Skis & Sleds — Weekend Adventures With Mr. Tippy


Post by WildSnow.com blogger | March 2, 2009      

I’ve been riding and modifying “Mr. Tippy” lately. That’s the nickname I tend to use for our Yamaha Nytro snowmobile; a high-tech low-pollution 4-stroke machine that works well for ski access, but nonetheless is a bit on the heavy side and difficult to control. Seems we need to ride Mr. Tippy more, and modify him more. So this weekend we did a couple of backcountry skiing trips with sled access. Not long sessions of riding, but enough to get a feel for the changes I’ve been making. More about the sled later in this post, first a few photos of the skiing.

Backcountry Skiing

Lisa on West Pearl Mountain, Castle Peak to right, Elk Mountains, central Colorado.

Backcountry Skiing

Jordan White, same place.

As for the sled. Day one, Lisa and I did about 14 miles on the Nytro (round trip), accessing a fairly remote area in the western Elk Mountains that would normally require an overnight. Day two, we headed up to the heart of the Elks, sledding the flat approach to Pearl Basin then parking the Nytro and skinning Pearl Mountain. Despite a windy few days, we found enough boot-top powder to keep us happy. The snowmobile trails were well based so I couldn’t do any deep powder riding, but I found enough soft stuff to start testing things.

Backcountry Skiing

Our Nytro is getting better as we make more suspension mods and learn how to ride it. Here Lisa gives it a shot.

Challenge with the Nytro comes down to it being designed (as most mountain sleds now are) for an aggressive rider who can throw the thing around. Probably a guy who weighs more than me, and has more arm strength and WAY better technique. At slower speeds, for example breaking trail through deep powder on a narrow road in dense timber, you don’t always have the room to maneuver that way. Instead, you need stability, not extreme response to every body weight shift. In other words, given such conditions you don’t need a sled that feels like you’re kneeling on a bowling ball, but rather one that tends to track straight even when one ski submarines or the trail suddenly tilts, in the dark, with five feet of room to either side of your line.

Backcountry Skiing

Basic mods, shortening the limiter straps (left arrow) gives you less of that 'riding the bowling ball' feeling, while softening the rear/front suspension allows it to ride slightly lower and easier when driven by a smaller framed guy such as myself, or gal such as Lisa.

So why didn’t we get something other than a tweaky mountain sled? Simple, everyone’s advice was to indeed get this type of rig, as mountain sleds are generally lighter weight and simply more versatile than an even bigger “trail” or “work” snowmobile. They also told me a mountain sled would take some getting used to, and we’d need to at least adjust the suspension, install a bar riser for more side-to-side leverage and better ergonomics while riding in the standing position.

Backcountry Skiing

Fly Racing handlebar riser installed. This rig also has a pivot to adjust for/aft position of the bars, essential for fine tuning your ergonomics. I love this mod. Riding in the standing position this weekend was much more relaxing, and I could feel the powerful side leverage when I needed it.

Fine, and noticeable improvements, except the Nytro has one quirk that’s tough to deal with. If you’re moving slow on even a moderate sidehill, and turn downhill in a certain way, the sled will quickly tip over on it’s side, or even do a 1/2 roll. Sure, with room to maneuver and some speed, modern sled technique includes moves equal to ski technique, such as sidehilling using counter steering (see vid). But I’m talking situations with little room to move, basically creeping around.

Backcountry Skiing

Nytro rolled over on terrain this flat, despite my best efforts at preventing the roll. Righting the sled took two men -- I couldn't have done it by myself without rigging a rope system or digging a large pit to undermine the highside.

Sometimes the Mr. Tippy roll happens in comedic slow motion, with me hanging off the high side like some guy on a competition sail boat — with absolutely no effect. Other times the event occurs dangerously fast. And once you’re over, you’ve got more than 400 lbs of dead weight you’re trying to rectify. Adding insult, there will always be a snowshoer or x-c skier who’ll come by just about the time you’re standing there scratching your head trying to engineer a way to roll the thing back up.

