Did technology fail or are there other factors to consider with your GPS communication device?

With safety a primary focus for all backcountry users, especially snowmobilers, GPS communication devices such as an InReach, Spot, or Sat-Phones are highly recommended. Although in theory this is excellent practice, user error and other factors can compromise the effectiveness of these electronic devices.

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When dealing with GPS based technology there are very important factors to consider says the creator of the Never Lost Trail Map ap, and owner of Top-line Surveys Ltd. Allan Bouchard.

Sky View: Any GPS unit needs a clear unobstructed view of the sky in order for the satellite signals to be received. An obstruction such as a mountain, canyon, dense forest will not allow for a clear line of site to the satellites needed to relay communication effectively. Bouchard recommends that at least 500 m radius of clear sky view should be present for maximum effectiveness.

Calibration of signal: GPS, which was developed by the American military, uses a network of satellites orbiting more than 2000 km above the earth. GPS devices pick up the signals from these satellites and use them to calculate their position. Satellites are in constant motion and in any given 2 hour time frame multiple satellites may rise and set over the horizon. If you are looking to initiate communication from an InReach or SPOT device, allow for at least 15 minutes of unobstructed sky view for your unit to calibrate. Satellite signals are typically south facing, so allowing for the unit to be pointed in a south facing direction will facilitate the effectiveness of the unit.

Solar Flares: While the average individual will notice very little if any effect on their daily lives when a solar flare occurs, engineers and those who work with electronics will notice disruptions. When magnetic energy builds up in the sun’s atmosphere and needs to be released, the result is an enormous explosion of radiation sending blasts of tiny charged particles streaming into space. Devices that are GPS reliant will notice communication disruptions, for the satellite signal is not coming through a consistent atmosphere. The same disruption occurs with Northern Lights, which are also a solar flare event. It is important to understand the effects of Solar Flares on your GPS communication device and to always have a Plan B for backup.

Plan B: It is always important to have a pre-trip plan including where you are going, number in your party and estimated time of return left with a friend or family not on your adventure. Should you be stranded, they will have accurate information to provide Search and Rescue crews with, facilitating your safe return. Multiple communication devices are recommended, which includes multiple InReach, or SPOT communicators in your group. GPS units can become damaged over time, or as we have discussed human error could prevent a unit from being effective. Multiple communication units could mean the difference between being stranded or rescued.

Damage: Any electronic technology can become worn out or damaged over time. Always provide a secure place for your GPS Communication unit such as a secure carrying case not floating around in a backpack. The vibration alone could compromise the antennae or electronic components rendering the unit useless. Test your unit to insure integrity, and store in a safe location when out in the backcountry.

Be responsible: While there are many stories of the misuse of a Spot or InReach including users initiating an SOS to report a travel-mates snoring, water tasting salty, and other ridiculous situations, there are also real safety concerns to address. Search and Rescue volunteers will be coming out to help you, but this by no means means it’s an instant beaming up and out of your predicament. Be sure to pack anything you need to survive a night out in the backcountry including extra layers, hydration and medications you may need for health and wellness. The ability to start a fire is critical not only for survival but to signal for help. Pack multiple fire starting options to ensure a functional fire. More on what to pack

New Riders: If you are a new rider, or visiting an area unfamiliar with you please hire a guide to insure you are riding within your capabilities. Do not follow tracks and assume it is safe. The Never Lost Trail Maps ap is an excellent resource which not only helps you navigate trail systems, the ap also provides ATES terrain ratings and other valuable navigation suggestions to help you ride within your skill set. Never Lost Trail Maps will also provide you real time navigation, allowing you navigate trails and showcasing potential lifesaving warm up shelters. The ap was created out of Bouchard’s frustration realizing some individuals died from exposure merely 100m from a cabin.

Do not wait till the last minute: If you find yourself in a situation where you must call for help do not wait until the end of the day to do so. Safety is a key concern for everyone including SAR volunteers. Darkness especially during times of high avalanche cycles could prevent a speedy extraction.

To find Never Lost Trail maps, it is available on Google Play and Apple’s App Store

When Disaster strikes the UP it’s Snowmobilers to the rescue!

The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is an outdoor destination for many adventurous tourists. The multitude of trails provides endless snowmobiling, skiing, mountain biking and hiking opportunities bringing a much-needed boost to the local economy. Some say, without those tourism dollars, many of the smaller towns in the UP would fail to exist.


