Snowmachiner heads to Colorado seeking fresh powder, fast riding
Alaska’s winter took a vacation to the East Coast this year, leaving us with a pretty dismal snow situation. Some of us have admitted defeat and covered up our sleds, leaving them to collect dust. Others unable to accept winter’s rejection have resorted to using our machines as rock finders and stump locators.
But sled enthusiast Sean “Sully” Sullivan decided to pay his good friend Sahen Skinner a visit and take advantage of Colorado’s generous snow at Burandt’s Backcountry Adventures. We caught up with him, envying his close proximity to real snow, to talk about his adventure.
How do you know Sahen Skinner?
My nonprofit organization North Road Productions hosted the 2013 Amateur Sled Video Awards last May. We contacted Sahen to come up as a guest celebrity. Sahen’s a super down-to -earth guy, and we have a lot in common. We stayed in touch following the event and I consider him family.
What was your first impression of BBA?
When I first arrived I went into the shop where the office is. Initially there was a wow factor, especially meeting Chris Burandt. But overall, everyone there is so friendly, that wore off quick and the environment is just really relaxed. The lodge is straight out a Valhalla – it’s a Viking paradise. The view is out of this world, deer just roaming the property. The food was five star, nothing like coming back from a day of riding to a delicious warm meal. When you’re not riding there is plenty to do at the lodge. The staff at BBA is top notch – professional and genuine.
What sled did you ride at BBA?
I rode Sahen’s 2014 PRO RMK mod with a Carl’s cycle 900 motor that Sahen had dubbed “Redwood.” It’s like the 18-wheeler of the mountains, so much power and it never quits. Coming from sea level on an 860 big bore I was surprised at how much elevation affects the horsepower of a sled.
Describe riding in Colorado vs. Alaska?
If you’re proficient at riding in Alaska’s backcountry, you can handle Colorado. The trees are larger and less dense, allowing for some of the more nimble riders to take on the tree picking. Snow conditions are a step above the typical Alaskan crud snow, they have more consistent quality snow, never a problem finding some powder. The BBA crew is always nearby to assist if needed, although they will leave you enough room to problem solve on your own. The use every situation you encounter as a teachable moment, to improve you as a rider, and challenge you.
What are some skills you left BBA with that you didn’t have prior?
The biggest one is “work smarter and not harder.” Everything out there requires you to preplan 20 to 30 yards ahead, pick out your lines (or even more than one) beforehand. Another skill I gleaned is “the hop,” taking your weight off the sled with just a small hop so it can keep momentum and get back on top of the snow. This is not to be confused with a big jump or leap; you are literally just hopping two inches off the sled to get your weight off the running boards. It works amazing – you may look goofy but it’s legit. I also learned that momentum isn’t necessarily speed, it could be 30 mph or maybe even 3 mph to get you over, or through, an obstacle. Throttle control is key.
I also learned the art of breathing down to avoid fogging up your goggles. The biggest lesson I learned was look up, look up, look up! You will always go where you look, it’s a simple concept. It’s all stuff I knew, but BBA fine-tuned.
Did you go with the crew guiding clients?
A group of crazy Canadians, a rambunctious foursome, were there when I was visiting. On my last day I even got a chance to guide for BBA running sweep and getting everyone unstuck for the day, one of the highlights of my trip. The crew from Canada was a blast!
Watching BBA interact with clients – what is something that stood out to you?
All the guides get to know their clients personally; they take time to find out what each person is looking to get out of the experience. They don’t just spend the day with you on the mountain, they also have breakfast and dinner at the lodge, which I think is pretty awesome.
Burandt’s is up in the mountains. Describe the physical challenges of riding at that elevation?
Riding at 10,00 feet is crazy difficult. Coming from sea level, I found it hard to breathe, having to stop constantly to catch my breath. It takes a few days to acclimate; I would recommend riding one day, taking a day off then resuming the rest of the trip. That first day’s a doozy.
What is something you would do differently when you go back?
I would get in better shape beforehand, keeping up with the best in the industry isn’t for the faint of heart! I’d like to think I’m in shape, I lead an active lifestyle, but after spending a week at high elevation, I realized I might be wrong, and why professional athletes train there.