No matter what type of skill level you possess, there is a difference between someone who “owns a sled” and a sledder. The heart of a sledder is a strong one, an ethical one. Here are some of the differences between someone who forks out cash for a sled and a sledder.
1. Safety equipment.
Mountain sledders always have the basics—a beacon, shovel and probe—and know how to use them. Their gear is stocked complete with a first-aid kit and survival equipment to keep them safe in the event of a disaster. To take it one step further, they value life, beyond all else. They educate each other and will not hesitate to bring the hammer down on those who could be putting themselves or others at risk by careless behaviour or lack of preparedness. Safety is a priority.
2. They don’t blame their equipment for what they do not know.
It is a shame when riders focus on the downfalls of their ride before taking the time and responsibility to learn how to shred better. It’s not your machine, it’s you. No sway bar removal will help you if you do not know the mechanics of getting your sled on its edge. More horsepower instead of learning throttle control will NOT make you a better rider. If you think buying a turbo will make you cool, save yourself some bucks and just plaster Monster stickers on your ride because you will not become a better rider simply by sinking 10 grand into your ride. Now I love boost and extra horsepower mods like the next shredder, but first and foremost, learn how to handle your machine or you’ll end up crumpled up in a whole heap of hurt.
3. Sledders don’t whine.
They don’t incessantly complain that their goggles have fogged, their fingers are cold, their sled is heavy and their feet are cold. Get good gear, plain and simple. If you can’t afford the new stuff, get second-hand, or wait till you can get non-current gear from your dealer or a sled show. Pack extra gloves and goggles so you have spares when you need them. Not every glove, goggle or boot works the same for each person, so if it doesn’t work for you, change it. If you aren’t meshing with your machine, do something about it.
4. Sledders look out for each other and do not put others in harm’s way.
Thinking of the consequences before hitting a hill or entering an area can mean the difference between life and death. If you’re the one who triggers a slide, you may not be the only one affected by its wrath. Think of that before you choose to be the guy or gal who goes the biggest. And save the liquid courage for after the ride. A clear mind is an asset in the mountains.
5. More braaap, less chatter.
True sledders love riding, through and through. Typically, it doesn’t matter what you ride or where you ride, we all have a common love of busting up white stuff. You have those who talk a big game, wear the gear and bling up their ride yet rarely do they hit the hills. Post after post on Facebook professes their superior skill and badass-ness when it comes to snowmobiling. They’ll be the ones bashing brands for they feel that only their ride is worthy of acknowledgement. Talking smack is just plain stupid. You often find these individuals on snowmobile forums, hiding behind user names so their true identity is never revealed. They troll and antagonize, trying to fool the world into believing they are sledders.
6. Blame the snow? I think not.
Real sledders simply like to hit the white stuff. Sure, we’d all love deep pow bluebird days, but a true sledder won’t whine about how crappy the snow is and use it as an excuse for ride mistakes. It’s all good. There are good snow days and bad snow days, but all in all—if there is snow on the ground, sledders rejoice.
7. Real sledders are welcoming, forgiving, and lend a hand in all situations.
Girls and guys included, if someone is stuck—or worse, if someone is injured—getting everyone to safety takes top priority. Sledders never leave a peep behind. Everyone comes off the mountain together.
8. Sledders take the needs of the group into account when it comes to machine reliability.
They have gassed, oiled and gone over their sled prior to hitting the hill. Sometimes a machine will go down unexpectedly and repairs have to be made on the hill—that is one thing. If an individual chooses to waste the group’s time performing basic maintenance and tinkering while the group waits—that, my friend, is inexcusable. Need to tune your sled? Do it on your own time, not your group’s time. Many people anticipate the moment they can shred each week and for some, the days aren’t plentiful. Work, family obligations and finances make designated ride days as precious as the most coveted diamond. If your machine has seen brighter days, either fix it, upgrade it or stay at home. Save everyone the agony of watching you tinker with your toy instead of sledding.
9. Sledders know their machines.
They know what makes their particular ride tick and they have what they need to keep it ticking. A spare belt, spare plugs and their tool kit are always on board.
10. Sledders reach out to new riders and offer a helping hand.
Helping newbies along the way is a great way to instill a solid ride foundation in riders to come. Quite often, shredding is a family sport. Monkey see, monkey do—so set a good example.