By Kim Black, Divas Snow Gear Ambassador
Sometimes being small has its advantages. For instance, when I fly on the airlines I don’t take up the whole seat or much of the leg room. This means that I don’t end up awkwardly rubbing the arms or legs of the stranger next to me. Big win for me. On the other hand, as a petite, female rider, lack of weight can sometimes get in the way. The fact of the matter is, snowmachines although lighter than they used to be still weigh close to 500 pounds.
As a beginning rider, I spent most of my time trying to get a feel for my sled and controlling the power that was harnessed beneath me. Sometimes I won and sometimes the sled won. I can vividly remember one ride, coming down off a steep slope and seeing what looked to be a boulder covered in snow. My first instinct was to grab a fistful of brake so that I could slowly make it up and over the barrier in front of me.
The lack of throttle allowed my machine to come to an abrupt halt throwing me over my windshield into the snow head over heals. This resulted in breaking my cowling and windshield and bruising up my chest. After checking to confirm that nothing was too badly hurt or broken, my husband informed me that all I needed to do to prevent this from happening again was to use one of his favorite mottos, “when in doubt, throttle out.” This sounded like crazy talk to me. In my mind, if I had given the machine more gas this would have resulting in hitting the boulder with more force resulting in greater injury. A few of our other riding crew confirmed his statement and I decided to put this to the test. Our group crested the next ridge to find a wide open valley full of snow capped hills with various mounds of snow to practice my new technique on. Still cautious, I spent a few minutes going around potential jumps having a dialog inside of my head that sounded something like this. “Your husband loves you, he doesn’t want you to die, maybe he’s right for once.”
Finally, I remember gathering up the courage to take a leap of faith, literally, and to my surprise as I accelerated the throttle my skis pulled up and I was able to clear the hurdle and land in a fresh pile of snow. My adrenaline kicked in and all I knew was that I wanted more. More air and more throttle. This began my love affair with big air. Well, big air for me, as I said before I’m not that big so a little goes a long way. Harnessing the power, learning about throttle control and trusting your riding crew are all part of the transformation process to becoming an accomplished rider.
Moving a sled through deep snow and obstacles requires rider input and weight distribution.For females, this can mean that more focus needs to be placed on softening your suspension and placing handlebars at a height that allows for maximum maneuverability. Manufacturers are producing sleds that are making this maneuverability less and less difficult ensuring riders are exerting less energy distributing weight and more energy picking lines and boondocking through the trees.
A few years ago, I was reading one of the snowmobile magazines and came across an article on a riding technique called wrong foot forward. I read the article over and over and googled You Tube videos to see step by step how this worked. Bret Rasmussen’s name popped up (a talented rider and one of the pioneers of this technique) along with his how to video “Schooled”, filmed with Chris Burandt. My family watched this movie many times and couldn’t wait to try it out for ourselves.
Basically, the wrong foot forward position is when you move from the standard position (each of your feet in their correct running board) and place the wrong foot on the running board, for example the right foot is placed on the left running board. The left leg is then swung out either slightly or dramatically using your weight to tip the machine up and lift your right ski. This creates less rider fatigue by using your weight to lift the machine verses trying to use your muscles. Foot placement on the running board, toward the front, back or middle can impact where the balance point is when lifting your machine.
Quickly jumping from side to side (a Chris Burandt specialty) can help you maneuver through tighter treelines and other obstacles. This technique along with countersteering can help when sidehilling and again uses your weight to balance the machine, requiring less muscle and more skill.
Wrong foot forward will change everything about the way that you ride, and requires practice. As with anything worth having or doing the more you practice the better you become. Riding becomes more of a dance between you, your machine and your environment. On deep powder days, this will allow you to carve a tighter donut, to complete a longer sidehill and to pick a more difficult line. By learning and using the wrong foot forward riding technique and mastering throttle control the Alaska landscape is your dance floor and now all you have to do is get out there and tango.