Flashback to 1992. I was ten years old when my father walked into my bedroom early one winter morning and asked if I could give him a hand. Not knowing what he needed, but always willing to “help Dad” as most young boys are, I eagerly jumped out of bed and ran downstairs to see what was up. With the sound of toast popping from the toaster, I walked into the kitchen, a bowl of cereal awaiting me on the table. What was it he needed that he had to get me out of bed? As I scarfed down my breakfast, he asked if I could climb out the kitchen window and dig out the front door so he could get out to the snowblower in the garage. It was a snow day unlike any before! I’ve always remembered the pure snow-filled excitement I had on that particular morning. Fast forward to Winter 2015 – 23 years have passed and I still get that same giddy feeling waking up to a foot or more of snow in the driveway. November month this year was somewhat typical consisting mostly of greasy fingernails and rain as I prepped my sled for the upcoming winter. The thoughts of a green Christmas were soon forgotten as Old Man Winter finally made his appearance in the third week of December. January month saw above average snowfalls and low temperatures keeping our snow light and fluffy and our sleds choking for air. The riding has been all-time! February struck with a snow-slaying vengeance. All the feelings you remember as a child growing up in Deer Lake occurred this season. Snow banks have grown into tiny mountains making it difficult to drive our rural streets. My Honda 928 snowblower has been running just about every day and I’ve lost count of how many tanks of gas I’ve burned moving snow around the yard. Every gas station in town is booming with groups of snowmobilers that have traveled to our area to enjoy our near 10-foot snow base. Even if you aren’t a local it’s easy to see the amount of snow and its positive effects on local business. It’s been an exceptional winter for the snowmobile industry around here and, most importantly, the riding!
We’ve enjoyed more pow-days thus far than I can every remember having in a single season. Fresh tracks in our favorite riding playgrounds have been waist to chest deep in places making my Summit 146 seem, at times, like a short track. My new Motofist gear has straight up rocked it, by far, the deepest sledding I’ve ever experienced. I really have to say when it’s -20 and you’re in the saddle for eight hours, being comfortable and not having to worry about getting cold or wet is an absolute pleasure – not to mention the peace of mind.
Early on the morning of the 6th of February, I woke to catch a flight back to work. It was a tough pill to swallow knowing Andrew and the boys had arrived at the Jackladder the night before. They were meeting up for the annual Sledworthy Magazine Writers’ Rip – a fun-filled event we all look forward to every year. To add insult to injury, there was a foot of fresh powder down (yet again) that had fallen overnight. By the time I got to the airport the snow was really coming down, maybe the hardest I’ve ever seen it snow! Boarding the plane I had a hard time believing they would actually be able to de-ice with the snow accumulating as fast as it was. Three hours went by and we still sat on the tarmac. Soon after they decided to take us off the place. As we re-entered the terminal the screen read “CANCELLED”. There was no way I could make it to work today and I knew the following day our company didn’t offer flights which only meant one thing. POW DAY! I arrived home from the airport shortly thereafter to three feet of fresh snow. It took five full hours to clear my driveway that morning. I met the guys the following day to what can only be described as the deepest pow-day of all time! I often rave about how good the new Etec’s are on fuel. Well, this day was the exception. My odometer read 150.7 kilometers when I loaded the sled into the truck at the end of the day. I burned my whole tank of fuel, all my gas caddy and even borrowed a little to make it out. Breaking trail in four feet of fresh powder – I’d like to be able to make that statement more often!
Of course, with all the snow we’ve been having this winter, comes an unwavering sense of security to some snowmobilers. Varying temperatures and substantial snowfalls are the perfect combination for weak layers of snow that can bury a snowmobiler in an instant. Ice depths are never something to take for granted no matter how much snow is down. If you lose your bearings on a pond because of wind and blowing snow, put safety at the forefront! Stop, wait til you are confident of your location, back-track only if you are 100% sure you can make land and wait for help if that is your only option. Never snowmobile alone if you can avoid it! Carry all the essentials you think you might need to spend a night in the bush – packable down layer, extra gloves or mitts (put in a Ziploc to keep dry), a headlamp, extra tools for your tool kit, a tow strap, a small hatchet and saw, a good knife, some fire-starter and a GPS with extra batteries (keep them close to your body for heat). Don’t ride without a spare belt. Stay on top of your snowmobile’s maintenance. Take a First Aid course. If you ride big mountains, take an AST 1 Avalanche course and know what slopes are prone to slide and stay away from them! If you prepare correctly before any adventure things won’t go awry in an emergency situation. Always remember to trust your instincts when you’re in the backcountry!
With yet another foot of snow down and my last sip of coffee down the hatch, it’s time to put down the computer, get out the snowblower and then start packing for our first Sledcore Ride Clinic of the year. The participants are sure to enjoy a pow-buffet for this one…and it’s calling for sun!
Oh, how I love an Old Fashioned Winter!