There is no shortage of talented athletes that call Alaska home. Over the season, Alaska SnowRider will highlight a few of them in our pages. Our first hidden gem is straight out of Craig, in southeast, Alaska. Craig is the largest town on Prince of Wales Island, with a population of around 1,200 people. Emmett Melton first caught my attention as a rider for Sled Descent, and seeing he was from Alaska I started following his budding career via Facebook. The sport of snowmachining has a mixed review as far as reputation goes, but as the sport grows people like Emmett are doing their part to not only represent the sport positively, but also Alaska. If you want to keep up on all his crazy shenanigans this sledding season look him up on Instagram @emmettdmelton or add Emmett Melton via Facebook.
Melton shared a few minutes with us in this recent question and answer:
SnowRider: Are you Alaska grown or a transplant?
Melton: Alaska grown!
SR: Being you’re Alaska grown, does that mean you’ve been riding since birth?
EM: I’ve been riding sleds basically all my life.
SR: Not asking for the GPS to your secret stash of powder or anything, but give me a general idea of where you like ride in Alaska.
EM: Since I have yet to hit up some of the well-known riding areas in Alaska like Lost Lake, Valdez and Whittier I would have to say Summit Lake. When the snow conditions are prime the riding is absolutely amazing. Our local area down here on Prince of Wales Island provides some pretty technical treelines, steep mountains and wicked open areas to carve up all the fresh powder you want. I’m always open to traveling and exploring new areas in Alaska.
SR: Are you a sponsored athlete?
EM: Yes, I have been very fortunate to be working with some of the best companies and groups in the snowmobile industry for the past few years. They have all provided me with excellent support and top-of-the-line products and because of that I am able to do what I do in the backcountry. I can’t thank the following companies enough for everything they do for me: Klim, 509inc, Sledwraps, C&A Pro Skis, B&M Fabrications, RSI Racing, Mountain Addiction, IceAge Performance, Atlas Braces, Blownmotor, Sled Descent, TheRiderScope, NWSledder, AdrenalineNW, Sledjunkies & Cobra Pull Cords.
SR: Every rider has personal goals, share with us some of yours … and where do you see yourself in the future of the industry?
EM: I would have to say my biggest goal is to keep the progression going each year. I have spent countless hours this past summer going over all my footage from prior years and seeing what I can improve and areas and lines I may have missed that would be sick to explore.
I see myself continuing to grow within the sledding industry and my dream since I was a little kid —and I’m pretty sure it’s the same one every other kid has— is to be featured in a major sled video. I would like to get out and do a bit more traveling to meet up with some of the best riders in the industry to push myself and learn as much as possible from them.
SR: As always the touchy subject of brand comes into play. What sled are you currently riding and what about it appeals to you as a rider?
EM: Currently I own a 2013 Arctic Cat Proclimb M800 Snopro 153-inch with a few extras added over the past few years. I will be on a 2014 Polaris Assault 155-inch this year that will have some pretty sweet extras on it. The reasons why I chose ’13 Cat was the power that motor produces is pretty hard to beat along with its rigid chassis it was a no brainer. I am making the switch over to Polaris because I like to switch it up every two years and that Assault caught my attention. I’m stoked to get on a new sled and chassis and see what I am able to do this year.
SR: We’ve all been beat up by our machines, riding is a dangerous sport. What kind of close encounters and mishaps have you had along the way?
EM: When you’re pushing your limits every year you tend to have accidents and many near misses which I have had plenty. I would have to say the one that has stuck with me was when I was in high school. We were waiting to board a flight to head out on another sports trip when we decided to go for a quick ride. My first mistake was not grabbing my helmet. Back then I was riding a 2001 MXZ 600, which was a pretty sweet little ride. We came across some overflow on the river I didn’t think much of it so I lined up and pinned it. Everything was going fine until I let off the throttle nearing the other side, my left ski went under the ice and all I remember is getting thrown from the sled head first into the icy water. The sled ended up doing three of four cartwheels up and over me, she was totaled and I was badly cut up and bruised. My boots were even ripped off and laying about 10 feet away. From this day on I never went out without the proper safety gear.
SR: Who is someone in this industry who has had an influenced you as a rider?
EM: With so many amazing riders out there today it’s pretty hard to pick one, so here are two of them. I’d say my biggest influence would be Chris Burandt, that guy is so smooth when it comes to riding whether it be in the trees, deep powder or mountain sides he makes it look effortless. I have watched him since the early Sledneck days and to see what he has accomplished within this industry is simply amazing. Another rider that has really made me push it these past few years to get better and see what I can do is Brett Turcotte – that guy is an animal on a sled and I love watching how huge he sends it out there. The tricks he is throwing down off some of those hits is downright crazy but that’s what drives me to get out and ride. I was lucky enough to meet both these guys along with many other amazing riders this past August at the 509 premier down in Spokane, Wash. Although it was a very quick trip; it was well worth it and I look forward to one day meeting up with these guys to ride.
SR: Since very few of us can pay the bills riding, what do you do for a day job?
EM: I am currently a grocery department manager for one of the largest retail companies in Alaska; I’ve been with them for 14 years. It definitely keeps me busy I typically work six days a week so trying to get out and ride on a perfect day is pretty hard to do. What I do is save all my vacation time throughout the year for sledding and I take advantage of that the best I can, I will be trying to do a bit of traveling this season into British Columbia and possibly a few other places that I am still working on.
SR: What is it about Alaska that keeps you calling it home? Any plans to move in the near future?
EM: Alaska is full of adventures and it’s been home since day one for me and I don’t think I’ll ever leave.
SR: Have you had the opportunity to ride outside of Alaska?
EM: Yes, this past season we had a very poor snow year – it came extremely late in the season, so three of us set out on a trip to Smithers, B.C., to see if we could find some good snow to ride. We did! It was a blast. We spent a week there exploring different areas, found a bunch of technical treelines, steep mountains and of course deep snow.
SR: How did it compare?
EM: It’s hard to compare British Columbia to Alaska. They are both incredible places to ride and like I said earlier I will be looking to do more exploring in Alaska as well as B.C. this year.
SR: What advice would you give to local Alaskan kids who want to pursue a career in the sled industry?
EM: Don’t every give up. In the sledding industry you are definitely going to have many ups and downs along the way, but if you stay positive and keep that progression going forward you’ll prevail. Another major subject is safety. If you don’t have the proper safety gear, invest in some. You never know when it might save you from really hurting yourself.
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