttle?

`Social Media was on fire this week with many women in the snowmobile world angry at the USXC ruling that women should run at 1/2 throttle along with the juniors.  You could almost hear “oh no you didn’t” resonating across North America from the multitude of women riders shocked by the ruling.  Now I’m not sure if this is some sort of colossal misunderstanding, but I have a few thoughts on this subject in support of these hard core women racers in the United States X-Country Snowmobile Racing scene.

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Another HUGE thank you to the companies that sponsor and support my voice and efforts in the industry!  My decision to work with these companies specifically is for all the give and do for women in the snowmobile world.  Polaris Industries, my Cycle Works West family, Backcountry Access and FXR racing!  Thank you for supporting the sport and the many men, women and children who enjoy the sport of snowmobiling

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Wild Encounters

OHV adventures in the back country can be exciting and exhilarating.  Understanding how to avoid conflict with wildlife is imperative so you don’t get a little more adventure than you bargained for.

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Signs of wildlife

Signs of wildlife are your first clue as to what wildlife may be in your immediate area.  Often Bear scat will be found on the roads and back country trails, as they traverse terrain within their home range.  Take note of the freshness, (Yes, I’m one of those people who grabs a stick to poke wild animal poo) to give you a rough idea of a timeline the animal was in the immediate area.  If you see an abundance of scavenger birds together such as crows, ravens, vultures and birds of prey chances are there may be something dead in the area.  Bear and Cougar will stash a kill to preserve it for later.  They will be around and ferociously protect that kill, so if you notice an abundance of scavenger birds, see or smell something dead covered with leaves and twigs, leave the area.  Other signs of bear activity may be ripped up stumps and logs, and claw markings on trees.  The best way to survive a wildlife attack is to avoid it all together.

Don’t underestimate wild animals

Most people are aware of bear safety protocol, but what about other wild animals?  One of my most frightening wildlife encounters wasn’t a bear or cougar it was in fact, a Moose!  Moose will lash out with great force if they feel cornered or threatened, especially if they have a calf.  If you encounter a Moose on an ATV Trail stop and give it ample space.  Ideally it will wander off into the bush, but sometimes it will try to stay on the road or trail.  If you proceed, it will stress the animal out, use up vital calories, and may cause it to feel threatened.  Hell hath no fury like a momma moose in the face of perceived danger.

Bear Spray

Bear spray flat out works and can be utilized for more wild animal attacks than bears.  It’s awesome and effective, but only if it is with you, and you understand how to use it.  One of the biggest mistakes OHV riders do is jump off their ATV or side by side to explore the area around them but leave their bear spray in the holster attached to their machine.  Women are famous for this especially when nature calls.  We like to be as secretive and elusive as possible, and opt for a very remote location to answer that call.  Ladies, TAKE your bear spray with you and be prepared to use it if need be!   When transporting bear spray, if it is not in a holster, opt for a carrying can that will seal the spray from heat and impact and an unexpected discharge.

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Pictured Author Trish Drinkle packing her bear spray on a nature adventure with local youth

Pets

Many of us take our dogs on our back country adventures.  If you do encounter wildlife, especially a recent sign of a predator put your dog on a leash immediately.  It doesn’t take long for a Grizzly bear to realize it is far larger and more powerful than Pedro your chocolate lab.  Your dog will instantly want to run to safety (his humans) resulting in a dangerous encounter with an agitated bear heading straight for you.  Other wildlife concerns especially this time of year are fawns.  Does will stash their fawns in bushes and tall grass to avoid bringing attention to predators around them.  Fawns are born without a scent attached to them, and will lay motionless leaving them vulnerable to dogs curious about this creature. Leash up your pups to help keep everyone and everything safe.

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Pictured Author Trish Drinkle and her sidekick Pedro with Cycle Works West Polaris Ranger 1000XP “Spartacus” 

Photography

Many OHV enthusiasts cherish the opportunity to photograph wildlife in their natural habitat.  It is important to respect wildlife, and ensure your own personal safety.  Please utilize a zoom lens rather than trying to creep up for that epic shot.  Bears in particular are a concern, not only for your own safety, but for theirs.  Habituation, when a wild animal loses it’s fear of humans and will tolerate them at closer distances can happen when photographers continually encroach on a bears personal space.  They need to keep that fear or we’ll see that wild animal walk down a dangerous path, especially if there are food attractants available either by campers or people in residential areas.   Many British Columbian towns  have seen an abundance of tourists who are eager to take pictures of Grizzly and Black bears.  With the influx of humans comes the possibility of habituation, which can be prevented.  Appreciate wildlife by respecting their privacy and need to be wild.

Horsepower, hand holding and a chocolate lab named Pedro

Working in wildlife conservation is a balancing act most days.  Preventing and addressing human wildlife conflict can be frustrating at times.  I was in the middle of dealing with two black bear sows with cubs that were getting into garbage, which could potentially seal their fate in life.  I was upset at the humans who simply refused to secure their garbage and other wildlife attractants.  Paperwork piled up, messages were coming in from a variety of residents in my territory regarding bears and cougars.  I was overwhelmed, but refused to stop working.  My husband knew it was time to step in.  “honey, get off your computer.  We’re going for a ride.”  Despite my “ya buts” I agreed.

