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Early Season Riding

I have to say that I am more of a late season rider given that mid-March to later April is my favourite riding window. But there is something about the first ride of the year that just kicks off the winter with high fives all around at the end of the day, knowing we have a full riding season ahead of us. The day I put my sled away for the year is also always the saddest day of the year and I know thats four to five months away.

Its always a bit rough, the first ride, as we tweak out our kits trying to remember what those most important item are that was so refined the end of last season. Gathering up our most essential trail tools that seemed to get scattered over the summer, locating the GPS and finding the terrain map card that was replaced with the marine card this past summer, goggles, spare goggles, gloves, spare gloves, ride-out mitts, first aid kit, tow kit, snow bungee and saw…..the list goes on. Invariably it takes me two or three trips before I can confidently leave the house knowing I am prepared for anything that might be thrown at me that day. For me, as a backcountry guide, that list is even longer and more important when tours start.


For early season riding I wear my Tek Vest religiously. As in, I will not ride without it. I will ride without a lid first if I had to drop a piece of gear. Now more than any other time, there is a high change of hooking an A-arm, hungry stump or rocks lingering just under the surface. I not only wear the necessary equipment to protect my body I also mod my sled for unexpected hits. The season before last I loaned my sled to a friend who hit a rock….hard. Turns out the chassis got fractured right under the engine. A laborious and expensive job to say the least. That sled was replaced since and the first thing I did with my newest Skidoo Freedride was install a full carbon skid plate and a rip kit on the A- Arms. Both mods in tandem give the machine an enormous amount of protection. There is no way that skid plate is going to break. Everything covered by it, including the chain case can not be damaged. Coincidentally, post mod day, we were riding across the open country towards Western Brook Gorge when we came upon a severely damaged sled which had just struck a rock. There was gear oil and coolant everywhere. His day was done. My advice? Leave the wraps and cans until after you installed the RPM plate and Rip Kit chassis reinforcement. If you still have a few bucks left in the kitty go for more superficial (but cool) mods. I must say, maybe there is luck involved too but I have done very little damage due to early season riding. I tend to ride carefully and avoid anything suspicious. Most any danger lurking just under the snow leaves an indication on the surface. You just have to ride carefully. I understand though, those poor east coasters who drive 3/4 the way across the island with one or two days to ride just wanna giver. I think I would too. Here in Central, we normally get a good storm in November that gets me out for about a week or two, which carries me through till the good riding kicks in. This year was different. We didn’t get that November storm but winter sure did start early! Its been good riding on the Gaff now for sometime and this is only the 6th of January. I have been busy and not getting much riding in. A couple days ago Trevor Blackler planted the seed by enquiring about riding conditions in Central. Minutes later he was booked at Riverfront Chalets and a day on the Gaff was planned. The Caines brothers and their faithful riding buddy Greg were to join us.

[sc name=”HorizQuoteBlack” param1=”But once we gained some elevation and the snow got deeper I hit everything that would give me some air and never struck anything solid all day, which for January 6th was phenomenal!” ]

The Gaff Topsails is a huge insular Newfoundland high elevation plateau. The Gaff offers excellent riding on a warm bluebird day, but the least bit of wind with below freezing temps offers up only biting cold and vicious ground storms, so during early season we tend to play on the perimeter and Barney’s Valley is my favourite spot. Barney’s is an area that wraps around the perimeter of the Gaff on the North East side. It is a huge area steep hills and valleys sparsely treed that kind of resemble an egg carton. Everywhere there are creeks, steep valleys and bowls. If you go a little closer to the Plateau you will find high steep slopes for side hilling, but thats not my cup of tea. For those of you who know me, I like steep creeks, technical valleys and treed slopes. If you need speed to get to the top, well, its just not as fun. En route to our riding area, via Warr’s Road, I was getting exited as the snow was looking good. I could still see some rocks here and there and where there is one rock I always expect more, so ditch banging was not in cards, at first. But once we gained some elevation and the snow got deeper I hit everything that would give me some air and never struck anything solid all day, which for January 6th was phenomenal! What made conditions so good was not the depth of the snow but the density of it. Id say there was three-four feet, with less in some places and a lot more in others. We showed the boys a few of our favourite features, most of which they have seen before but as always, we only got a little ways down the valley. The terrain just goes on forever, most of which I have never explored. But thats the way it goes when you find a play area like this, if your there to play and not tour there is no need to move on. This year though I intend to explore more area in Barney’s Valley….God knows what else is in there.

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Sledworthy Magazine is Atlantic Canada's Snowmobile Magazine. Started in 2005 with the goal of creating a strong voice for the Atlantic Canadian Snowmobile scene and ensuring Atlantic Canada gets recognized throughout North America as a key player in the snowmobile industry.

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