Do you have an “I know Maxwell” shirt?

Meet Sean Maxwell, Valemount’s most well-known backcountry rider and the area’s unofficial ambassador for Ski-Doo

by Trish Drinkle

Sean Maxwell carves a steep line into a sidehill in Valemount.
Technical lines are what inspire Sean Maxwell to push deeper into the Valemount backcountry. photo courtesy Sean Maxwell

“I know Maxwell” T-shirts are quite the hot item at the Edmonton Snowmobile and Powersports Show.  Many individuals, especially those who frequent the snowmobile forum Snow and Mud, wear these shirts proudly. Do you have an “I know Maxwell” shirt?”

Who is Maxwell you may ask, and why is he T-shirt worthy?  If you were to ask Sean Maxwell he may turn red and shake his head in disbelief.

“I have no idea how it all started,” he said. “One day I was posting on a forum and the next I have T-shirts in my name.”

Known for his annoyingly fervent loyalty to Ski-Doo, this outspoken man may appear cocky and abrasive on the forums but in fact he is quite the opposite. In his real life, he is passionate about the sport and backcountry freeriding.  He has served on the board of directors for the Association of British Columbia Snowmobile Clubs (ABCSnow) and he played a key role in the ABCSnow-B.C. Snowmobile Federation merger. He’s in it for the sport and in it for the people.

The mountains were calling

Sean started snowmobiling with his father, Roy Maxwell, at age three. An old Olympic 355 ignited his love of snowmobiling, which grew in intensity each year of his life.

In 2005, Roy and Sean ventured to Valemount, B.C. It was a trip that changed their lives. No longer content to ride the hayfields around Edmonton, they never took their sleds off the trailer because every chance they had they were travelling to Valemount.

Why Valemount?

“Valemount is the closest mountain snowmobile destination we have and the snowfall is always consistent,” said Sean. “Cooler temperatures, creating ample deep, dry powder make the trip worthwhile. You always know you can find fresh snow.”

Allan Creek and the Oasis Range in Valemount are two key zones Sean enjoys. With short trail rides in, you can spend the majority of your day having fun backcountry riding. Both areas hold good consistent snow and have some wide open park-like features that many will enjoy.  Both of these ride zones are also massive, allowing ample ability to ride untouched, untracked snow. 

“Allan Creek can have 200 sleds per day through it with waning snowfall yet you’ll still find fresh snow to enjoy,” said Sean. “There are a lot of hidden gems within each of these zones.”

In 2006, the Maxwell family purchased a home and property in Valemount, which would serve as snowmobile headquarters for Sean and his crew in the years to come.

Sean Maxwell poses on his sled above Valemount.
Upon his first visit to Valemount,Sean Maxwell knew this was where his sled home was. photo courtesy Sean Maxwell

A solid rider

Normally, his crew consists of a handful of men—including Curtis Pawliuk and his cousin Cody Maxwell—but this past season Sean switched it up a bit and rode with some lady shredders. 

“Women riders have never let me down,” said Sean. “They never bail on a ride and leave me hanging. Luba Savrnoch, Carolyn Russ and Amanda Seydell were my sled crew for much of the 2015-2016 season.” 

Riding with women had Sean shifting gears from riding super-tight aggressive treelines to having fun in more open terrain. Amping up his jump and drop game, Sean found new ways to enjoy his Valemount playground. 

Sean Maxwell whips a shitty on a steep hill.
Tips up for Sean Maxwell on a beautiful bluebird day in Valemount. photo courtesy Sean Maxwell

Despite his impassioned I-love-Skidoo-Skidoo-is-the-only-sled-worth-riding type of online expression, he truly is there for his riding crew.

“(Sean) is always the first one to help any rider out of a jam,” said Luba Savrnoch. “He’s always there, and always encouraging–even when he’s laughing at you while helping you out of a stuck.”

He definitely rubs some people the wrong way online, prompting some to challenge his skill. They’ll show up and seek Sean out in hopes of outing this cocky 28-year-old.

“I do enjoy antagonizing people on Snow and Mud,” said Sean. “Some don’t realize it’s all in fun and a public challenge of my skill.”

Sean is solid. And while the adventure may start out as kind of a showdown, when people ride with him they see an incredibly skilled and knowledgeable backcountry rider who goes out and goes hard, but always comes home at night. What starts out as a battle simply ends up being a great day in the mountains, having fun snowmobiling. 

Sean takes backcountry safety seriously and definitely rides to survive. He does go big, he does go deep into the backcountry, but there is always a voice of common sense in the back of his mind guiding him.

“If I were to become injured or hurt, I can’t work or provide for myself,” said Sean. “I am not the type of rider that will throw caution to the wind and hit something ridiculously huge for the sake of being a superstar. I just can’t take that risk.” 

Wise for his age, he sets a great example for new and experienced riders.

Exploring and racing

If you were to ask Sean what skills he’d like to develop more, it isn’t to send it higher or to drop more gnarly lines. Sean wants to further improve his navigational skills. He enjoys finding new routes in the backcountry—some that have never before been tried, requiring him to fine tune his sled and navigational skills. Not for the faint of heart, the treelines Sean take leave little room for error.  Where some see a blank wall of trees, Sean sees endless hours of challenge and fun. The honey holes he hides from the rest of the world would make grown men weep. 

The 2016-2017 season will find Sean amping up his race game. After placing second in the Improved 800 class and third in the Modified 800 class at the Silver Star Mountain Resort races in 2016, Sean hopes to continue to podium for 2017.

Obviously brand loyal, Sean will be riding his 2016 Ski-Doo Freeride, his 2015 Summit 174 and his race sled, which is a 2014 modified Summit 800.

Sean Maxwell races hillclimb on his sled.
Sean Maxwell looks forward to upping his race game for the 2016-2017 season. photo courtesy Sean Maxwell

On Our Rad Radar

Rider: Sean Maxwell
Where: Valemount, B.C.
Occupation: Survey project manager at Edmonton’s ICE District
Bragging rights: Sean Maxwell is a hardcore tree-bashing freerider with a say-it-like-it-is type of personality and a strong desire to go farther and deeper into the mountainous backcountry of Valemount, B.C.
His weapons of choice: 2016 Ski-Doo Freeride, 2015 Summit 174 and 2014 Summit 800 modified race sled
Local ride recommendation: “Allan Creek can have 200 sleds per day through it with waning snowfall yet you’ll still find fresh snow to enjoy.” 

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