Checking in with Kalle “KJ” Johansson

The crazy Swede continues to rock the sledding world, both in North America and Europe

by Kirsten Armleder

KJ doing a tail whip.
Yeah, KJ looks good on a sled no matter whether his skis are pointed up or down. Vera Janssen photo

From the rivers of Sweden to the backcountry of B.C., Kalle “KJ” Johansson knows how to send it—big time. Johansson first appeared on B.C.’s sled scene six years ago and now he’s a permanent fixture on the Team Slednecks roster and a regular with the 509 crew and the boys from Braaap Films. He also scored a segment in Jorli Ricker’s original Fourcast movie and the soon-to-be-released Fourcast 3.

Johansson, who is originally from Örnsköldsvik, Sweden, sleds year round. For most of the winter, he’s out shredding the big mountains of Pemberton and Whistler, then in the spring when the snow starts to melt, he heads north to Alaska. When there’s no powder left there, he and his pro snowboarder girlfriend, Vera Janssen, and their young daughter, Nika, return to Sweden for the summer where it’s all about racing, and even jumping, sleds on water.

SnoRiders recently caught up with Johansson to see what he’s been up to.

What sled did you ride this year? This winter, I was riding my Wildcat and an Arctic Cat 1100 Turbo with an Evolution Powersports turbo kit. The Wildcat is my own creation built out of a wrecked M8 that hit an ice wall next to an ice cave wide open without a rider that ended its life very fast.

Where did you ride? I rode mainly in the Whistler-Pemberton area but I did some road trips as well. First was a quick trip to Rene St. Onge and the Eagle Valley Lodge in Sicamous. (I) blew a chaincase the first day on my 1100 Turbo that ended that deep trip. After that, I put a C3 belt drive on it to solve that problem and headed up to Terrace by ferry to shoot for Fourcast 3. That was a really fun and interesting trip. It’s not every time you jump on a ferry for 18 hours to go sledding. Then right after that it was time to head up to Alaska with the whole family and our nanny, Gaby, in a motorhome that we bought for the trip right before. Alaska was all times with epic snow and blue sky in between big snowfalls.

Oh, and right after we got back from Alaska, I went to Rob Alford’s log chalet in Revelstoke to meet up with the 509 crew for a big heli shoot that was off the hook with all riders. After that season, my old Wildcat was a bit tired and needed a new chassis so I had to bring out my welding skills and make her a new stronger frame to keep her alive. Guess I rode quite a few spots this winter anyway.

What was your most memorable ride of the year? That must be a day on a secret location in Alaska together with Ryan Britt, Ashley Chaffin, Joey Junker, my girlfriend, Vera Janssen, and some other locals. On the way in, the wind was hauling over a ridge (that) we had to climb up and you couldn’t see the ground at all and it had snowed about four feet the last days. Vera was about to give up but I forced her to come along and helped her up. Once we were up, there was epic deep snow and kickers everywhere you turned your head. I did some really big whips up there and it was just so much to hit and we rode till we were out of gas and had to share the last gas on the way down.

How do you feel about winning King of the Hill at the 23rd Annual Valdez Mountain Man Hill Climb contest? I had no idea what to expect when I entered my first hillclimb race. In the morning, when I went to warm up my sled, the power valves on the Wildcat were failing so I had to do an emergency fix and plug them open for it to run.

In the first run in the Trophy Mod 800 class, my rear wheels said goodnight and folded together after 20 feet. (I) stole the wheels from the 1100 and rolled up to the start gate just in time for my second run. (It) turned out I got the best time on the hill and won that class—to my big surprise.

Then it was time for the Mod 800 class. I kept beating my own track record every time I went up the hill and soon after winning the Mod 800 class, it was time for the King of the Hill run. After two good runs, I was announced King of the Hill after my first hillclimb race.

It was a super fun event when you race against the clock and you can pick your own lines. That’s something that I will try again for sure and next spring I have to come up to Valdez again to defend the title.

Your list of career accomplishments includes backflipping a snowmobile and the longest snowmobile water jump. Is there anything you haven’t done on a snowmobile? Hmm, I have raced snocross, hillcross, enduro, hillclimb, holeshot races, watercross, done freestyle, backflipped a sled, ridden up and down rapids and tight streams, dropped a waterfall and lots of different freeriding. There should be a lot more that can be done on a sled. I would love to do a long-distance ride on water in a river with some gnarly streams on the way and maybe finish in a different country. There is so much you can do on a sled so I don’t think I will drain myself on ideas for a long time. It’s just time and money that sets the limits of what can be done. I wish I could get the chance to ride full time on good equipment and plan new crazy stuff the whole time.

How would you describe your backcountry riding style? I try to ride as smooth as possible. (I have) been more aggressive earlier but that involves more wrenching (and it) is harder on the sleds and myself as well. It’s hard enough to keep the sleds together and running as it is.

You’re back in Sweden for the summer, so what will you be up to? I’m working, running machines at my friend’s company, and I’m trying to do as much water sledding as I can. I have qualified for the European Championship in watercross on a borrowed sled that I had about seven minutes on before the start. And I will try to beat the world record on long-distance jumping on water again—now with the right people on set to make it official. And I’m always looking for cool spots to ride a sled where no one has ever ridden before.    

What sledding area would you most like to try out in the future? Most of all, I want to try them all! Russia would be awesome to go to (as well as) South America, Iceland and Greenland. I would love to try it all and meet all the enthusiastic people who love sledding as much as I do. 

Any thank-you’s or shout-outs? I would like to thank my sponsors and all the people that are helping me live my dreams.

Thanks KJ for catching up with SnoRiders!

Johansson is sponsored by Slednecks, 509, Evolution Powersports, Fox Shocks, Route 99 Motorsports, Snowpulse, Mountain Sports Distribution, RSI Racing, HTR Designs, XXX ModRods, Boondockers, HMK, Timbersled and My Package.

You can follow Johansson and Janssen on Facebook. To watch a video of their trip to Alaska, go to Vera’s Shredventures on Vimeo.

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