Sled Skiing 101:
It’s no secret that a new snowmobile is an ultimate accessory for a skier or snowboarder. But misconceptions on the use of the “poor man’s helicopter” run rampant in our crowd. Here are a few things not to say/do if you’re new to the sled-ski game.
“I just want a cheap sled to get into the backcountry.”
Unfortunately, that $500 trail sled will get you approximately that many feet from the parking lot on a powder day. When the snow’s deep, you need big horsepower and a big track to keep you from spending your day getting unstuck. There’s no shame in not having a sled, but there’s plenty of shame in showing up with a sled that ruins everyone’s day. 600cc and a 144” track should be considered the absolute minimum to strap a board too, while a modern 800 with a 162” track will make life much easier.
“My roommates and I are going in on a sled so we can ski together.”
The problem is that sleds break down, all the time. Bringing only one sled into the backcountry means you may be a simple breakdown away from post-holeing 25 miles back to the truck. Invite buddies that also have sleds, or be very conscious not to ride in farther than you can walk out.
“I’m wearing my ski helmet today”
Sure, the speeds of skiing and snowmobiling in the mountains are often similar, but while your skiing your teeth aren’t hovering a foot away from a metal handlebar attached to a 500 machine. When you plow your sled into an unseen obstacle, a full-face helmet is the only thing that’ll keep you from smiling like a hockey player. And a couple bennies for a second lid will seem like a bargain when you’re pricing out dental work.
“I just bought my first sled. Want to go skiing?”
If it’s your first-day blowing smoke in the mountains, forget the boards. Snowmobiling has a brutal learning curve, so by the time you bury it a few dozen times, there won’t be much time to lap that line you’ve been eyeing. First approaching snowmobiling as a whole new sport is the best way to avoid the frustration of not being able to reach your ski spot. Plus, if you see snowmobiling as a means to an end, half your day is wasted.
“I’m going to backpack my board.”
Snowmobiling is more than plopping your butt on the seat and burning fossil fuels. It’s an extremely demanding sport in itself that requires balance and agility that’s nearly impossible with ungainly gear strapped to your back. Sled-mounting your boards let you ride unencumbered, plus your edges won’t be beating your partner about the head while you ride 2-up. Workable racks range from modified ATV gun racks ($50 or less) to the top of the line racks by Cheetah Factory Racing and Tiny Mo Pros ($290+) which both make securing a board to your sled quicker than strapping it to your feet. Plus, with the spangly TMP kit, you’ll look pro before you leave the parking lot.