Through the mind of a She Braaper

Part 2 of Sledding with your spouse

by Trish Drinkle

A woman in a red helmet riding a snowmobile through deep snow.
The author, Trish Drinkle, on her new 2013 Polaris Pro-RMK. photo courtesy Trish Drinkle

Guys, there are things you absolutely must know about the mind of a woman before you decide to take her out. We’ve covered a lot of the basics as far as the actual ride adventure, but now, how about we delve into the mind of a woman braaper.

  1. We don’t just get over it.

One small little critique will stay with us for an eternity. Think about the long-term implications before venting frustration. If you tell her she can’t do something, you may have meant YET. She will take your word for it and program her thinking accordingly, believing she will never be able to ride well.

Leave the possibilities open. Say things like, “Soon you’ll be able to shoot right up that hill. You’ll be laying it over like a pro soon! Once you get the hang of counter steering, you’ll see how easy sidehilling can be.”

2. Break it down. 

Break down what you are asking her to do in simple steps. “Honey, line up with your steering post. Wrong foot forward, then turn your skis. Blast with the throttle and your sled will lay over like a dream.” Instead of “Pull your sled over on its side woman and GO!” It can be very intimidating to be the commander of such a powerful machine.

My husband gave me the gears when we were riding with Bret Rasmussen. Rasmussen broke everything down into three inputs, then plop goes my sled on its side. My husband said, “Seriously, I’ve been telling you that for a year.” No, in reality he didn’t, he said, “Get your sled over.” Then after I struggled and was flustered, he'd explain the skis and blast-of-throttle part of it. But like I said in Step 1, we don’t just get over it if you’re criticizing after the fact. Break it down before.

3. It isn’t just wide open throttle!

So half the time my husband would be riding my butt about not being aggressive enough with the throttle and the other half he’s yelling at me for going, in his words, “mock chicken” as I fly off the face of the earth, down a cliff into some trees—it’s not always wide open throttle; it’s NOT "when in doubt throttle out!" No, no. Trust me—teach her how to feather her throttle.

The best teacher for that was when my husband put me on his turbo. I had to really learn how to feather and control my throttle. Applying this to what I am doing on my Pro-RMK now makes all the difference in the world.

4. Electric start.

Sure, I was a bit of a macho-minded woman—I didn’t need no stinkin' e-start. Fast-forward into reality—my electric start on the Pro-RMK really doesn’t add much weight. I never realized how much energy I actually do save with e-start. It helps, too, if I am stuck by myself up a steep incline. I can swing my sled around but sometimes it can be difficult to pull a sled over when it is facing downhill. Some sleds are more difficult to start than others. It isn’t a cop-out to opt for e-start—some sleds are easy to start, others not so much. I am one who really is enjoying my electric start option.

5. Start the day off right.

Recently, we were out riding and came upon a wonderful big play area full of deep snow and jumps. I was so excited. I picked a steep sidehill and made my way up the hill. Perched up top, I waited for my husband. Upon his arrival, I could tell he wasn’t pleased. Apparently, he had wanted me to wait so our friend could take pictures of me in the area.

Now, I’m really like that creature Scratt from the movie Ice Age. The snow is my nut. I honestly went from being completely elated to crushed as he angrily told me what he had wanted. That set the tone for the ride for me. My confidence was shaky and I wasn’t on my game. If the tone of the day is set in complete cranky-pants mode, it’s not going to be fun for anyone. 

6. Praise goes a long way. 

If you take the time to voice your pride in your lady’s skills to others, that is most definitely something that will boost her confidence and give her the motivation to try even harder. Success-based learning is the only way we women fly. The better we feel, the better we do.

7. It’s just a flesh wound. 

So tell me this: why is it that I get read the riot act if I smoke a bumper, but everyone else on the planet can break bumpers and A-arms and it’s "just a part of sledding.” Seriously, if you want me to become comfortable riding in the trees, do not make me afraid of wrecking something. Guys, give your woman the grace of wrecking stuff. It truly is just a part of sledding. The moment they become terrified of wrecking something, their days of being a She Shredder are over. 

8. Kisses and hugs.

If you bring in the intimacy on the hill, it will actually help to recover from epic whoopsies, stucks and tree fondling. Some may think there is no room in sledding for smooching. I’m here to tell you, however, that a smooch makes everything better for me. I release my happy hey-how-you-doin' hormones filled with warm fuzzies, which will completely annihilate any feelings of insecurity or embarrassment. Smooch before you speak.

9. If you give your budding braaper babe a chance to redeem herself, it actually makes all your hard work of digging her out, and unsticking her sled, worth it.

Think of a fair trade. Perhaps a full-body massage or a special meal. If we don’t feel indebted for life, it makes it a lot easier to face the humble beginnings of riding.

10. Ghosts from the past.

There are certain moments in our sledding experiences that mess us up mentally. Some memories are harder to shake than others. Understand what nemesis plagues your She Shredder and you can help her get through it.

For me, not being able to get back up the hill in a tightly treed area is my ghost from the past. In a past experience, I continued to go downhill, not able to get back up again, resulting in me being literally on the edge of a steep canyon. I was scared and frustrated. When I am in a similar situation now, I feel the same pangs of anxiety.

It takes repetition and practice to make the sled do what you want. That practice is valuable time, as it gives you the confidence to make your sled do what you want when it is truly needed. 

11. If you point out how far she has come, it encourages her to go even further.

Learning is slow in the beginning. Once a strong foundation of skill has been established, it’s game on. She’ll learn quickly, providing she knows she absolutely can do it. If my husband tells me I can, then I will. Maybe not the first time, but I will be able to do it!

In the end, is it worth it?

Breaking in a new rider is challenging enough, let alone a She Shredder you are in a relationship with. Is it worth it? In my mind, yup!

I’m thinking my husband is right along there with me saying "yup." I may be a pain in the arse sometimes, but riding is something that definitely keeps the woo-hoo in our relationship.

Braaap on, peeps!

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