17. February 2014
In the past six years there has been a radical shift in attention to sleds suited for backcountry technical riding. It's practically created a new niche of snowmobilers, tech and gear and most importantly technique targeting a very interesting aspect of this recreational sport.
Unless you've tried it, there's a heart pounding thrill to something as simple as side hilling across a powdery steep slope or shooting up through a steep ascent through a tree line. It may be the sheer "fright" upon realizing how bad things could get if everything don't go as planned that enables you to perform techniques fluidly and accurately as you power and brake your way through technical terrain.
I'll admit I do it a a little, and I love it. I'm a believer that you need to learn and practice the riding techniques Bret Rasmussen, Chris Burandt and the many talented riders that have evolved the sport of backcountry technical riding to the prestige its risen to lately. There's a reason the series of videos called "Schooled" is named so. Purposely to teach you and I newbies a few needed skills and an awareness that being just OK at backcountry riding doesn't happen out of sheer luck and talent. All of us are capable of running out of both very quickly in just about any backcountry situation.
If you really want to learn some back country riding skills, first do yourself a favor and buy the whole series of Schooled videos sit and watch and take notes, and most of all listen to the tips they tell you. There are also some great websites like SledShot (Mountain Sledder Magazine) providing great tutorials on technical skills, I'd highly recommend their "How to Get Unstuck" video, it will make your life a lot easier and your back will thank you for it.
You also need a good safe learning spot that's not to technical and has a variety of terrain to train on. I found a small area with a decent hill and not too many trees, and some room for the sled to runoff without it ending up in a ravine, brook, trees or other obstacle that could injure you or your sled. Practice practice and keep practicing the techniques. Also pay special attention to the techniques of "wrong foot forward" and "counter steering" and learn how to use those techniques on both sides of your sled until it feels natural, and that's just the beginning.
I can't deny the purpose built back country sleds make the act of executing these techniques easier, however, the techniques themselves are much more influential to your ability to get around in the back country and more importantly to get out safely if you do plan to venture beyond the groomed trail.