My Husband Jeff and I travel from Indiana to ride our snowmobiles in the mountains every year, and to me there is always one thing missing: more ladies riding. I am writing this to encourage you to get out there and try it, or come try it again!
I understand how you feel, your doubts, your fears and I am here to tell you the snowmobile industry is changing for the good. There are so many fixes for our past problems as ladies that I just have to share some of them. Do you fear getting hurt, freezing, getting stuck off trail or being the anchor of the group? We can get equipment that fits now. From mountain gear with a ladies fit in mind to your actual snowmobile, we now have options. My sled is built for me, my height, my weight, and my strength level. Customize it for you, Bling it out!
This year my sled has a custom wrap that looks like a girl wrap, Next Level Riding handle bars that are lower and more narrow for my height and shoulder width. It has a shorter, lighter, more narrow seat and yet power to keep up with the boys. My six-foot husband is now uncomfortable riding my sled, he should be, it’s built for a five foot five Girl!
In the past I have feared getting hurt or not being able to keep up. As my husband’s skill level in the deep powder improved and we began riding further in the backcountry my confidence level was sinking, my riding level was stuck, literally. We normally ride with about eight people. I am the oldest, the smallest, the weakest and the only girl-you get the picture. I had to change something and I did.
I searched out some riding clinics and settled on Next Level Riding Clinic taught by the legendary Sledneck Dan Adams. This is the second class I’ve taken from him and this years class was the first “All Ladies Clinic” held in Togwotee, Wyoming, with 15% of the proceeds going to the Pink Ribbon Riders to help in the fight against breast cancer.
Arriving Friday night I was thrilled to get settled into our quiet romantic cabin. We had a wonderful dinner at the lodge where I ran into Dan and also a couple of the ladies I would be riding with. It was clear that I was not the only one nervous about the ride to come. The next morning as introductions were made, we all shared why we were taking this course. There was a common theme: to be a more confident rider, and not to be the girl getting stuck all the time.
As Dan and his crew led us into the backcountry we practiced counter steer, wrong leg forward, side hilling and that “YES, we could get ourselves unstuck.” Dan explained to us that because we are shorter, lighter and our body mass is not at our shoulders (like our husbands) but at our hips, what works for the men does not necessarily work for us. He showed us techniques that worked for us and it was hard work but a lot of fun.
There were some ghost rider sleds, some slow snow crawls and bungees galore but one thing there wasn’t, a discouraging word. We experienced only encouragement, praise, high-fives and a deep level of caring from the Next Level Riding crew that really touched our hearts and made us try that much harder.
One hilarious moment was when Dan gave us a pep talk, even leaping into the air and landing in the snow saying, “Don’t be afraid, this fluff won’t hurt!” Feeling motivated, we all drove up to that hill, turned into that side hill, jumped into the wrong leg forward position and each of us, one by one got stuck. “Worst Pep Talk Ever”, Dan said with a twinkle!
On day two after we had been getting more confident in our skills, Dan led us up to a steep drop-off and had us park at the edge. I was hoping this was a kum-ba-yah moment reflecting on the beauty before us. Nope, we were side hilling right off the side of it. Each of us with a gulp in our throat and eyes wide open trusted our instructors and went down. Having trained professionals find a safe place to learn this maneuver and knowing the trust we had built in these professionals gave me the confidence to power down it. The guys had communicators, and as Dan was at the bottom critiquing our position, Levi was half way down to catch us if we had trouble and Jason was right there walking by our side as we came down.
Nici Hoff of Wyoming said, “I was petrified, nearly frozen in fear with tears in my eyes.” Jason assured her that he was right there and wouldn’t leave her side. I watched as she throttled it over the edge and started walking it down. She had great success and was so overwhelmed that she had conquered her fear that her eyes welled up with tears of joy as Jason praised her. These little victories all add up to big confidence boosters for us girls.
Let’s address safety, Avalanche safety. Avalanche safety is a huge part of the training at N.L.R.C. Why, they have lived it. In 2007 Dan, Jason and seven other seasoned riders were riding in what they thought was a safe area when an avalanche buried Dan’s lifelong friend, Jason. Listening to these two men relive their story of Jason’s rescue with the emotion in their eyes and voices really knocks the imaginary halo right off your head. If it can happen to them, then it can happen to us. We all learned about our equipment and practiced it in a mock burial with a buried beacon. All of us left knowing that we would practice more to be better at rescue.
The avalanche safety lessons, along with all the riding techniques I have taken from this class, make me feel more confident in my mountain riding. Having a sled and gear that fit who I am push that confidence level. I feel it and the guys I ride with see it. I got some great advice from my friend and snowmobile dealer in Grand Lake, Colorado, Woody. He told me to just take what I’ve been told and taught, put it in the back of my mind and when I feel anxious, just put on a happy face and ride, ride for the fun of it. And I am!
I’d like to thank: Woody at Spirit Lake Polaris for my custom built sled and Zack for helping me design my custom wrap. Levi Tormanen and Jason Blair for all the encouragement and dig outs and Dan Adams for pushing me to my next level and hosting the All Ladies Clinic.
Mother, Grandmother, and Mountain Rider