When you think about deep snow and technical riding in Newfoundland, your mind wanders to the west coast, where an abundance of snow and mountainous terrain await. Living on the west coast has in one sense “ruined me” when it comes to exploring other parts of the island, looking for other riding areas because most of them are in my backyard, or so I thought.
Last season, Andrew Goldsworthy, Evan Morgan and myself decided to host several Sledcore Ride clinics, two of which were located on the West Coast and the other in Central, NL. When the central clinic was first discussed, I had some serious concerns for many reasons (lack of snow, terrain, lodging, and location). Andrew immediately put my concern of lodging and location to rest when he mentioned Riverfront Chalets, near Grand-Falls Windsor. For quite some time, I have been interested in checking out this amazing location and let me tell you, they do not disappoint. With four separate 4 ½ star chalets on site, there was plenty of space for all participants. A hot tub overlooking the Exploits River was welcomed each evening after a hard day of riding.
Concern number two, Snow! Leading up to this clinic, all I could think about was snow conditions. Would there be enough? Would there be ANY? Would it be icy? My mind was put to ease a week or two before “go time” with reports of good conditions in central. While travelling from west to east, the snow started to fall and with every KM, it seemed to get heavier. When we arrived that evening, it snowed that much we couldn’t contain ourselves, so we headed out for an evening ride to scout out some areas for the next day’s clinic. That evening, concern number two was put to bed.
Concern Number three, terrain. The next morning, we were eager to get rolling and see what the day had in store. After a short ride, we found the perfect area with plenty of snow to try some basic maneuvers. When everyone was ready for more challenging terrain, we headed for higher ground to put some clients and their newly acquired skills to the test. The side country of Hodges Hills provided plenty of zones to lay some tracks until the daylight faded, and it was time to head home for some r-and-r. With another successful clinic under our belts, we all enjoyed an evening BBQ with some fireworks and a hot tub visit to soothe our tired bodies.
On Sunday morning, I arose with no expectation other than a quick ride before it was time to pack up and drive our separate ways home. We fired up the sleds, and chased Paul Rose on a direct line to what would be the best tree riding I have seen in Newfoundland to date. Paul has extensive knowledge of the area, and wasted no time picking his way through neck deep snow with young growth below, waiting to swallow up anybody that dared enter. After a few attempts, we finally broke through into an incredible area with endless pow and variable terrain. This sounds like a dream come true, and it most definitely was, but if you’re not comfortable with dodging trees at full pin across 35 deg slopes, I can see why some may be uncomfortable with such a task. These types of riding areas require some technical skills, mixed with a little courage and a heavy thumb, when needed. As we chased Paul’s taillight down an endless descent, deep into the forest, I was starting to think that this is going to get interesting on the way out. Our group, which consisted of Andrew Goldsworthy, Paul Rose, Jordan Swyers and myself stopped for a minute in a maze of spruce and fir trees. Jordan, who weighs a mere 120 lbs soaking wet, at the age of 15, saddled up on a Polaris RMK 155 and was very eager for some technical riding. As we ventured deeper into the trees, the snow got deeper and the riding more technical. I glanced back and was pleasantly surprised to see Jordan giving it all he had on a machine that looked like a 747, under this pint sized ripper. After an hour or two or riding, I could tell that Jordan was starting to feel the 500 lbs sled under his arms, and had a little trouble navigating through the trees. When it was time to leave, the only line out was a long side-hill, riddled with hollows, humps and trees. One after another, we followed the leader towards the entry/exit point and all was going well until I noticed that Jordan was just plain gassed from a hard afternoon of riding. Myself and Andrew had a brief chat with Jordan and pointed out that throttle and muscle is one way to make the sled do what you want. However, body positioning, finding the balance point on the sled, and throttle control is more efficient, and much less taxing on the body. Within minutes, we poked out noses out into the daylight once again.
From that day on, I have been dreaming of riding this zone again, hopefully with Jordan. I must say, I find it very rewarding to see people get that “Ah-Ha” moment. When they bring their newly acquired skills together, and pull lines they never thought possible, the smile says it all.
The Sledcore crew will be hosting a Tree Zone Riding Clinic is this zone on the Feb 27th weekend.