Snowmobiling since childhood: Interview with a B.C. sledder

Josh McLean has been sledding for as long as he can remember

by Danielle Brost

Sledder crashing through snow
Photo courtesy Josh McLean

We had a chance to catch up with Josh McLean, a dedicated rider with a lifelong passion for the sport. From his earliest memories on the back of a Moto-Ski Futura 400 to his present-day adventures atop a 2022 Ski-Doo Summit Expert 165, McLean has developed a lifelong love of sledding.

He is also fond of his community, and was happy to share all the must-have gear, exhilarating rides, and other highlights of his riding experience.

- Photo courtesy Josh McLean

Where are you from, and where do you most love to ride?

I live in Kamloops, B.C., which is a great base of operations. Any direction I go has great mountains within two hours: Coquihalla, North Thompson, Sicamous, and the Okanagan. That being said I grew up on the Shuswap, and that will always be my favourite place to be. Crowfoot mountain is my go-to, it is one of the first zones to access at the beginning of the season, and has something to offer every rider. There are three cabins, good groomed trails, easy terrain all the way to steep and technical trees. I have been exploring there for over 20 years and I still find something new every ride.

How long have you been sledding?

I had to call my parents for some help with this question! I have been around sleds all my life. My dad had an old Moto-Ski Futura 400 when I was born, and my first memories of sledding are riding around the yard on the back of that sled and getting towed on a toboggan. As I got older dad would ride double with me or my sister up to the Crowfoot cabin. Eventually we took over the sled and had a ton of fun racing around the neighbourhood and towing each other on sleds or skis.

Around the mid ‘90s dad picked up a Yamaha Phazer and VMax 600. That Phazer was my first taste of mountain riding and I spent some great days on the hill with my dad. I sledded off and on for years until I finally got serious and bought my own machine, a used Arctic Cat M8. The plan was to use it to access terrain for backcountry snowboarding. I worked hard at it for years, but as a lot of us find out it is much easier and just as much fun to ride sleds exclusively, and leave the snowboard at home.

- Photo courtesy Josh McLean

What kind of machine do you ride?

2022 Ski-Doo Summit Expert 165 with a GGB trail can, heavy duty rear springs, munster finger throttle, T-motion delete and bushing spacers. My tunnel bag is always strapped on the back holding my camera gear, even on the foggiest days—you never know when the perfect photo opportunity will turn up.

What is some of your must-have snowmobile gear?

Mountain riding is pretty demanding on gear, it has to be waterproof, breathable, and most of all, durable. This year I am riding head-to-toe 509 gear and am super excited by how well it is holding up. My favourite item Is their Ignite heated goggles, which stay clear even in the worst conditions.

Safety gear is so important—a shovel, probe, and a beacon are non-negotiable. I also run a Highmark air bag for extra safety. One of the most overlooked safety devices is a radio. We traverse such a large area on our sleds, and groups usually split apart to chase the best lines. Communication with the rest of your group is so important.

- Photo courtesy Josh McLean

Can you describe your best ride ever?

A few years ago a friend of mine planned a trip for us to Bralorne—a small mining town north of Pemberton in the south Chilcotin mountains. The town itself is tiny and old with very little accommodation, and it is two hours drive to to the nearest town on one of the worst roads in B.C. None of the sled areas are marked and there is very little sled traffic. Every day we headed out not knowing if we were even on the right trail.

We would struggle through the morning, breaking trails and searching for the right path, and finally being rewarded by moving into the alpine to discover deep untouched pow and massive scenic peaks. At the end of the day you ride back into town and instead of loading up, you ride. You sled right down main street and pull right into the local pub. It is not a trip for the weekend warrior, every year we go back and something goes wrong, from vehicle problems, sled break downs, and even got stranded by avalanches one year. Once you are out there, there is very little help. That being said, it's totally worth it to get away from civilization and have a wild adventure!

- Photo courtesy Josh McLean

Who do you like to go sledding with?

I work a four-on, four-off schedule, and weekends I usually spend with my family. That means I am a weekday sledder, which is great because the mountains are usually empty and the snow untouched. However, it is a little harder finding riding partners. Over the years we have put together a pretty good group of guys, but every ride is a slightly different crew, and we are always recruiting!

Is there anything else you'd like to share with our readers?

Snowmobiling is such a unique sport, there are virtually no rules, and we have the ability to travel to areas where the only other way you can access them is with a helicopter. It takes a lot of time, money and effort to do this regularly, and I am glad to be a part of it. If you would like to follow my alpine adventures, check me out at @shuswapsledder on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube.

Related Articles

Melanie Tonsi beside her snowmobile giving a thumbs up
Meet the Rider Tales of a sledding trailblazer

The ASA’s Most Outstanding Ambassador of the Year Melanie Tonsi shares her 25-year journey as a snowmobiler

by Danielle Brost
Kirsten Patton wears pink outerwear while driving her Ski-Doo snowmobile through powder between trees.
Meet the Rider, British Columbia Take control of your confidence with tips from this goal-conquering Rad Rider

Kirsten Patton, snowmobiler and dirt biker in Malakwa, B.C., encourages riders to move out of their comfort zone in an effort to grow enhance their skills

by Kyle Born
Rijel Hunley crashing through powdery snow on his sled
Meet the Rider, Revelstoke, BC Conquering peaks and powder: Rijel Hunley’s lifelong passion for snowmobiling

This avid sledder shares his favourite snowmobiling gear, tips and riding areas

by Danielle Brost
View all Meet the Rider articles