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Working with Cycle Works West and Polaris Industries, our family has the privledge of enjoying a 2017 Polaris Ranger 1000XP for the season.  Oh it’s a sexy beast I’ve fondly named Spartacus.  Sexy, strong and oh so powerful, Spartacus is easy to love.

I swear Spartacus runs on love, for fuel consumption is ridiculously efficient.  More adventures for less bucks is a win in our eyes.  We have room!  Room for Pedro, for a cooler.. for all of the treasures I haul home after our back country adventures.  Side by Side life is awesome.

It was only moments into our ride that I felt my shoulders relax.  The gentle cool spray from the first waterfall we encountered washed away any stress and thoughts of work. Out of cell phone range there shall be no work today.

Kev reached over to hold my hand.  (power steering means more hand holding!) What a wonderful date we were on.

White tailed deer danced in the meadows above, and many signs of wildlife saw me scrambling for my camera.  My husband Kev has come to accept my little idiosyncracies including my fascination with animal poop.  Grizzly bear, Black Bear, Moose and Elk provided ample photography subjects.

Our first stop was a marsh along the Little Moyie valley.  Filled with spring run off, the bog transformed into a beautiful pond bursting with life.  Turtles, tadpoles, frogs, and mayflies were enjoying this wetland transformation.

It didn’t take Pedro long to leap into the water.  Pedro is, in my mind, the happiest creature on earth.  Oh how I wish I could see life through Pedro the chocolate labs eyes.  The more we watched him, the more “in the moment” we were.  Not a care in the world, I felt refreshed and alive.

The adventures were endless. We found new places to snowmobile, hunt and camp.  True to my spirit I filled the Ranger’s box with all of the rock slabs I could for a garden project I was working on.  Each slab was unique and beautiful.  Spartacus had a hefty load on the way home, and he handled it like the Gladiator he is.

Sometimes  the greatest medicine is a little horsepower, hand holding, a little brown dog named Pedro and back country adventure.

Cycle Works West 2017 Polaris Ranger 1000XP “Spartacus”

A tribute to Sled-Mommas. Happy Mothers day!

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It isn’t easy being a snowmobiling mother, but it is awesome!  Many underestimate the multitude of thoughts and decisions that run through a mother’s mind when she’s out shredding in the back country.  We are constant thinkers.

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First and foremost, no matter the terrain, or technical aspects of the ride, our children are always on our minds.  Every choice we make, route we take all comes down to riding to survive.  We can be outspoken, and rightfully so.  We not only speak up for ourselves, but for our family when safety decisions are made within our riding group.

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We’re tough, strong, and take very little crap from anyone out there.   If we see someone acting in an unsafe way, you bet your A-Arms we’ll say something about it.  We are used to feeling like the safety police, and take no offence when young bucks scoff at our wisdom.   We’re used to kids rolling their eyes,  and arguing with us.  You won’t win, so best listen to momma out there and ride to survive.

Passionate Sled-Momma’s are movers and shakers when it comes to Organized Snowmobiling and land use issues.  As strong as a Momma Grizzly Bear, they’ll fight for the right to enjoy motorized recreation, and are often the ones spearheading safety training, and social events.  If you have a mom on your board of directors, give thanks.  The ability to multi task amidst chaos is nothing new to these ladies.

We mother everyone in our group.  I commonly run sweep in our crew.  It gives me a sense of peace knowing that everyone is in front of me, and should they need help I’ll be there for them.  I feel like a border collie on group rides, with a strong desire to keep he entire group together and arrive safe and sound at the end of the day.  Most snowmobiling mothers are like that I’ve found.  We need to know everyone is ok.

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You can count on us to feed you, and provide first aid for we pack enough safety equipment and food to care for many more riders than ourselves.  Random useful things like Arnica cream, and hand warmers are always available. Epic and creative Muff Pot meals are always  shared.  This is how we roll.

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Speaking of rolls, when we do have an unfortunate roll over, crash, or scorpion, we will probably minimize the actual physical pain we’re experiencing so as not to worry the group. “Just a flesh wound!”  We giver all we have, get many bruises along the way.  It’s all good.  We wear those bruises with pride.  For heaven’s sake, we’ve endured hours of pain while giving birth, a simple unplanned scorpion can’t slow us down.

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I am incredibly thankful to be a SledMomma.  I am thankful for the adventures we’ve had and those to come.  Happy Mothers day to all of the SledMommas out there, who bring so much to the sport of snowmobiling.

How to shut down motorized recreation in 10 easy steps

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Off road vehicles come in several forms.  We have ATV’s, Side by sides, dirt bikes and snowmobiles. With one thing in common, these powersports machines are all designed to get off the beaten path and allow riders the opportunity explore the wild and wondrous back country.  It appears some individuals who participate in back country powersports have a specific agenda.  Clearly actions speak louder than words.  These super stars of the powersports world don’t need “greenies” to rally for closures.. they can do it all themselves.  Here’s what it looks like.

