Danny’s 40 Year Reflection
Ever since I was old enough to walk, I’ve always had a passion for snowmobiling. I decided to look back at how much experience I have gained and how many memories I have made over the years. Some of my best memories as a kid was using the “family skidoo” around the yard. Back then, we didn’t have the option of 120cc mini sleds, 550cc Evo, or a 300cc four-stroke. We had John Deere, Spit Fire, or Safari Scout. They barely had any suspension or power, but it didn’t matter to us, we were just happy to be riding. As I got older, and snowmobiles evolved, so did my riding style. Living on the south coast of Newfoundland, we mostly rode 2up touring sleds or “lake runner” style sleds like the Formula, MxZ, or Mach 1. Today I enjoy more mountain climbing and backcountry style riding.
When I went to university I got to see the different styles of riding people were doing in other parts of the province. It wasn’t just flat marshes or lake runs like I was used to, there were huge climbs, cornices, deep powder carving and technical picking through tree lines. I had never seen this sort of thing before. It didn’t take long to realize that my skill level was a bit lacking for this type of terrain. I had a lot to learn and after meeting some new people who showed me the area, I eventually I began to get the hang of it.
The first club I joined was in Central Newfoundland with the Exploits TrailNet. I got to see first-hand what it takes to sustain the groomed trails we often take for granted. The man hours needed to keep trails clear of alders and blow-downs, putting up signs, and even grooming is nearly all done by volunteers. I got to experience it all first hand and meet some amazing people along the way.
When I moved to the west coast, I joined the Western SnoRiders and met more awesome volunteers who shared the same passion as I did for this sport. I began riding more frequently and learning so much, which greatly improved my skill level even more. To this day, even though I’m moved back home, I still make a few trips to the west coast each winter. I love the area and have made a lot of great friends from there.
Eventually I met a few of the contributing writers for Sledworthy Magazine. They invited me along on one of their trips and I was instantly hooked! I was given an opportunity to submit an article on a topic of my choice. I wrote about different things like growing up on the trap line, survival techniques, frost bite, choosing the right GPS, and now this one.
I’ve even had several opportunities to meet people who I consider to be celebrities in the snowmobile industry. Some of which include Brett Rasmussen, Matt Entz, Brodie Evans, Rob Alford, and Dave Norona. I’m hoping to meet Luke and AJ Lester from Snowtrax TV someday. They’ve been here a few times now touring the west coast with Newfoundland’s own Troy Burt and Dustin Boyd, both winners of the North American Top Snowmobiler contest.
With such a wide variety of terrain available to outdoor enthusiasts, comes a variety of snowmobiles with a variety of track sizes. It’s a good idea to make sure you choose the correct width, length and lug size for your style of riding. If you’re spending most of your time on groomed trails, I would recommend a mid-size lug (1-2 inches), a shorter length track to help with cornering, and maybe even consider studs for those random icy conditions. If you typically use your sled for hauling cargo or getting fire wood, then a wider and longer track would be more beneficial, especially when you have to reverse in deep snow. When it comes to backcountry and mountain climbing, sometimes it’s better to have a long track with big lugs. Everyone has their own preference or opinion on which is best, so the key is to find what works best for you. For me, I preferred mountain style sleds with at least a 2” lug. The bigger tracks and bigger lugs helped keep me from getting stuck so often. Also, the longer tunnels gave me more space for my storage bags.
When I was young, we only had a backpack and the main things we packed were our lunch and a kettle to make tea on an open fire. Now a days, there are many different accessory bags available to accommodate whatever you want to put into it. I have seen some horrific snowmobile accidents over the years; broken ankles, broken femur, torn biceps, sprained wrists and countless abrupt over-the-handlebar stops. So, some of the main items I now take on every ride include a first aid kit, fire starter, extra fuel, spare gloves, spare goggles, a shovel, tool kit, satellite phone/SPOT, and even a mini booster pack. These are great for emergencies, like starting a sled with a dead battery or even recharging your cell phone or GPS. I also wear a Tek Vest to help protect my internal organs in the event I hit a stump or fall off my sled.
As for food, plenty of fluids is a must and a packed lunch could make or break your day. On one of my trips out west I was introduced to a muffler-mounted cooking device that warmed your food while you ride. I was shocked when we stopped for lunch at Western Brook Gorge and the aroma of hot honey garlic moose sausage filled the air. Needless to say, I had to get myself one of these “muff pots” too.
For as long as I can remember, I have never purchased a park pass or trail pass until I moved out of Conne River. Now I buy one every year, the money goes toward supporting the clubs, the trails, and grooming. Without support there would be no trails. Even though we don’t have groomed trails on the south coast, I use the trails in central and out west each year.
I also learned about Park Etiquette. After riding in Gros Morne Park, I now know that you need a permit to enter the park, a map to the corridor trails, and aftermarket exhausts are not permitted. There are usually officers patrolling the areas and will issue fines for illegal exhausts or not having the proper permits. My advice is to keep it legal; if you’re planning a trip there, get your trail pass and park pass, put your stock exhaust back on, don’t harass the wildlife, stick to the proper trails and corridors, and obey all signage.
Along with choosing the right sled, packing the right gear, and buying the right permits,I also learned that if you’re going to ride challenging terrain or even help your friends when they’re stuck, then it’s a good idea to do a bit of pre-season training, like walking, jogging, weight training, and especially eating healthy.
In 2015 a group of us planned a week’s trip to Revelstoke BC. I knew this would possibly be a once in a lifetime experience of bottomless powder, huge Rocky Mountains, 8000+ feet elevation, and just overall a huge physical demand on the body. So, I spent a year training for it. If I was going to spend the money and travel that far for a snowmobile trip, I wanted to make the most of it. I went to the weight room 5 days a week, played sports at the community gym, and began eating better. It was the best decision I ever made because it didn’t take long before I was losing weight and feeling great! Not only did I become healthier overall, but my riding skill level got better, I had more fun, and I wasn’t so short of breath as often. The trip was a success and we returned home with some incredible stories and memories.
If there’s one thing I hope you take away from this article, it’s that you never stop learning about the sport and you continue to appreciate every aspect of it. For example, the amount of volunteer work that actually goes into maintaining our trail networks. Trees don’t move out of the way when you’re barreling out of control. Duct tape fixes everything. If you can’t fix it with duct tape, you’re not using enough duct tape. Chutes and hills are steeper and higher in real life than on YouTube.
Newfoundland has some of the most beautiful riding and scenery in the world, as well as great hospitality and accommodations. I now have friends all over the island, most of which are like family to me. But most of all, my knowledge of snowmobiles and my riding skill level are now so much higher than it used to be. A lot of people actually look to me for advice now whenever they have questions about the sport. As long as we still get snow, I have no intention of stopping anytime soon!