Lady Rippers – Part 1
SHREDDING THE BACKCOUNTRY
by Lori-Lynn Humby
I’m beyond passionate about snowmobiling and backcountry riding. Yes, I take pleasure in getting stuck. For any backcountry, off-trail rider, getting stuck simply means you’re trying. A stuck is really nothing that big, especially if you know the techniques of how to get unstuck.
Over the past several years, a number of us Lady Rippers have been keeping pace with the guys in the deep and tangly stuff. My goal here is simple: introduce you to some of these ladies that are making tracks and keeping pace. I had a chance to chat with some fellow mavens about early influencers, backcountry passion and 2019 goals. In this feature, you’ll enjoy contributions from Jo-Ellen Chaulk, Jessica Hansford, Kelly Ann Stewart and Jessica Humby.
The seed of snowmobiling passion is usually planted quite early. Here’s what Chaulk and Hansford had to say about how they were introduced to the sport.
“I’ve been snowmobiling since I was a child,” shared Chaulk. “My parents took my brother and I snowmobiling quite often, whether it was for a daytrip in the woods for a boil up or a weekend spent at the cabin. Snowmobiling became an important part of time spent with family. I’ll never forget my first snowmobile, a white and red Yamaha Snow-Sport. It was the best Christmas gift ever! A few years later, I stepped up to the short track Enticer and then upgraded to the Yamaha V-Max 600. Man, could that thing ever go! Let’s just say I’ve been riding since I can remember, all thanks to my parents.”
Hansford said her dad was her biggest early influencer. “We were a very outdoorsy family and I have been snowmobiling ever since I can remember with him and my family. Most of my sledding was done on a Bravo long track up until about four years ago when I met my boyfriend, Cejay, and he introduced me to the awesome world of backcountry sledding,” she said.
As for why Stewart became attracted to backcountry riding, she said, “Backcountry riding is more of a challenge and definitely more fun! I like not having to follow the same trail all the time. So many different places to see, the freedom to go anywhere and there is always something new to learn.”
Humby was asked the same question. “After I went to the west coast of Newfoundland riding for the first time, I was hooked,” she said. “I was so fascinated with the deep powder and big hills. Everything I knew about riding a snowmobile would be quickly put to the test. I knew nothing about riding in deep snow. I picked up several skills quickly because I would always be riding in the company of people who were more skilled than I was. I was always drawn to the challenge of becoming a better rider.”
“Female-specific backcountry riding clinics are a great way to get started,” said Chaulk, when asked how more women could be introduced to the sport. “It’s comforting to know that along with yourself, there are other women who want to learn the skills necessary for backcountry riding. The techniques and skills that are gained from riding clinics should be utilized not only during the clinic, but when riding with friends. Try not to feel intimidated, tag along with the guys, test those new skills and ask for advice. That’s how you learn. You’ll never know if you don’t try.”
Back in 2014, Sledcore Ride Clinics, Atlantic Canada’s premier ride clinic operators, started offering ride clinic instruction. Jonathan Anstey, Sledcore co-founder, said, “When we started, the majority of our attendees were male. In 2015, we offered a couples’ clinic that went really well. Last year, we decided to try the inaugural Female Ride Clinic and the uptake was amazing … and the attendees were really there to learn, accept advice and committed to improving. For this season, we have acted on feedback from the participants to add a pre- and post-ride meet-up session.”
Hansford attended last year’s Sledcore Female Ride Clinic. She said she loved the whole day from start to finish. “It was great to get the time, guidance and practise for skills that you would use on every trip into the backcountry. The whole crew offered so much help that you didn’t feel bad if you tipped over or got stuck because they all would come and help you out. And also, you knew you were not holding them back from getting to the fresh powder or cutting in on their riding time. I learned so many new skills during the clinic. The mid-day fire and lunch stop was an excellent time for us all to get to know each other a little more and build new friendships with ladies that enjoy the sport just as much as I do and a nice touch.”
As for the Lady Rippers’ 2019 riding goals, Hansford summed it up for herself: “Have more confidence in myself and go try everything more than once. I want to get more practise in with one ski manoeuvring and side hilling, along with some more hill climbs and jumping.” Chaulk narrowed her 2019 goals down to “focus on side hilling, conquering steep inclines and, who knows, maybe even an elevator.” Humby’s 2019 riding goals are “better throttle and brake control while side hilling and practise downhill U-turns.” Stewart’s focus for this year is to “conquer side hilling.”
Hansford lives in Goulds, N.L., and rides an Arctic Cat M8; Chaulk lives in Deer Lake, N.L., and rides a Polaris RMK; Stewart lives in Torbay, N.L., and rides a Ski-Doo Freeride; and Humby is from Benton, N.L., and rides a Polaris RMK.
If you liked this feature on the Lady Rippers, see full interviews with these four and other women who are loving the backcountry and enjoying their sled and time with riding friends, features to be presented throughout the winter.