Born to ride

Smithers woman donates her time and energy to make sledding a success in Smithers

by Jessica Kirby

Kendra Brown didn’t learn to love snowmobiling—she was born into it. Both of her parents raced sleds in the ’70s, ’80s and early ’90s, and they own the Trails North Polaris dealership in Smithers, so for Brown, there was almost no way to avoid the sport—and she has no regrets.

“I will ride forever,” said Brown. “I was first on (a sled) before I could walk, and I got my own Kitty Kat when I was five.”

Today, Brown plays an integral role in promoting the sport. 

“Kendra does so much for the club,” said Ron Fowler, president of the Smithers Snowmobile Association. “She is involved with the hillclimbs, Winterfest Days and all kinds of things. She and her parents are, as a family, really supportive of snowmobiling in the community.”

Brown’s parents raced in Dease Lake, Whitehorse and Alaska, as well as in Williams Lake and Prince George—and Brown later followed in their footsteps.

She started racing—against the boys—when she was seven years old. She never passed up a chance, competing in drag races and cross-country until she was junior champion in 1988-89. In fact, amateur racing quit before she did.

“When I was about 15 it just sort of stopped,” she said. “It’s too bad.”

Brown and her parents help kids recreate the competitive fun with Kiddy Day 120 races during Smithers’ Winterfest event. Under the dealership’s banner, the family plans a route for kids aged four to 10.

“We have age groups and trophies,” Brown said. “We usually get 18 or 20 (participants) and they love it.”

Brown recommends the more popular Dome, Microwave and Onion hills for family trips or for anyone looking for groomed trails, open meadows and challenging mountain terrain all in one place.

She herself prefers the less travelled Harold Price because its less frequently groomed trails offer open snow for all-day adventures without an agenda.

“Not a lot of people go up there,” Brown said. “I like to play in the trees—just poke through and see where it goes.”

She mostly rides with her family, but occasionally sleds with the “big boys” who are more into hillclimbing. Is she afraid?

“I am afraid a lot,” she laughed, “probably most of the time.”

When it comes to hillclimbs, Brown much prefers the trip down to the trip up.

“I am afraid of climbing hills because you have to turn out if you get stuck,” she said. “But it’s good afraid, not bad afraid. Going down, you don’t get stuck. And the adrenalin—when you are racing down the hill and the sled dies and you’re left with the quiet—it’s the best feeling in the world.”

Brown is happy to pass the love of sledding on to her own daughters, who took their first rides with family members around age three. By ages nine and 10 they were riding on their own.

Brown’s best advice for beginners or women interested in the sport is to just get out there and give it a try.

“Get into an open field and play around, try to carve—and if you fall off, it’s into nice, soft, cushy snow,”she said. “I have always come away relatively unscathed.”

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