Expedition Extreme; looking for best of both worlds – does it exist?
Since 2007, I have kicked my leg over a mountain sled during each season…some years, we have had multiple mountain sleds in the Sledworthy fleet…yes; I know, first world problems. However, over the past couple of years, my sheer amount of mountain riding, or simply my amount of riding has steadily been on the decline. Life has just gotten busy, work and kids schedules, the days of the normal “every two weeks on the west coast” are long past. Going into the 2022 season, I knew my seat time would be limited and I wanted to ensure I was comfortable during the few trips I knew I’d get…but I still wanted to guarantee when I went off trail, I was on a capable sled…and this is where the Skidoo Expedition Extreme stepped in.
Several of my friends had made the transition already and they loved their Expedition Extreme units. Of those folks, I had to chat with Leon Cooper. I knew Leon’s riding style and he’d be the one I’d want to ask about off trail capabilities of the Extreme. Leon quickly said he loved his unit…the 20” track has allowed him to reverse out of situations. However, Leon said it’s heavier and not exactly the same as what I was use to with lighter mountain sleds. So, this had me somewhat at ease. I spoke with my good buddy Rick Endicott of Rocky Harbour, as Rick punched several seasons on his Expedition Extreme and I know Rick breaks trails going up over Rocky Harbour Hills…he’d know the capabilities of the unit in deep snow, but also be able to speak to the comfort level. That was something I had given much thought to over the past couple of seasons…as much as I loved the ability of all the mountain sleds we had, the overall comfort level was lacking. By comfort level, I’m talking about the 60% of the time you spend actually sat on the seat. Plus, I wanted something with storage and the Expedition Extreme, with the standard large capacity caddy on the back, storage wasn’t going to be an issue. Now I was pumped to see how this sled would balance my off-trail desires and my search for comfort.
The trip was planned for the first weekend of March 2022, this would see us ride for three days in both the Gros Morne region via Cormack and in the Lewis Hills area. The forecast would determine which day we picked for riding in the Lewis Hills area. Since 2005, I’ve learned through many a trip in over Loggers School road to get into Hinds Valley, round the corner and be turned back by the wall of white. I’ve always enjoyed spring riding in the Lewis Hills area, where most days are sunny and longer. Allowing you to enjoy some of those massive sidehills while eyeballing Fox Island River below…some of those sidehill runs can be well over a kilometer long. Now I was wondering about how the Expedition Extreme would handle the next three days.
Day one was to be staged from Cormack (North of Deer Lake; 24 KM drive in truck) where I’ve unloaded hundreds of times over the years. I had the test route mapped out in my head already. Tom Caines would be joining me along with a new west coast riding buddy; Mathias Nielsen who was a first-time rider to western Newfoundland, but Mathias grew up in Greenland on snowmobiles. We’ll pick up Mathias’ adventure in another article, let’s just say his eyes were opened to the Newfoundland experience. Early March, this riding zone never disappoints and this was the exact conditions for day one. The cut overs and gullies all had 2 to 3 feet of fresh snow. The 20” track on the Expedition Extreme grabbed hold and slung the big beast where I pointed it. I executed tons of downhill u-turns, pulled off a few switchbacks and had the unit doing many tail standers as the 850 powered through anything I challenged the sled with. From a power perspective, the BRP 850 is very impressive. Nobody will be overheard saying “I wish it had more power” …well, not everyone, but for me, it had tons. I was quite impressed with how I could do powder turns, dropping my shoulder down and not losing the unit to gravity. Day one ended with tearing through the valleys on the upper side of Angus Lake. Like any mountain sled I would have rode, it will be track side up and experiencing the classic rollout. The Expedition Extreme can be rolled out from a stuck, I popped the windshield off a few times, stored it in the huge storage case. On several times, I was able to position this big unit, knowing I might get stuck, into a more favorable position, to allow for a self-un-stucking. This was a technique I saw Paul Rose doing and it definitely made sense for this unit. Not everyone is looking to push their Expedition Extreme to its limits, but only on a few occasions, I needed the assistance of one of my riding buddies to get un-stuck. Oh wait, I failed to mention how my ride in and out of the country was super comfortable. Plus, I had packed every possible item I could think of in the storage compartment. I will address some of the downside of this unit, but I’m going to wait until the end for that.