How to shut down motorized recreation in ten easy steps

  1.  Alcohol.  Alcohol is a must if you are planning on catching the attention of those who want to shut us down.  Make sure to have a cup holder mounted giving easy access while you navigate the back country.  Bottles are great to pack with you, for usually they will shatter, making the ride out much lighter.  What’s a little forest fire sparked by broken glass.. it’ll give those pine beetles exactly what they deserve.
  2. After consuming your beverages be sure to leave the cans and bottles out in the back country.. you know cub scouts and do gooders will be on that trail, it’s an active area.  Let them pick up your garbage and maybe even make some money along the way.  No sense in depriving kids their spending money.
  3. Go fast.  Go very fast, everywhere.  People will be amazed by your greatness as you speed by them.  Blow by those going slow.. it will inspire them to ride faster.
  4. When ATVing, leave that mud in the back country by riding through every creek and stream bed you can find.  No sense in coming home dirty.
  5. On your ATV, make your own trail.  Only pansies stick to the trail.  There is ample foliage out there, what’s a few plants and saplings?
  6. Implement the loudest exhaust you can find.  You will be the envy of all the other people who headed out into the back country.  Once they hear you, it will be clear who the GOAT is. Spark arrestors are stupid.  Remove them from your dirt bike, again teach those pine beetles who’s boss and start that fire.
  7. Let your locks flow.  Helmets are over rated, only wimps wear brain buckets. Chest protectors and other safety gear is over rated.  Chicks dig scars.
  8. Ride in closed areas.  This is where the greatest riding is don’t you know.  Those closure signs are simply a suggestion.
  9. Show the world how tough your kids are and put them on the highest horsepower machine you can find.  This will surely impress the masses.  Your kids don’t need no stinkin safety equipment.  They are that tough.
  10. Whatever you do.. absolutely do NOT join a club.  You’ll have no time for riding with all the trail brushing, and work those silly club members agree to.  Let them do the work, so you can play.

Clearly I’m being sarcastic, and these ten steps are examples of how we can be our own worst enemy.  Sometimes it isn’t the greenies or Y2Y causing closures, it’s humans behaving badly.  Alcohol and motorized recreation don’t mix.  If you pack it in, pack it out.  Ride responsibly and respectfully out there and abide by laws set forth whether you agree with them or not.  Protect waterways and the animals dependent upon them. Whether it’s disruption of a spawning bed, or damage to the landscape around.. there is no excuse for disrespecting the balance of nature.  Never harass wildlife.  If you have youth riders, they need to be on an age appropriate machine, supervised by an adult.  We can fight lang closures if we are all on the same page, making an effort to protect and preserve the lands we enjoy. Join a club.. a unified voice is much stronger than a single voice, especially in the face of politics and potential closures.

In the mind of a Newbie Sled Girl

It is no secret.  The first year of snowmobiling is by far the hardest, for there are many skills that seem to defy common sense.  We as women tend to be a little more emotional and analytical than most men, causing us to question and examine every aspect of snowmobiling until it makes sense to us.

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Turn my skis to the left to go right? Yes counter steering is one of those skills that takes repeated effort to make sense of.  Counter steering is a fundamental skill that allows one to maintain control and direction of the sled using geometry rather than muscle to direct a snowmobile.  Start by focusing on the suspension set up of your snowmobile.  From factory most snowmobiles are set to accommodate a 175 to 185 lb man.  You will want your suspension soft enough to allow you to get your machine on edge easily.  The stiffer the suspension the more difficult it will be especially if you are a lightweight.

To get the feel of counter steering the optimum place to practice would be a large meadow with powdery snow rather than hard packed spring snow that can buck you unexpectedly. Tracked out snow especially with frozen tracks from days before could also buck you unexpectedly so look for a place with fresh untouched white goodness.

Start with a moderate speed.  There is no need to go mach chicken to lay a nice smooth Carve. My violin teacher used to challenge me when I was young. “you need to play that run slow before you can play it fast” which often proved difficult for my hyperactive speedy personality that wanted to sloppily race through everything I played.  When you practice slower you can work on control while learning a skill.

Generally the throttle side is a rider’s weaker side for sidehilling and carving, so as a beginner it is a great time to practice both sides to develop skills equally.  While in motion, carving is a combination of turning your skis, shifting your weight on the running board opposite the direction your skis are pointing and a little extra blast of the throttle which will create your 3 steps to success.  This combination will create a carve in the direction your weight has shifted.

You will have a sweet spot on your running boards depending upon your machine, so play around with it to get the feel.  The more you practice, the more second nature this skill will become, to the point you will not have to think about each step to execute a carve.  Wrong foot forward riding will come later, and absolutely has its place in your arsenal of sled skills.

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I see so many riders wanting to jump immediately to wrong foot forward style of riding because it looks hip and fly before getting the fundamentals down pat. For the most part, especially with today’s geometrically balanced snowmobiles, straddling your seat or having two feet on a running board will suffice for most carving and sidehill maneuvers for a beginner rider.  Yes wrong foot forward looks cool in pictures, but develop your fundamentals and you’ll become a confident well-rounded rider.

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But I am leaning!  Many new women riders will shift their upper body, head shoulders and torso and become frustrated because the snowmobile isn’t responding.  The power is in your butt.  Your machine will not respond if your but is centered over your seat even if your shoulders are leaning to one side.  Pay attention to where your butt is and you’ll find your sled will respond accordingly.

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Watch out for that tree! No don’t.. don’t look at the tree but rather focus on where you want your sled to go paying attention to the track path, not the ski closest to the tree well.  That ski doesn’t really matter for your track will carry your sled through that well trap as long as you are under momentum.  Do not slow down to a crawl or gravity will suck you in.  Controlled throttle not mach chicken throttle equates to success when it comes to tree wells.