The mods I’ve done on our Yamaha Nytro (’08) have definitely helped with the rolling problem, especially shortening the limiting straps and widening the ski stance. (Note, widening the stance has the disadvantage of making it tougher to tip back up after a roll, and also makes it difficult to sidehill by counter steering and tipping up on one ski.) But I’d still like more stability at slow speeds. To that end, I’m told that wider aftermarket skis with more “keel” and the option to change mounting position for/aft will also help with stability. That mod is on the list, but it’s pricey and might have to wait till next year. At the least, I’ll wait till we wear out our present set of ski carbides running on this spring’s asphalt patches during runs such as Maroon Creek. Looking forward to that. Nothing like shooting up to the Maroon Bells or Pyramid Peak for some world-class spring ski mountaineering (so long as I can keep my speed up and counter steer on the sidehills — just kidding, we park at the end of the road and it’s human power from there!)

Backcountry Skiing

Jordan White at the Pine Creek Cookhouse, he recently got a sled so fun to get out with another snowmobile instead of going solo. We stopped in for a beer, which is worth the price because of the Star Peak view, as well as prolific backcountry skier Sean Shean's presence to inform you of the amazing skiing that he and other locals have opened up in this area (including a ton of routes on that interesting peak visible through the window.)



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Comments

56 Responses to “Skis & Sleds — Weekend Adventures With Mr. Tippy”

  1. Dongshow March 2nd, 2009 11:42 am

    I have similar problems, deep powder in tight spots where I have to control my speed cause me to flip constantly. Especially when I’m following someone who is constantly stopping to navigate.

  2. Lou March 2nd, 2009 11:55 am

    Dongshow, what seems to happen with us is, one, the outside ski sinks in the pow or muck, and two, then turned at a certain angle it provides very little support and causes the sled to lean/pivot into a roll. The aftermarket skis such as SLP Powder Pro Plus are said to help with this problem in various ways, especially by providing more support and better turning grip in deep snow (which keeps you out of the bad spots). Using a wider ski stance helped me quite a bit, but of course may work against you when you’re fun performance riding. I tried a stiffer front suspension as well, but softening it seemed to help more, probably because I can shift the sled weight easier and the heavy front end rides a bit lower so it has a better center of gravity.

    The other thing we need on the Nytro is ski tails with more rise, so we can reverse farther in the powder with the ski tails digging in. None of the skis I’ve seen have much of this, probably for performance reasons.

  3. Ken March 2nd, 2009 12:04 pm

    Lou – Check out the Simmons Flexi-ski at http://www.flexi-ski.com/home.html They are available in widths and actually have the carbides on the outside of the ski (like real skis, duh!). This is a patented design that is the single biggest upgrade I have made to different sleds. Much better control and stability, even on trails…but especially in powder. -Ken

  4. scottn March 2nd, 2009 12:08 pm

    I hear ya on tipping these things over. I have found that when solo often just digging underneath the sled will be enough to tip it back over. This will allow the snow to ‘cave in’ when you push it. Usually about a foot of digging will be enough to get it upright. You may need to did out a little ‘runway’ afterwards to get going.

    I learned all these things as a brief owner of a smoke belching, underpowered 600cc mountain max. I found until I have more money for a nice sled that I spent more time digging it out that I would have if I would have skinned the extra 4 miles.

    time for an argo maybe… buyargo.com

    scott

  5. Lou March 2nd, 2009 12:15 pm

    Scott, agree, you’ve got to be REALLY careful about where you expect a sled to take you for skiing. Otherwise you’ll use more energy than just skinning a mile or two. I’ve learned to be very conservative. The other thing I’ve learned is, just as with skiing, to be very sensitive to snow conditions. When the snow is based the snowmobile is a much more versatile tool for skiing access. In deep powder it can be nearly useless, though fun to drive for its own sake.

    One thing I like about owning a 4-stroke with electric start and reverse is it’s a lot more appropriate for short blasts up a few mile from a trailhead, as it’s takes so little energy to use, is quiet, and no smell. I haul it around in my pickup, so no trailer hassles either! Other than the stability issue, it’s a joy compared to the old days.

  6. Jeff March 2nd, 2009 12:27 pm

    Lou,

    Great post as usual. My sled-ski partner rides a Yamaha Phazer and I often refer to myself as the Phazer Support Crew due to its ability to spontaneously roll. Mods help as much as technique I have found.

