How to Learn Nothing? Stay in your Comfort Zone!
I have been riding a snowmobile as long as I can remember. My riding experience growing up in Springdale, NL was mostly on woods roads and rough ungroomed paths. Not to show my age, but groomed trail riding didn’t exist in the province back then. (Oops, too late for the age thing, but my old back sends thanks for the great groomed trail network!) I had an excessive passion to ride and there was nothing better than getting to use the family snowmobile to ride with my friends for a half hour or so when I was a teenager, usually as a treat after I shovelled the driveway for five hours. Thanks for that Dad! My friends that could also secure some riding time, (usually by trading some other monotonous chore like packing in wood) and I would meet up on the trail behind the town. This happened right after we got the usual lining up, “Now don’t go following Robby Clarke and come home with something broke!” You may know him today as the owner of Rob Clarke Motorsports! Who would have thought back then that he would have made that into a career? What our parents didn’t realize was that it wasn’t Rob’s fault; we could “do stupid”, all on our own, but Rob was always in the lead trying new things first to push us all out of our comfort zones.
A wise man referring to group work once said that “if you’re the smartest person in the room then you’re in the wrong room!” Meaning that it is always beneficial in the creative process to learn from and collaborate with other people that are more insightful or offer a different perspective than yourself. The same can be said for snowmobiling and it is something that I have learned well over the years.
When I finally got rid of my trail sled and purchased my first brand new sled, a 2006 Rev Chassis Summit 550, a whole new world opened up to me that pushed me so far outside my comfort level I was like a snowman in a heat wave! Rob Clarke again convinced me to join him on the West Coast of the Island for a ride in the Mountains of Gros Morne National Park. Once we got loaded up at the crack of stupid, got our park passes, off we went to Taylor’s Brook Road. The ride in was great, a nice road ride and I was thinking this was going to be easy. Then we got to Matty’s Pond and headed up the pond and into the series of bogs and ponds that led toward Western Brook Gorge.
I had no idea where I was going; I just chased Rob’s tail light blindly and headed in. I kept thinking, “Wow, this sure is a long way from anywhere!” The views were so amazing and I was giddy thinking that it was like snowmobiling in a magazine. Just as I was feeling pretty good about my abilities to keep up, we came to the first long side hill. I watched in horror as Rob went straight up on his huge Apex Mountain 162 and disappeared out of sight. I sat there and thought to myself helplessly, “you must be friggin crazy if you think I’m getting up there!” I sat and contemplated my route. Finally, I stood on one side of the running board and grabbed a handful of throttle. As I looked down into the huge valley below with a brook running through it I thought, “That’s it! I’m going to break my legs and they’ll find the pile of rubble that was my brand new sled in that brook way down there!” As I looked behind me I had even less confidence, all I saw was Johnathan Noel (Who is now a great mountain rider) on his inadequate touring sled roll down the hill and he was not letting go as he rolled twice under it and the windshield went flying! I got stuck on the way up and once we got Jonathan up and going and none the worse for it, I was plucked out and off we went up, up, up! I can’t believe I just did that! That was amazing! With the first one down that helped me get the confidence I needed and even though I shook my head, no a few times that day, Rob continued to push me out of that comfort zone and into new territory that I would have thought impossible to reach previously. He did that many times over the years and I am a much better rider for it.
It is from these experiences that push you far out of your comfort zone that you learn to become a more accomplished rider. Fast forward six years and I was pushed even further. Sledworthy Magazine had set up a ride clinic in the Lewis Hills on the West Coast of the Province with the one and only Bret Rasmussen. Bret is the owner of Ride Rasmussen Style, one of the world’s best riders, and in the snowmobile industry he is known as “The Professor”. I was like a kid in a candy store! That morning he went over the mechanics of mountain riding technique and we did a few drills. In the afternoon Bret would start riding through the trees and up and around all kinds of terrain so I thought it would be great to try to keep up with him. The funny thing was, I wasn’t even sure he knew I was trying to hang with him. First attempt: a sidehill on the side of a treed slope and Bret disappears out of sight as I hook a rather large spruce tree with my ski. Take two: I managed to chase him to the top of a hill and as we went from hill top to hill top he starts down a steep valley, on edge, decides he doesn’t like the look of it so he seamlessly transitions back up the hill around a group of trees out of sight as I continue to go down, down, down and lodge unceremoniously into a tree well. An hour later, we continued on as a group and took a break near a thick bunch of trees. Bret slips away and Richard Johnson, of Whiteout Films Fame, and I gave chase. We stay right on Bret’s snow flap even as we slid down straight drop drifts on our side panels and eventually we break out the other side. At this point came the most satisfying feeling ever as the Professor looks back with a small grin and says, “So you boys kept up with me that time!”
There are some great opportunities in Newfoundland and Labrador that now exist to get some instruction and improve your skills through great riding experiences. You need to look no further than the local Sledcore Clinics to improve your riding techniques or you could try some guided tours with Rob Clarke Motorsports, River Front Chalets or Rugged Edge just to name a few, to push you and your skill set to parts previously unknown.
To this day, I am blessed to have the opportunity to ride with some of the best backcountry riders and guides that this province has to offer and I continue to learn from their riding techniques, strategies for getting unstuck, navigation skills, and how they handle the unexpected. This winter do yourself a favor! Hire an experienced guide that pushes you, ride with better riders, explore somewhere new, and push past your comfort zone. Your self-confidence will thank you.