Going down.  Here is where it get’s interesting.  The last thing you want to do when descending a steep hill is slam on your brakes.  This is where your throttle truly is your friend.  I know, the throttle makes you go faster, except when going down, for a little feathering of the throttle will allow the motor of the snowmobile to slow the sled down in a controlled manner.  If you were to slam on your brakes the result would be a fish tail trip down possibly resulting in a roll over.  Practice the feel of using the throttle to slow you down on gradual slopes so you feel confident going descending steeper terrain.

When in doubt, throttle out.  This is probably the most useless words of advice to give a new woman rider.  We analyze everything until it makes sense.  Not every situation requires a wide open throttle. Throttle control, and getting used to using your throttle is perhaps a better thought train.  There will be situations that you need to bring the hammer down, so get comfortable with acceleration so you can control your machine under a higher rate of speed.  Last ride out, we had an open creek crossing, with a steep narrow climb out of the creek.  Kev and our buddy Steve were waiting on the other side to catch me should I go off course.  As I crossed the open water and prepared the climb out I yelled at the guys “get out of my way!”I climbed that bank, and did get a little off course but in true Turkey Tail Stander style I wheelied to high ground totally looking like a bad ass.  Had I laid off the throttle I would have been embedded in the snow bank, but being comfortable with given’ er I made it up without a problem.  When someone tells you the old, “when in doubt throttle out”. nod and smile.. they simply do not know how our female mind thinks.

Getting Stuck Everyone gets stuck.  That is a fact, but it also sucks being a woman learning and getting stuck.  None of us really want to be “that girl” among a group of men requiring continual unsticking.  Just shake it off and remember, everyone, be it a man or woman had to start somewhere. Here’s some things to think about.  You are a woman and while you may not have a lot of muscle mass, you can absolutely help getting yourself and others unstuck.  If you are stuck analyze the situation.  Many sleds will pop out with a simple ski pull, so to aid this grab a hold of your front bumper and start to pack in the snow underneath your belly pan.  That is the snow that is causing you to become hung up.  You can free the suction from around your running boards by either digging out or stomping down the snow around your boards.

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You can get your sled out by yourself in powdery snow by utilizing the roll over.  Dig around the snowmobile and the side you wish to roll your sled towards, dig it out a little more to allow gravity to facilitate.  You may be able to continue the roll from that side by grabbing the high ski and continuing the momentum.  If that seems too difficult, walk to the other side of the snowmobile and use your legs to continue the roll.  Once it is upside down, you can either push out on the ski or on the track to get it to roll completely over.  It will end up facing down hill, allowing you to ride it out.   Sometimes I’ll utilize the roll over simply to get the snowmobile on its side allowing me to fill in the crater and pack down the snow that was under my belly pan.  Pop it back and you’re rolling again.  you will have to giver gas to get back into snow that isn’t determined to pull you back into your stuck.  Get stuck smart if you can. It’s important to not stop facing uphill, and please don’t dig to China if you find you’re getting stuck.  Just stop, and prepare for a ski pull.  Sometimes if I find myself in a predicament in the trees and start to get stuck, I’ll lay my sled on edge rather than creating a crater.  When I pop it back down I’m ready to roll with a calm cool and collected head.  Even if you’re a new rider, lend a hand to everyone out there in your group.  You can help and make a difference.

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Sometimes you have to get a little creative when unsticking a buddy

Pressure Free Learning.  When you are learning, it’s important to have people around you who support you.  When you are with riders who know you’re new and are there to help you learn it makes all the difference in the world.  Avoid situations where you’re being thrown to the wolves as a tag along on a ride with people who are out for themselves that day and are not really into the whole helping thing.  Pushing you beyond your capabilities will result in a loss of confidence and a truly horrible experience.  Everything will be new to you, and the people around you need to recognize that.  Your significant other can be a world of support as long as you leave the relationship baggage at home.  Any lingering fights, issues and disagreements do not belong in the back country.  Yes, he didn’t pick up his socks, but when you’re out there it truly doesn’t matter.  My husband can be a little tougher on me than the other guys out riding.  “Why did you hit that tree and smoke your bumper!” .. Seriously I didn’t see you yelling at Steve or Dylan I think to myself.  I usually retort “I woke up this morning and said to myself.. Today Trish you will find the largest conifer and ram into it”.  Humor can be a saving grace.  The other guys usually crack a funny which snaps my husband out of his husband like mentality and he realizes how ridiculous he’s being.  Stuff happens.. . to everyone.  Sometimes the loves of our lives have unrealistic expectations and can get a little cranky.  It’s at that time one of your other sled friends can step in and help you figure things out.  Once you get the foundation skills under your belt you’ll find your skill development will happen at an accelerated rate! Have patience with yourself, and recognize the success you are having without focusing on the stucks, tree well encounters and whoopsies that always come with learning.

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Married on the Mountain Kev and I said “I do” not only as husband and wife, but as sled buds.

The Shame Factor

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In every day life mistakes are made. No person is the epitome of perfection. Like all people,  Snowmobilers are human and make mistakes.  This is a fact.  Most go out with the intention of making wise choices but mistakes happen.

There is a tremendous amount of shame in the snowmobile world especially when it comes to back country safety mistakes.  Disorientation, lack of preparedness, lack of communication and terrain management mistakes top the list.

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The most publicized snowmobile mistake is without a doubt a human triggered avalanche.  There is always a mistake present when an avy is human caused..  When avalanches are triggered without fatality, riders often hide the event so as not to appear like one of “those” riders.  I was no different.