    One quick, somewhat off topic question. A crew of us from Montana has reserved the Friends Hut for the first week in April. We’re planning on coming in from the Crested Butte side so we can visit with friends there (I have your guide book and it sounds much better from Ashcroft but oh well). My question, is it worth the effort to haul one sled down to tow into the summer trailhead or just slog it out? How much would we really gain in April by doing so? Also, I’m sure you know a couple ski bums that would potentially like to make a quick buck for a ride from the Ashcroft TH to Carbondale where we might stash a car. Could you put us in touch? We’re thinking that if we have good traveling conditions we would like to head out the Castle creek route instead of back tracking to CB.

    Any thoughts would be highly appreciated. We’re stoked head down and explore this part of the country…

    -Jeff

  7. Wick March 2nd, 2009 12:36 pm

    Lou – if you don’t mind….we change the date on the next CB town rando race from the 5th to the 12th. Had a great turnout for the first one, folks are using it for Elk Mtn Grand Traverse training, etc., etc.

    How was the skiing up near Pearl? How did this past Monday’s wet snow bond up there (it rained here in Gunnison that day)? We skied over the saddle at Copper Cr (NW Pearl Mtn) on to CB last Sunday (prior to the wet snow event on Monday) under gorgeous conditions and no signs of instability. Real bummer the Roaring Fork Avy Center isn’t on it own (now part of CAIC ??), as there is no place I’ve seen to get local observations as to what’s happening “over there”.

  8. Lou March 2nd, 2009 12:42 pm

    Hi Wick, will do. Things were more stable than I thought they’d be, saw a few agro lines had been skied, much of the snow was winded but still nice, some breakable crust that was less than ideal. Worst thing about lack of avy center is not being able to get up on Saturday morning and get a current report. But oh well, I skied most of my life without avalanche reports so it’s not a deal breaker, besides, we never had a good report for Marble anyway (other than looking at yours).

  9. Matt March 2nd, 2009 12:42 pm

    Hey Lou-

    I was up in your neck of the woods last weekend and had a question for you. My party (of 3) spent one night at Green Wilson, then 2 nights at Friends. On our return to the Ashcroft TH, we toured over the SE col on Star Peak and into the Taylor Drainage. From there, we climbed over the Star-Taylor Ridge via a beautiful, craggy col. My question is, does this col have a name? I know there are at least 3 prominent cols on that ridge. This is the middle one. From the Taylor side, it looks like 3 sharp rock fins. From the Ashcroft side it looks more like a right-handed mitten with a big spiky thumb.

    Regardless of the name, it was a glorious tour. Perfect weather, perfect conditions, wonderful company, and terrain that would make even the Euros envious.

    Cheers,

    Matt
    Boulder, CO

  10. Lou March 2nd, 2009 12:47 pm

    Nice Job Matt! When the snow is good there is nothing like the Elks, just so riven with terrain features yet so skiable. I actually think the snow has been better in recent years, perhaps because of global warming. I don’t know about the naming, I’ll bet the locals have come up with at least one, any Ashcroft skiers care to comment? Sean?

  11. Lou March 2nd, 2009 1:00 pm

    Jeff, if your’e towing people and only using one sled, you probably only save about 3 miles on the Brush Creek route by using a sled on the CB side, since the terrain gets a lot more complex and difficult to ride after that, but it using a sled could save some flat tedious stuff depending on where the plow turnaround is that time of year. I’d say if you don’t know the route and terrain you’d be better off just slogging.

    That said, a really good trick for sled access to Friends is to actually sled up the Cement Creek Road to 10,200 feet, park the sled, then take a side drain (see map) that makes a really nifty ski route to the hut that includes a small aesthetic saddle you ski over then down to the hut. But again, if you’ve only got one sled and you’re trying to two a group, getting this done via snowmobile might be too much work. Best would be to recon or talk to a local who knows it from day-to-day.

