A perfect powder playground

This sledder's best ride was an unexpected surprise deep in the Rocky Mountains

by Colin Payne

It was April of 2008, at the tail end of what had been a mediocre sledding season at best for Luke Burley, a resident of Golden, B.C., so he and his brother Jake had low expectations when they headed deep into the Rockies for a couple of days of snowmobiling at Chatter Creek Lodge. But little did they know, their best ride ever was soon to come.

Located 100 kilometres northwest of Golden, Chatter Creek boasts the largest area of backcountry terrain in Western Canada and as much as 150 kilometres of snow roads to access that terrain.

Luke is the owner of Rocky Mountain Riders, a Golden-based snowmobile tour business. That day, he arrived with his brother at the Chatter Creek Lodge parking area late in the afternoon and the pair made it to the lodge near sunset—just in time to enjoy a quick evening ride and a few drinks afterward at the lodge.

“There had not been many big powder days that season, so we weren’t expecting much snow—especially at the end of April,” said Luke.

The brothers went to sleep that night and awoke the next morning to three feet of fresh powder and clear, blue skies.

“The two of us left the lodge after breakfast and headed out for (what) proved to be one of my best days sledding ever,” said Luke. “We found ourselves caked in snow in one of the most amazing and untouched areas around, with no one else to be seen. The snow stability was great and the visibility was awesome.”

The great weather, deep, untouched powder and incredible Rocky Mountain terrain created the perfect playground for the Burley brothers and a day that Luke said will be hard to top.

“We spent the entire day launching cornice drops and carving up the fresh powder without hitting our tracks twice," he said. "It was amazing. I had never seen a better day with (such) perfect snow and bluebird (skies). To top it off, we had this beautiful playground all to ourselves.”

With almost a full tank of gas spent, the brothers ripped up to the highest point they could find to take in the spectacular view before topping up their tanks and heading off to find a new area to rip up for the rest of their day.

Remember the spare parts               

On another day, a broken belt turned what was supposed to be just a quick ride with a buddy into a harrowing night stuck on a mountain trail for Luke Burley.

Burley called up his friend and asked him to come along with him for a ride to test out his new sled and check out a new trail. His friend had an old 380cc touring machine and Burley was riding his new 800cc sled. The two cruised along the trail for about 20 kilometres until the snow got too deep for the little sled to handle. Not wanting to quit until they saw the end of the trail, the pair doubled up and continued for about another 10 kilometres until that sled suddenly started to shake and then stopped.

An experienced snowmobiler, Burley knew immediately that they had blown a belt; he could have fixed the problem in no time—except for one problem.

“After a few seconds of looking under the hood for the spare belt, I realized that I never put the spare belt under the hood yet,” said Burley. “We found ourselves stuck with no sled, in the middle of the night in knee-deep powder and with a huge walk in front of us. It was so dark out you could barely even see the moon. That meant we could barely see the trail we just made.”

The two sledders trudged their way back the 10 kilometres in the pitch dark by feeling their way along the trail they had packed. They arrived back at the other snowmobile hours later, tired and soaked in sweat; then they doubled back to their truck.

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