Early one Sunday morning a few years back our group of four headed out into the back country.  It is interesting to note that each one of us had a sense of foreboding the night before.  Conditions we knew were sketchy so wise choices were a must.  That sense of foreboding was amplified about an hour into the ride.  This was an exploratory adventure with no set course.  We had to make choices every step of the way, but found ourselves at a pivot point on our journey.

We were deep into the British Columbia back country. In order for us to continue we had to drop into a basin with many possible starting points to choose from. We actually had a discussion and chose what we thought was the chute of least consequence.  For me as a back country rider I’d much rather go up, than down.  The concentration needed to not slam on your brakes when descending at a high rate of speed is almost unfathomable in some situations.  It seems counter intuitive to not use breaks but use the throttle to allow the motor to slow the machine down.  If you were to grab a handful of brake, the machine and rider would most certainly fishtail sideways causing an uncontrolled roll usually resulting in injury and severe damage to the sled.  Gentle revving of the throttle, and when the opportunity presents itself  scooping new snow with the skis is a safe way to execute a steep and quick descent.  Once the drop opens up powder carves are a euphoric way to further slow the machine down while grabbing a face full of freshies.  A snowmobilers dream!

As we discussed options with the group I knew without a doubt I didn’t want to be the last rider down.  My husband was in this situation a few weeks before and found himself cartwheeling down the icy luge run with his sled.  The first rider down has fresh snow to help slow momentum while the last rider down has skinny snow that has been packed into ice amplifying the degree of difficulty.  I offered to go go first, but the moment I spoke up I felt a huge pang in my gut and in my heart.  Spidey senses were tingling.  It was decided that I would not be the first down, but second. My husband literally stood in front of me and said, “there is no way in HELL you are dropping first”.  Knowing he was right I happily complied.   He also wasn’t feeling sure of the snowpack stability or what would be encountered on the way down.  Flat light added another variable to this drop.   The first man down was a skilled, educated and seasoned rider.  I was slated to be second with my husband being the last man down.  He was one of the strongest riders in the group and offered to take one for the team.

The first rider started down, but in a matter of seconds the chute broke and the avalanche was rolling.  “Watch him!!!!” Someone yelled.  This was the scenario that plagued the deepest places in my soul.  Watching a close friend devoured by an avalanche, while being helpless in that moment to do anything but watch for him.

Luckily he rode the avalanche out and was able to ride out of the slide path.  It was about a class two slide possibly a class three with the capability of taking a life but we were lucky.  This incident did not have an injury or fatality.  To this day I’m honestly not sure if I would have had the skill or the composure to ride that slide out like he did, and I know I never ever want to find out.

Through radio contact, we developed a plan of action.  The rest of us did not drop as there were adjacent slopes ready to rip and hang fire still present.  We decided upon a rally point, and met up with the rider involved about an hour after the incident.  We all were shaken and humbled by the power of natures fury.

What if he had died in that avalanche?  Would I have explained to his wife the mistakes we had made?  Would I explain that all of us knew the situation was potentially unsafe with huge consequences yet we still continued forth?  Would I explain that we made poor terrain choices and were unable to bring her husband home alive?  Would we sugar coat it and use a phrase like, “at least he died doing what he loved”?  Would we be able to face her?  Would we embrace her?  Would we tell the truth?  Would we share this event with others so the same mistakes could perhaps be avoided?

I felt such shame after this incident.  I’m supposed to be a leader in the community, how could I do something so stupid.  There is a simple answer.  I am human and humans do make mistakes.  The beauty is we can learn from each other and learn from our mistakes, which I have.  We all have.

If we lose the shame stigma and reach out to others humbly when we screw up we could actually save a life.  If we do not minimize the potential consequences of poor choices, and choose to say it like it is, we could save a life.

When riders reach out after making a mistake, there always will be those who want to use our mistakes as fuel against our sport.  “Those stupid snowmobilers should be banned from the back country”.  How often after an avalanche fatality do you hear a reference to Darwinism?  It really isn’t hard to understand why people may try to keep their poor choices a secret, but at some point we have to focus on what truly matters.  Lives, lives matter.

If you make a mistake be a person of honor and share that mistake with other riders so that they may learn and hopefully not repeat it.  If you have triggered a slide without injury or fatality utilize the Mountain Information Network found at http://www.avalanche.ca  to report and log your incident and snowpack information.  The MIN and other reporting resources help give others a deeper understanding of snow pack conditions allowing them to make safer and more informed decisions.

Be a rider of integrity and truth.  While you may feel shame and perhaps ridicule when sharing your poor choices, you can help create a safer and stronger snowmobile community by doing so.

Here’s a Link to Avalanche Canada

Don’t forget to check Avalanche Conditions

a list of a Avalanche Skills Training courses

Throttle Decisions

A snowmobilers promise to her children

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.

  1. 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.
  2. I will continue to advance my avalanche and back country training and will keep my skills sharp and well-practiced.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. I will always choose my riding companions wisely to avoid becoming collateral damage from someone else’s mistakes.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

Let’s blame Snowmobilers. A Caribou Recovery story.

Kokanee Country Snowmobile Club AGM November 5th 2016

Tuesday morning was upon me.  Sipping my coffee I braced for it.  The influx of questions from those who didn’t attend our Snowmobile Club AGM.  Word was spreading like wild fire.  More Caribou Closures.