Flash Flooding in June and July of 2018 left these trails in a complete state of disaster, with an estimated 21 million dollars in damage. Several of the trails have been shut down resulting in a huge economic blow to the area for the many businesses that rely upon tourism dollars especially in the winter months.

Matt Virtanen, a Snowmobiler from Oshkosh Wisconson enjoys riding the UP, and after hearing of the devastating loss knew he had to try to make a difference. “It is horrible. Bridges were washed out and massive sinkholes 30 to 40 feet deep in some spots are all that is left of many of our trails”.

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Event organizer Matt Virtanen

The State of Michigan will be covering 75% of the 21 million dollars needed to rebuild the trail infrastructure, with the remainder coming from outside sources. Virtanen decided to organize a fundraiser and began rallying the snowmobile troops into action!

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Virtanen was overwhelmed by the generosity and passion by those who eagerly reached out to support their efforts. Donations began to flood in, some from 300 miles away, with riders and businesses eager to help in any way they could.

Polaris Ambassador Tonya Nelson heard about the efforts to rebuild the UP Trails and knew she needed to help. “I fell in love with the UP 3 years ago. It is such a gorgeous area to ride and the residents are so warm and welcoming to snowmobilers.” Nelson explains. Helping to spread word of the fundraiser, and gather donations, she was elated when Polaris Snowmobiles reached out to support the fundraiser, donating prizes to be raffled.

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Polaris Snow Ambassador Tonya Nelson jumped in to support the UP Trail Fundraiser

The event will be held January 26th, 2019 and begins with a backcountry guided ride. There are 22 people registered for the six-hour ride that meanders through the UP. “we had to cap the ride at 22 people for safety reasons, which quickly filled up. The response was awesome” shared Virtanen. “Snowmobilers are awesome people!”.

Individuals must be 21 to participate in the evening event held at The Range Lounge in South Range Michigan. There will be live music, and endless opportunities to win one of the many prizes donated by event supporters. “There are helmets, gear bags, shovels, goggles, T-shirts, vacation packages and so much more up for grabs” Shared Nelson and all proceeds go to the Portage Health Foundation, the distributor of trail repair funds.

Matt Virtanen would like to thank all of the hard working volunteers and supporters of this fundraiser.

For more information on the event, and a complete list of sponsors, you can visit the Event Page https://www.facebook.com/events/2103637226551655/

And Follow the iRide906 group at iRide906

“Portage Health Foundation would like to thank Matt for putting this together. The Portage Health Foundation is privileged to be working with everyone and just had an update from the MDNR. If you would like to make a donation to the trail recovery effort and can’t attend the event, please visit http://www.phfgive.org/about-flood-relief.php. Simply follow the directions and put Flood/Trails in the comments section so we can properly record your donation”

Polaris Snow
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Shut your PIE HOLE … honey

Riding with your significant other can be awesome, but challenging at times, especially if you are a newbie. So many emotions and pattern behaviour from everyday life can seep into what should be fun recreation time, that both partners are left feeling frustrated.

I have a solution! Shut your pie hole, eloquently translates to can you please stop speaking to me at this moment, for I can see it will not facilitate the situation I have found myself in. If you add the word honey after it makes it sound loving, in an assertive kind of way.

What situations are conducive to shutting one’s pie hole you might ask?

Stupid stucks. We all make them from time to time, and the moment we can feel that loss of rpm and our track dig in we realize our stupid mistake. It absolutely doesn’t help when another rider comes by to state the obvious, especially if it is your significant other. If he starts razzing your arse it may be time to bust out the “Shut your pie hole honey”.

Fear. Everyone has different risk tolerance levels, and new riders have the cards stacked against them as they are bombarded by the unknown perpetually throughout the day. It is completely logical to fear the unknown. If your partner starts making fun of your very real fears, minimizing them into something ridiculous and mocking, it is absolutely time to bust out the “Shut your pie hole honey”, for no one but you understands your level of comfort in a situation, nor do they have the right to define your own personal emotions.

