BY: JOY SULLIVAN
This month, Alaska SnowRider would like to introduce Patrick Nephew of Anchorage in our Alaska Rider profile. Nephew has combined his passion for snowmachining with his passion for serving our country by creating and administrating the Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson Snowmachiners Club. His club brings service members together to talk about snow reports, gear reviews, to plan rides, or buy, sell, and trade equipment. JBER Snowmachiners Club works with Anchorage Snowmobile Club and the local avalanche safety schools. You can find Nephew and JBER Snowmachiners Club on Facebook.
SnowRider: Are you Alaska grown or a transplant?
Nephew: I’m a transplant.
SR: Where did you call home before Alaska?
PN: I have lived in Alaska for two years, and I arrived from Colorado in 2012.
SR: How long have you been a sledhead?
PN: I had my first ride when I was maybe 2 or 3 years old. Then in the mid-’90s, my parents got away from snowmobiling for awhile and we (my family) got more into fishing, hunting and four-wheeling. In the early 2000s, we hopped back on the sleds. I remember I wanted a snowmobile so bad that I bugged my parents like crazy to get one, I even made a big collage of sled pictures on my bedroom wall to persuade them into getting me one. Then one day my dad came home and I was sleeping the day away like a normal teenager when my parents had to drag me out of bed to go out to the truck. In the back was a 2000 Arctic Cat ZR 440 SnoPro and I was so excited! My dad said he wanted to take it out first to ride it and make sure everything was OK on it. Well, he loved that ride so much that he kept it for himself and my wait for a sled continued. Then when I was 14, my parents came home with a Polaris XCR 440 Special, and I rode that thing all the way until I left for the Army.
SR: Not asking for the GPS coordinates to your secret stash of powder or anything, but give me a general idea of where you like to ride in Alaska.
PN: My favorite places to ride in Alaska changes on the snow conditions. But I do like the Palmer side of Hatcher Pass, Lost Lake, Johnson Pass, Skookum and Petersville.
SR: Are you a sponsored athlete?
PN: No, but I hope to be one day!
SR: Every rider has personal goals, share with us some of yours, and where do you see yourself in the future of this industry?
PN: My goals are to continue to push myself, learn new riding techniques, teach what I know and make the sport more known. Where I would like to see myself in the industry? Oh man, I want to continue to ride and make films. I made a film a few years ago and submitted it to an amateur sled film competition. I ended up winning the military portion of the competition but didn’t win the grand prize. But it only made me want to produce more riding films with better angles, riding, and scenic shots of our beautiful state. All in all, I want to be a big-time backcountry rider, I mean who doesn’t want to be a big name in a growing industry?
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?
PN: I ride a 2012 Polaris Pro RMK 800 155-inch track. I’ve ridden every style and brand; and they are all good in one way or another. I started riding mountains on a REV chassis and I loved it, then I tried my buddy’s M series back in Colorado and fell in love with the maneuverability and I knew I had to have one. Then one day while riding at Turnagain, I tried an XM and a PRO and I fell in love all over again with how nimble the PRO was and how all I had to do was think about leaning the sled over and it just went the way I wanted it to. It sidehilled like a dream and the look of a PRO is just so sick, I knew I couldn’t pass it up. As for the engine size and track length, I’m 6-foot-4 and almost 200 pounds. I knew I needed that 800-power plant since my M Series was a 700 and I got stuck a lot going places that I couldn’t handle, and a 144 would look like a toy with me on it. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to have a PRO and an XM, but I just can’t afford that – yet.
SR: We’ve all beat up our machines. Riding is a dangerous sport. What kind of close encounters or mishaps have you had along the way?
PN: I was in a wreck with my dad when I was a little guy. We were out for a simple trail ride and we were flying across a field back in Wisconsin when we hit some sort of irrigation ditch or something. I slammed forward into the handle bars and my helmet made contact first. The impact of the helmet hitting the handlebars cracked my jaw. It looked like I had a softball for a chin. I have been lucky on the mountains. I’ve had my fair share of spills, bumps, and bruises, though. I would say the worst accident, while in Alaska, was when I was riding Turnagain on a whiteout day. I flew over a cornice that I didn’t see and sailed about 50 feet through the air and slammed into the front of my sled, giving me what felt like a concussion.
SR: Who is someone in the industry who has influenced you as a rider?
PN: Kris Smasher Kaltenbacher of Boondockers has been a Facebook friend of mine for a few years now and he takes time out of his day to give me tips and advice on new equipment and always keeps me motivated while being deployed overseas and whatnot. I’ve never met the guy in person, but he just seems like a stand-up guy to do that for someone he’s never met. Same goes for Matt Entz and Sahen Skinner. All three are big-time names and still take time to talk to me if I have questions. The biggest that I look up to though are the big three that taught me how to ride: my friend who taught me how to ride mountains, Sheen Thomas; Mike Keller, my dad’s best friend; and of course; my dad, Tim Nephew, who pushed me to be better and want something more out of myself both on the snow, and in life.
SR: Since very few of us can pay the bills with snowmachining, what is your day job?
PN: I am a Staff Sgt. in the U.S. Army. I have served for a little over eight years now. I am a paratrooper and I love it. As for my actual job I’m a combat engineer. Trained in land mines, TNT, C4 explosives and pretty much anything that goes boom. But, that just one little part of it. Combat engineers are experts in providing U.S. forces with mobility, counter mobility, and survivability on the battlefield. You name it, we can do it. In the time that I’ve been in, the Army has allowed me to set foot in 13 different countries, which is pretty cool. I’ve been deployed to combat three times: twice to Afghanistan and once to Iraq. While overseas, I have done clearance of roadside bombs, swept for land mines, been on probably close to 1,000 combat patrols and I have conducted over 150 raids looking for high-value targets.
SR: What is it about Alaska that keeps you calling it home? Any plans to move in the near future?
PN: The Army keeps me in Alaska buy my wife and I have decided that this is where we want to call home, and I will be leaving the Army just to stay in this beautiful place.
SR: Have you had the opportunity to ride outside of Alaska? How did it compare?
PN: I started riding the frozen lakes, rivers, and fields of northern Wisconsin and Minnesota when I was young. After I joined the service I was stationed in Colorado where I learned to the ride the mountains, which in turn made me want to come to Alaska. The snow depth in Alaska doesn’t compare to anywhere else, that’s for sure. I did like Colorado for the tree riding and the warmer temperatures, but again it doesn’t compare to Alaska. We do have good tree riding, you just have to know where to find it, and yes it gets cold but you learn to deal with it. Plus we get a longer riding season than anywhere else. I love riding Alaska and don’t want anything else.
SR: What advice would you give to local Alaska kids who want to pursue a career in the sled industry?
PN: Learn from the people who have been doing this for awhile. Never think you are invincible, know your limitations and try to better yourself as a rider little by little. Be smart about where you ride, if you’re going to ride mountains make sure you have the right equipment and never ride alone. Be a proud rider, always help other riders in need and most of all have fun.
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