The South Selkirk herd of Caribou have been threatened for decades now.  Millions of dollars and failed efforts to grow the numbers has resulted in additional snowmobile closures.  I get it.. we are an insignificant user group by many standards and much easier to push around than other economic stimulators such as Logging and Mining.

My mind wanders.   I envision a round table of suited individuals discussing the caribou situation.. “Ya that herd is pretty much toast.  If we lose any more caribou, it will look like we are a failure at our jobs.. so lets pretend we have a solution to the decline and blame the snowmobilers.. all the bleeding hearts in Surrey Edmonton and Toronto hate those guys!  This will be easy.  When the caribou die, we won’t let on that we had no idea what we were doing and totally avoided implementing all recovery strategies simultaneously as was recommended. We’ll just blame snowmobilers!  They can’t fight us. They are their own worst enemy…. quick someone get Miley on the phone stat.. we may need her again for this one”..

It’s always fun to participate in meetings when you know your voice will never be heard.  When you ask valid questions yet are told to stop being argumentative.  Wait What?  I can’t ask a valid question that pertains to conservation efforts, the purchasing of land to exclude public access, and caribou recovery efforts that may result in the closing of land?

Questions like:

Are you planning on doing a maternity pen for the South Selkirk herd? I have questions regarding the age of the cows and genetic diversity but I am not a biologist as I have been often reminded.  Like the time I said um… aren’t the caribou you transplanted up the pass a different ecotype than the caribou already there?  If they are used to pawing the ground for food, do you really think they’ll get the hang of the whole eating lichen off a tree thing?  I was shushed, patronized and told there there dear… you can’t possibly understand as you are not a biologist.  Surprise.. it didn’t work.. those poor caribou were basically sent to their death.. not so happily ever after like..

How many caribou died during the maternity pen efforts? Doing the math it appears that you may have forgotten to share with us the fact that your maternity pen may have resulted in mortality INSIDE the pen.  The number of released animals doesn’t quite match the amount of animals that you enclosed initially?  Now we know I’m no biologist.. and my mathematics grades in school were less than stellar.. but I’m pretty sure that doesn’t add up.  How did they die? Do you have pictures?

Are moose populations being threatened in an effort to bring back caribou numbers?

Are any other species of animals being put at risk in an effort to bring back caribou numbers?

(I am starting to see a pattern.  There seems to be an unusually high amount of mortality in this caribou recovery effort)

If my snowmobile club is considered a stake holder in the Selkirk Purcell Caribou recovery implementation plan why are we not invited to stake holder meetings?  Why is our provincial BCSF not invited to stake holder meetings on our behalf?

Is your telemetry data up to date or are you trying to wow us with caribou use in areas based upon telemetry from data 10 or 15 years ago?

Are you continuing to reduce the number of wolves in areas with Caribou?

If you are purchasing land to conserve wildlife are you participating in reducing competitive prey species, and wolf culling? Doesn’t that work against the whole “we bought this land to preserve wildlife” platform?  Oh and one more.. I appreciate logging in my community, but if you are purchasing land to preserve it’s natural state, and are  limiting access via motorized recreation why are they still logging it?  Oh right.. economic viability.. have you taken a look at the positive effect snowmobile tourism has on our economy?

Oh man, I’m such a bad ass… how DARE I ask questions such as these.

If you say federal dollars are not utilized to facilitate projects such as penning projects and other initiatives, who pays for the governmental staff hired to monitor “progress”?

I could go on and on.. I have a LOT of questions, with very little answers being provided.  WE have a lot of questions left unanswered.  We as Snowmobilers.

My son Leo and I enjoying an adventure in Ymir BC

That really is the truth of the matter.  It isn’t politically correct to kill wolves… It isn’t wise for the economic viability of many British Columbian towns to limit logging and mining, but those snowmobilers…many hates us based on the propaganda shared from our less than stellar moments.  Every time someone is caught in a closure, demonstrates a lack of safety or stewardship it is another nail in the coffin for snowmobilers. Here is an idea to the next generation of up and comers in the snowmobile scene.. how about put down the selfie stick and your incessant drive for “likes” on social media and jump in to help organized snowmobiling.  Your power and your voice can help make a difference  It may in fact, be a crucial turning point in this whole fiasco. Sure selfies aren’t in themselves a destructive force of evil.. but hey.. if you’re out there in the public eye make it count!

Me in a gnarly sandwich with the British Columbia Snowmobile Federation Executive Director Donegal Wilson and President Richard Cronier

The voice that fights for us is called organized snowmobiling.  The clubs and the Provincial representation that fight against closures are only as strong as the foundation it grows from.  Twenty freakin Percent of snowmobilers support their local club, or the clubs in the areas they enjoy.  20% support the sport… but it’s usually the 80% that I hear from who complain that “we” are doing nothing to stop closures..

The calls began.. preparing myself for the worst I braced myself for call number one.  Honestly I was a little frustrated.  We had just had our AGM which took hours for me to prepare.  Slide Show, dialogue, data compilation to show case what we are up against, what we are planning and what we hope we can accomplish this season as a club.  Some are working or have other valid excuses for not being at the AGM, but many don’t attend or support the club because they resent having to pay to play.