I recently received a call from a woman who was learning on a brand new chassis. Rather than allowing her the luxury of getting used to her sled in simple terrain, her husband chose a more aggressive ride, talking down to her as she struggled to find her legs. Everyone needs time to get used to a new chassis, no matter how long they have been riding, or if they are a man or woman. If your partner isn’t giving you that time to get used to your chassis.. you will need to take charge, perhaps find different riding companions, and most certainly tell him to “Shut his pie hole, honey”.

“Trish why did you hit that tree and break an A arm!!!!! Those things are expensive!!! You should have turned out sooner!! Way to wreck your sled”…Oh yup my hackles go up with this one. You know what? I woke up in the morning and set my goal for the day. It was to nail the largest conifer in the forest and break an A-arm so I could spend my hard earned dollars on a part I ruined leaving me zero fun money for Sleeman Honey Browns. Seriously no one wants to intentionally wreck their sled, but it’s all a part of learning and pushing your skills and boundaries. Sometimes Schizzle happens, and it happens to everyone. Don’t take any Schizzle ladies! Simply look him straight in the eyes, laugh and announce “Shut your pie hole honey for it’s all a part of snowmobiling”

On a recent thread on the Throttle Chix facebook page a lady rider shared her frustration with being over instructed when it wasn’t necessary. Sometimes women need to see their own lines, rather than hearing the incessant drone of “follow my line and go around the blah blah blah blah blah blah blah.. blah blah blah blah”.. yup Kev and I go through this once in a while.. If I ask for instruction, bring it, but if I don’t please let me try to figure it out in my mind. I am one that has to see a line in my mind before I will attempt it. I sometimes see a route that he didn’t or see a line that is more conducive to my skill set. Kev has mad skills, mine would be described as “a little bit cranky-skills” compared to his Mad skills. Let me figure it out even if I fail. If he continues to micro-manage me I absolutely will tell him to “shut his pie hole, honey”.

Below is proof that if I have any questions, I will ask. Meteor Mine Hillclimb Race 2014, I was asking everyone for advice. “You want me to climb that?!!” was my initial response looking at the course and the chute to top out at.

Keeping it light and fun during the learning stage of snowmobiling is imperative. There are going to be days that challenge you to the point you consider hanging up that helmet but don’t. It’s all a part of snowmobiling, and everyone feels that same frustration while learning. Laugh at yourself, and try not to take minor setbacks personally. We, women, are emotional creatures, and if we let ourselves go down the negative, self-loathing rabbit hole, it can be near impossible to climb out. This is why it is beneficial to have other female riding buddies who’ll absolutely understand your mindset.

Our Cycle Works Riding clinics were developed specifically for this reason. Women think different, ride different and react differently to a variety of situations and will learn better from other women riders in an environment where they feel supported and safe.

Women helping women. PC Boosted Imagery.

All in all, we are very lucky to have dudes that want us out there riding with them, rather than staying home in the kitchen without socks on. We have a wonderful opportunity to create lasting memories with epic adventures out there in the backcountry. It is so much fun to be treated like one of the guys riding with our crew and truly heart melting to see the look of pride on Kev’s face when I pull off a new skill or techy line. I seriously love and cherish my Snow Stud, and get even more twitterpated watching the ridiculously techy lines he makes look so elementary.

Dear lord I lucked out in the Sexy Department with my wonderful Snow Stud

Men, if you’re reading this, you are REALLY really REALLY fortunate to have a woman who wants to get out there and ride. No more questions of what to do on a Sunday, for the both of you know you’ll be heading out and busting up some freshies. When you feel frustration creep in, perhaps rather than doing any of the above irritating traits we’ve discussed, give her a huge hug, tell her you are proud of her, and then promptly “Shut your pie hole…….. honey”.

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Tim, Tim! He’s your man!! He’ll sell you an epic sled, and a GGB trail Can! https://www.cycleworksacheson.com/

The little things….Breaking in 850 Patriot Chuck Norris 2

My heart filled with love as I looked at him and all of his sexiness. “How lucky am I?” I thought to myself. To think a 47 year old redneck/hippie kind of woman landed such a magnificent beast to spend time with. While I love my super sexy snow stud husband, the sexy beast I speak of is my Cycle Works West 2019 850 Polaris Patriot 163 2.6.

It was Christmas day, and my husband Kev and I were out breaking in my new Polaris 850 Patriot. The snow-pack was still pretty skinny so a road ride was all that was safe at the time.