That evening, we sized up the forecast and decided the Lewis Hills leg would be postponed until our last day, because that day showed the most promise for sun. Day two itinerary was set, the Big Loop. Cormack would be our staging area once again as the Big Loop will test the longer ride comfort of the Expedition Extreme. Those of you wondering about the Big Loop, it’s one of my fav riding tour trips. You depart Cormack and take White River Road, head towards Silver Mountain. We always pick our way from the big bog, cutover to an old logging road. Once you find the road, you just need to ensure you’re headed in the correct direction because this road will take you right to Taylor’s Brook Road, you’ll join into the Matty’s Pond road and in a few minutes on Matty’s Pond Road, you’re at the 24 KM point on Taylor’s Brook Road. From this point, we head deeper into the country. Over the years, we would normally stop at Snowy Cabin to see Gayle and Edgar, grab lunch there, have a warm up and push on. However, this time, I had planned to visit Brad Chaulk at Eagle Mountain Lodge. Remember, you need to coordinate ahead of time that you’ll be stopping in for lunch. Brad treated us to a delicious seafood chowder and sandwich, it was well worth the few dollars and a nice break to our day. From Eagle Mountain, we always stop into the Goose Hole where Edgar from Snowy operates the accommodations lodge for those wanting to do their own cooking. This is the same lodge that Adrian and Marg Walsh operated for years (Main River Safari). Leaving the Goose hole, we head to St. Paul’s Big Pond, racing up the long pond to stop at the far end of the lake by the beautiful log cabin tucked under the hillside. From there, we make our way toward the park (Gros Morne). At this point, you come to a crossroads where you can head to Matty’s Pond if decided, to go back out of the country, or you can head to Western Brook Gorge. We decided to hit the Gorge on this day because the weather was decent. From the Gorge, you take a route that will take you back to Angus Lake. This route is usually the toughest if the weather comes in. On a nice day, you and simply point the skis and hold a general direction, which I’m guilty of way too much. However, on many occasions, we have back tracked to Matty’s Pond to take the safer, yet longer route back towards Silver Mountain to retrace our steps. Round trip, this is approximately a 225 KM day. At no point did I question the comfort of the Expedition Extreme, in fact, I thoroughly enjoyed the day, didn’t feel tired or ‘thrown’ around which you get sometimes from mountain sleds on trails. Test day two was in the books and we had another success, ride comfort for the win. Power on the trails, no question. Now I just wanted to see how this unit would handle some of those long sidehills in the Lewis Hills.
Day three was Sunday, we decided to park at Rugged Edge in Corner Brook (45 mins drive west from Deer Lake, where we were staying). The ride from Rugged Edge to Loggers School road is a nice groomed trail experience. The folks from Western Sno-Riders keep their trails well maintained. The Expedition Extreme loved romping down the trail and that 850 could push it where sometimes, I found myself pulling over to wait for my ride buddies. The weather did not disappoint and we found all the conditions that we went in search for; abundant sidehills and tons of slope and climbs. Rope Cove Canyon always impresses me every time I’m there. So…the Expedition Extreme can hold a side hill no trouble. I found myself taking the occasional break on the hillside but I always did that. Now don’t get me wrong, these sleds are much heavier and wider than your typical mountain sled. However, I had no trouble getting it over on its side to start any maneuver I was about to try. I’m thinking riders with a smaller stature might have more of a challenge getting the Expedition Extreme to engage in some riding situations, but it’s very capable and if you’re willing to start the dance, the Expedition Extreme will be a willing dance partner. Okay, the biggest difference I noticed was in floatation compared to mountain sleds. Not the track floatation because the 154” x 20” is huge. I mean the floatation that a mountain sled has when you hit the throttle, they want to jump up on the snow immediately. The Expedition Extreme preferred to push first. On some occasions, the bulk head got wedge on snow that was filling up underneath. I quickly overcame this by going into situations with more throttle compared to what I’d normally do on a mountain sled. And you know what the best part of the day was… the ride back out from the Lewis Hills. We decided to take the long way out to Gallants and come back the railbed, which reminded me why I thought the Expedition Extreme would satisfy the mountain (off-trail) rider looking to make the switch and give you the comfort that some older (more mature) riders are seeking, you won’t be disappointed here.