I was pleasantly surprised by the words being spoken on the other end of my telephone.  There was no blame, there was no animosity only questions.  Good solid questions about what “WE” as a club, a user group can do.  I tried to hide the emotion in my voice.  What was once a non supporter of the club.. one of the “what does my club do for me” kind of people was offering to help, and offering to pitch in to facilitate a solution.  One member at a time our club can grow, our efforts can grow and our voice can grow.  He truly and honestly got it.  This was a fantastic and inspiring telephone call!

Look at those hooligan snowmobilers giving back in the name of safety.  How dare they

There are many times I think to myself, why.. oh why am I taking time away from my family and my personal life to be an advocate for snowmobiling.  Pull that cord and go..many enjoy the sport that way.. surely I can too?  That one phone call  call reaffirmed why I am involved, and why I care.  Our people matter, our sport matters, and we as human beings matter. The next phone call of my day however sent me into a spiral of eff bombs and chopping fire wood to release my rage…Clearly I’m not the only one frustrated.

I work for the British Columbia Conservation foundation, and have had many conversations with informed objective experts. My job is awesome, and has a clear cause and effect with efforts.  Help people remove food attractants that entice wild animals into areas near humans and teach them how to be safe coexisting with the wild animals around them results in less wildlife destroyed, safer communities, and we all live happily ever after.  I love animals, I love people, I love snowmobiling, and I love my time spent in the back country.  I don’t dislike Caribou, I dislike political agenda that utilizes my Tax dollars to work against me.  How many politicians are simply sick of the Caribou issue and would like it to go away?  (I feel like Oscar from Corner Gas… My Taxes pay your Salary!!!)

We do have political support.  Caribou recovery meeting in Victoria BC

I can count 12 Federal and Provincial politicians who feel frustrated with the Caribou recovery implementation plan.  They see the writing on the wall and take heat when money is spent without producing a favorable result.  It’s political suicide if they were to say.. Ok enough is enough.. The Caribou issue is really wasting millions of tax dollars that could be utilized elsewhere but those environmental preservationists have a lot of money and media attention.  If we abandon Caribou recovery in non viable areas (Selkirk Purcell herd) and focus efforts on herds that have potential to grow we could actually succeed at this Caribou recovery game, but those preservationalists would never let that happen.  It amazes me that mismanagement of living breathing animals leaves preservationalists unphased in the world of animal rights.

Why are Caribou so much more valuable than the moose?  That moose populations around Revelstoke can be reduced to the point of becoming threatened yet no one blinks an eye?  (the idea of competitive prey reduction from what I gather is if wolves have less to eat they will reduce in numbers therefor potentially increasing caribou numbers) What a shock.  It didn’t quite pan out that way.  Are Caribou seriously more important than Moose, elk, deer and people?

The creature isn’t the issue, the political mismanagement is a huge issue.  Political agenda, political flexing of power, and other political crap blows smoke and mirrors to the masses.. the only way to fight politics, is with politics.

Membership truly DOES matter and makes a difference!

Many were  thrown for a loop with the latest snowmobile closures for it appears that political agenda has hopped borders.  First Nations representatives in Idaho claim a vested interest on the Caribou that reside primarily up the Salmo Creston Pass near Creston BC.  That was an unexpected twist of events.. but really was it?  Let’s face it, organized snowmobiling is under funded, under supported and composed of volunteers with limited political experience.  Of COURSE this would happen!  How could it not? We don’t have unlimited funds to fight for our cause.  Funds to help us publish and circulate a media campaign in support of our sport.  Funds to hire professionals to lobby on our behalf. We have people like me.  Mothers, Fathers, Grandfathers, and other every day Canadian Citizens trying to balance their passion for the sport with earning a living to support a family.  We’re tired and burnt out, but we are still trying.

Look at those hooligans at it again!  Me with Past BCSF President Erin Hart presenting a sizeable donation to the BC Lions Club Society for Disabled Children.  Someone needs to stop them!

Twenty percent of snowmobilers support organized snowmobiling.  In Creston my estimates indicate there are more than 200 active snowmobilers in our community, yet we increased membership last year to a mere 65.  Riders from Salmo, Fruitvale, Trail, Idaho and Washington all enjoy our Salmo Creston Pass without supporting the club. The club is small without trail head monitoring.  We do not have the man power to chase you down for your contribution, but why should we?  I want to spend my Sundays and Mondays out in the back country slaying fresh powder do you really think I need to chase you down for your contribution?  Do you really think we are maintaining user agreements, developing trail systems and staging areas, constructing and insuring warm up cabins and grooming so you can simply show up?  on a side note.. if Trump is elected will he build a wall to keep our Snow Mexicans and Caribou safely contained in Canada?  I’m ok with the wall if it means those who don’t support our riding area and club are refused access.  . Walls for everyone!!!   We all feel it, unjust political agendas pushing to limit or eliminate our sport. We all share a sense of interdependence, so working together will benefit all of us, no matter if we live in Canada or the United States.  Support the sport, and support the areas you ride.

If you are a snowmobiler who does not support organized snowmobiling what are your plans?  The whole “I’ll ride anywhere I want” doesn’t hold a lot of oomph when your truck and snowmobile are impounded and fines presented.  Ride wherever you want types of mentality actually fuel more closures.. giving the nay sayers ample ammunition to throw in our faces when user agreements are in jeopardy.  I’ll do what I want, whenever however I want… Ya may have worked for Snoop Dog, but lets face it.. Mr Snoop has wayyyy more money than snowmobile clubs or organizations with skilled legal advisers and a marketing strategy team watching his 6 so he can spout out that I’m a rebel crap with little back lash or opposition.