  12. Tony March 2nd, 2009 1:00 pm

    Lou,

    We have two SAR snowmobiles and a few of our members have snomos as well. We have used them on SAR missions and trainings a few times and I have a few quesitons/comments. I am not a rider, I usually end up getting towed behind these things.

    How do you get the second skier in if you just have one sno mo? None of our machines is big enough for a second skier to ride on them for any distance. Our longest tow in was about 5 miles over a trail bumbed out by other snow mos. I was pretty tuckered after that. The SAR sno mo purchase decision was advised by a sled head who got us a reltively high peformance machine (I don’t know exactly what). Would we have been better off with a utility sled that could handle a second rider? We have had a victim ride out on our sled for a a couple of miles in an emergency, but my understanding is that we shouldn’t do this on a regular basis. The other problem is that on packed trails at slow speeds our sled is often overheating.

    Thanks, Tony

  13. Lou March 2nd, 2009 1:09 pm

    Whew Tony, IANASN (I am not a sled neck), but I do know from my own SAR experience that any SAR worth its carabiners should have some sledneck volunteers who work as an advance team with high performance sleds and riders, then follow that with your utility sleds. As for what you own as a team, I’d say you’d want one performance mountain sled and one model with a two-up seat for ambulatory evacs (I did one of those once as a SAR volunteer and it worked great, just someone sick at a hut and they rode double out to the trailhead). As for overheating of modern sleds, just remember they cool by the snow the track throws on the heat exchanger, so you need ice scratchers deployed if you’re on a hard surface trail, and may need some cooling system mods if you’re pressing the sled into service it wasn’t designed for.

    As for towing skiers, yeah, if the trail is moguled it can be really bad. But riding two-up on a performance sled can be tough and very tippy. Trick is to either ride tandem or have one person scrunch up into the handlebars so their weight is nearly entirely over the skis. Even then it’ll sometimes be too tippy, and if you do go over someone can get hurt ’cause it’ll be such a tangle.

  14. Pundy March 2nd, 2009 3:37 pm

    Lou, the best piece of advice I can give you is to take some time with some slednecks to really learn to ride your sled. I did this and now I can go just about anywhere on mine. As you alluded to, it has everything to do with technique and little to do with strength (until you get it stuck). I know a 15 year old boy who’s 125 lbs dripping wet and that kid can toss around a 500 lb sled like nobodys business. If you want to ride a sled effectively with confidence you gotta take the time in some soft snow conditions to learn, and take your partner with you so you can also learn to tandem well. It’s all about confidence. The hardest part is giving up those soft snow days when you really wanna be skiing.

  15. Jeff March 2nd, 2009 3:42 pm

    Tony,

    The best way to tow people in, in my experience, is with climbing harnesses and bike innertubes. Put the innertube though the main hard point on your harness and then a “Z” configuration with the tow line through the innertube.

    This way all the towing force is pulling lower on your body, from your hips and much of the force is difussed by the innertube. You can tow a long way on this setup…bumps or whoops on the trail is another story. You just have to toughen up…

  16. Lou March 2nd, 2009 3:47 pm

    Yeah, we use the bike inner tubes technique, even without the harness it works well, you just rig the tube so you can put it around your hips and pass a hank of rope through it in such as way that if you let go it easily comes off. With a harness it works better, but that’s one more item of gear we usually don’t carry.

  17. Lou March 2nd, 2009 4:01 pm

    Pundy, I’m on the case with that, thanks for the confirmation. Interestingly, I’m not a bad rider myself in the old school sense as I’ve ridden snowmobiles for years and owned another one way back when, but I’m a total hacker when it comes to modern high performance stuff. Watching the videos helps too, as does just going out for rides as you suggest. Nice I can get to a ride zone with about a 15 minute drive, trying to go there for a few lunch breaks. Amazing how much sledding you can get done in an hour…

  18. Frank Konsella March 2nd, 2009 5:19 pm

    Tony, I would recommend riding “Canadian style”, i.e. riding with 2 side by side. One person has the throttle and the mountain bar in the middle, while the other has the brake and the mountain bar. Works great, I’ve gotten up some pretty crazy stuff that way with a friend who is much better rider than me and was doing most of the work.