Waking up in the morning I felt an excitement in me that I hadn’t felt in such a long time. The feeling was so strong, 4:45am was all that my mind and body would allow for sleep. I had found my “WOO HOOOO NESS” again. Seriously Kev… wake up.. lets go!

Jumping back on to the Patriot felt so natural. I was lucky to have ridden prototypes with Polaris Corporate in Montana last February. Never have I been on a sled that I instantly felt at home and one with to this extent. So responsive to every shift of my body weight, a snowmobile this epic had to have an outstanding name. You do notice the lack of vibration after riding a full day on a Patriot. Less muscle fatigue is a wonderful plus.

Test riding the 2019 Polaris 850 Patriot in February 2018… pinch me.

My initial testing of 850 Patriot Prototypes in Februrary of 2018 was a little fuzzy. While it was an incredible blessing to be invited to test out these new sleds with a crew of elite epic and awesome snowmobilers in the industry I was incredibly ill at the time. Running a fever of a hundred and whatever, combined with Pneumonia, ridiculously high blood pressure and dash of altitude sickness, I was determined to get out there and try the Patriot out. “Trish how are you feeling?” Phatty asked continually (Thank you my friend for looking out for me) “Awesome” I’d reply in a laryngitis filled voice that resembled a cross between a Demon and Bull Frog. (Oh ya, I totally rode like a toad out there too during testing) Good times. Would the Patriot still be as epic as I remembered?

The day I arrived home from my incredible adventure. Sexy ya?

Although I had already dubbed my previous 2011 Polaris Pro RMK 800 Chuck Norris, the mind-blowing qualities of this snowmobile could only be best explained by that same name. Chuck Norris 2… my wonderful Chuck was back, stronger, lighter, faster and better than ever!

Kev was breaking in our friend’s 850 Patriot as well. Asking his input, I was truly dreading and bracing myself for his response. Yup, it knocked his socks off too, even during break-in. Not only did he LOVE the agility and the extra linear power of the 850 Patriot, judging by the look on his face I could see he would have a hard time jumping back onto his 16 Axys 800 and was already devising a plan to get his own Chuck Norris (Laura Croft??). It really is that big of a difference from the previous generation of Axys snowmobiles. The differences are so monumental that there are simply no words to fully explain. You must ride an 850 Patriot to truly get it.

If you’re riding a Patriot for the first time, be prepared to initially over- ride the sled. It requires less input than even the super agile Axys so your first hour could feel a little squirley until you get in the groove. I watched Kevs tracks go into the rhubarb a couple times during the first few kms of riding the super responsive chassis. It feels a little snow bike-ish but with 2 skis.

The running boards definitely have a sweet spot. Find that spot, and get a feel for the subtle shift of weight required for the sled to respond. Shifting your weight from side to side while travelling up the access trail will give you a good feel for the balance point. Use this time to become one with the feel for the throttle, and geometry.

When breaking in your 850 Patriot it’s important to give ‘er a little mustard while getting those first few miles on it. Slowly putting around will result in fouled plugs, so a little mustard will go a long way but not WOT, which could compromise an effective break-in. Your quick-drive belt will also need a little bit of breaking in, so transitioning in and out of the throttle on your initial break-in ride will allow the cogs on the belt to be worked in properly, preserving its integrity. Read more about Polaris Break in procedures here https://snowmobiles.polaris.com/en-us/self-help/article/KA-01150/

I had chosen a 174″ track length for my 17, and 18 Polaris Axys sleds which absolutely served their purpose. I wanted to become a little more skilled in the trees and gain some confidence in more techy terrain, so the 174 gave me the extra grace, flotation and traction to “get lucky” more often than not when schizzle was hitting the fan. Yes it was a long sled, with a 3″ track, but I did enjoy it. I could already sense, however, my transition down to a 163 2.6 was a good move with the Patriot. More agile, and less fighting with the 3″ track on harder packed snow was going to be fun! I am excited to really bust Chuck out when we get a little more snow to cover up some of the exposed landmines off the trail.

All in all, I can’t think of a better Christmas day to have. I am blessed that my husband is one who wants to ride during the holidays and truly blessed that we were able to spend Christmas Day aboard two spectacular Polaris 850 Patriots. If you don’t have an 850 Patriot… try one! You know you want to!

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Looking for a new unit? Give my Brother from another Mother a call! Tim’s the man!