Realistically I can tell you the future looks bleak if we can’t get our shiznit together.  If we can’t work together to support the sport it will be no more.  It’s happened before in other countries like Norway where it is illegal to ride snowmobiles for fun.  http://blogs.transparent.com/norwegian/snowmobiling-in-norway/ and lets face it how many of us would continue to enjoy our sport if we had restrictions pertaining to off trail use, or the banning of 2 stroke engines?

I love back country riding, I love the adventure and I love having the right to enjoy the sport of snowmobiling but we the people have to speak up for ourselves.  Our voice is amplified by  organized snowmobiling.  Please support your club, and support your right to ride.  Be a voice, be a volunteer, but first of all please be someone who represents the sport of snowmobiling in a positive way to break down negative stereo types that plague our efforts.  Be the change, by being a member!

Brand Bashing and Boobies

As I was cruising through facebook today I was a little shocked at the recent contest give away posted by a new up and coming snowmobile gear company.  Normally I would have been all high fives and props to the company for getting out there and engaging directly with his demographic, but this was different.

The contest give away was based on the best brand bashing meme posted, and he started the ball rolling with his own meme.  This was a direct bash towards Polaris Snowmobiles.  I’m sure he thought all in good fun as he said,  but in that moment I associated his company with this brand bash and was instantly repelled.. ok disgusted.  He turned me away from wanting to support him in any way shape or form.

I am a potential consumer, so if you feel it necessary to bash my brand, I will not support your brand.  I am a writer, and often cover and review new up and comers in the market place but I’m sorry sir, you will be the last company I have interest in covering.  Some may say I am perhaps a bit over sensitive, for a little bit of brand bashing is kind of how us sledders roll.  We all tease, and joke don’t we?

I suppose that is true, but at the end of the day, a true snowmobiler really doesn’t care about the brand you ride, simply that you’re grinning while doing so.  Dirt bikers have it pretty much figured out.  Very little brand bashing happens between yellow orange red green and blue.  Snowmobilers on the other hand can get a bit out of control on social media in my opinion.  A genuine technical question can be posted and immediately some feel the need to jump in, brand bash and tell them what they should have purchased instead.  It can be merciless at times, and in my opinion quite embarrassing.

It comes down to personal preference and what you feel comfortable on.  All manufacturers have it going on now in my opinion, and all have had bugs to work out.  No sled has consistently been the holy grail of shred mobiles.  I love Polaris, and ride it well.  My axys even better than the pro chassis, but that is me.  My preference.  My shred crew is doo, cat, polaris, and even snow bikes.  The thing we all have in common is a thirst for freshies, and laughter.

What does this have to do with boobies you may ask.  I figure his post was a prime example of attention seeking behavior.  Like the girls who want to “be someone” in the snowmobile world and cut off their foreheads in pictures to flash tatas.  They may be lovely, but in the end it is an attention seeking sell out much like that attempt instigating brand bashing.  Congratulations, you have captured the attention of many individuals, and guaranteed, some of them are thinking along the same lines as I.   I didn’t stick around to view the rest of the thread, because I choose to ignore crap on the internet rather than engage in it.  (I did screen shot it though for future reference)

Haters will be hating, and I’m sure once again I’ll see the same kind of “oh your just jealous”   No, not even remotely close.  I am just wanting people to focus more on what matters in our sport, for that is what will define us in the long term.  Getting down right nasty to new riders based upon their brand choice will most certainly not inspire a warm Kumbaya feeling for our people, and boobs, well sooner or later they will begin to sag and lose their market appeal.

If you want to make a lasting impression in the snowmobile world, make a difference.  Help the sport by reaching out to new riders, supporting clubs and being a shining example of safety and stewardship.  It is what our sport needs.  You may not receive as many “likes” on facebook and instagram but you will be helping to secure our sport for the long term.  Land issues are a HUGE concern across North America, so really who cares what brand you are loyal to if you are unable to ride your snowmobile due to motorized recreation closures.  And how about those Caribou?…….. facepalm

If you are a business in the snowmobile industry please support those who support the sport, and invest your energy and dollars there.  You have a stake in this equation.  It will boost your credibility and will help protect our sport thus increasing your customer base.  Dividing us will do nothing but feed the gutterball crap that poisons us against each other.  Many companies and manufacturers are doing it right, contributing to avalanche training, and the support of organized snowmobiling, welcoming new riders into the sport.

Thank you to the companies out there who are keeping it classy!  You are appreciated and needed.

Divas SnowGear‘s Stephanie Schwarts showing ladies how to rip in one of her back country clinics

Team Thunderstruck in support of Avalanche Canada is a shining example of those in the business supporting safety and organized snowmobiling.  The Revelstoke Snowmobile Club and their yearly event with support from their sponsors has donated over $55,000.00 to promote avalanche awareness for snowmobilers.  This is what truly matters to us right?

Choko Design/Icerock western Canada Sales representative Craig Moore not only works in the industry, he supports it.  He is the British Columbia Snowmobile Club Region Six director, he truly cares.  Recently Craig and Icerock donated an AST 1 for a widow of an avalanche victim who passed away this past season.

These are only a few examples of the many I will profile in future blogs and articles.  Using your position to support the sport absolutely makes a difference.

 

Thank you!

Trish… aka Sledmomma