    Jeff, I’ll agree with Lou regarding Brush creek getting difficult pretty quickly. Cement, on the other hand, would be a good call.

    I’ll agree with Pundy, too- I know I should spend more time on my snowmobile (for the sake of snowmobiling) than I do, it’s just that I’d rather ski than snowmobile!!

  19. Lou March 2nd, 2009 5:30 pm

    Too many tools, too little time…

  20. Steve March 2nd, 2009 5:42 pm

    Just a fellow from up Idaho way enjoying reading about your part of the country and your sled adventures. I’m on about my 3rd or 4th sled now. Started with an old fan cooled ski doo and now have a fairly new ski doo summit rev that I really like. But I can see that if and when I can justify it with the other half of my recreation budget dept. (read wife) then I’ll be looking at the 600 etec summit ski doo puts out. Emmisions of a 4 stroke, 120 hp, 425 lbs. dry weight. Add oil once a season, it is that clean. Flickable is how I’ve read it described by test riders. I don’t work for them, just had really good luck with their sleds. One other thing you might do if you haven’t already is invest $90.00 in a left hand throttle. It opens up a lot of sidehills to ride that before were just a major pain in the neck. If you don’t have one you can always have your partner put both of their feet on the uphill ski of the sled and hang onto whatever they can, bumper , hood, your leg and that will get that ski weighted into the hill so you’re able to get past that tough stretch. I gotta say my sled puts out less smoke than some of the old cars I follow down the road. Besides I ride my bicycle to work and what not as much as possible. My idea of carbon offset. But really I need to get rid of some personal fat anyway. Have Fun.
    S

  21. John Gloor March 2nd, 2009 8:51 pm

    Lou, cool video about countersteering and sidehilling. Countersteer is the way my sportbike turns (push with left hand to turn left), but I had no idea it is used with sleds. I have sidehilled for years the way the guy in the video said not to and will often park the sled on the road if a tough (for me) sidehill blocks my way rather than risk putting it in a ravine.

    I am looking to put the fat boy springs on by RMK 800 since I often double ride and the combined weight of two riders and gear can be close to 450 lbs. Some tows in can be pretty long on easy roads and double up can be easier. It depends on how whooped out the trail is. I like the idea of shortening the limiter strap so the sled does not sit as high when ridden single, but will still be in the right range when loaded heavily. Thanks for the good tips.

  22. MJ Hall March 2nd, 2009 9:48 pm

    Lou, those are some of the additions I have added. The handle bar riser, because the mountain sleds are designed to be ridden in a standing position and the ice scratchers to keep it running cool. And the throttle is your friend, giving it gas will get you out of trouble… most of the time.

    How about a small sleigh or sled to pull behind your snowmobile. I have seen skiers using one in Montana to access, it was like a dog musher sled. They carried their skis in the sled and stood on the back.

    We were going to go with 1 snowmobile between my wife and I, but decided it was safer to each ride. So we now have 2 Polaris RMKs, each with board racks. We took time the first 2 years to learn to ride em, it made a difference. We do carry a rope and climbing pullies in case of a badly stuck snowmobile.

    .

  23. Jack March 2nd, 2009 10:28 pm

    I just gotta ask. Where does the sledhead-waahhh-2 stroke-decibelmax-wildlifespooking approach transition to the self-propelled ethos? At the top of the run? At a suitable place to skin? At the best high mark?

    No judgment here – I burn fossil fuel getting the trailhead, too. Just wondering.

  24. John Gloor March 2nd, 2009 11:09 pm

    Jack, for me, I park it in the valley floor to maximize the ski after I skin up. The 3-15 mile road grade approach on the road I sled in. In the spring I’ll often drive the same paved or easy dirt road. If I want the wilderness/wildlife experience, I leave the road and go into a wilderness area. There are plenty of long slogs that qualify as backcountry skiing and are often very enjoyable in their own right, but the snow covered roads in the valley floors are legal sled access and not the best sking in my opinion.

  25. Amos March 3rd, 2009 6:46 am

    Lou,
    I agree with you, the trail into Pearl Basin is packed hard this year, not all by me either. USFS has been having trouble up here with snowmobile riding as the area gets more popular with the BC crowd and sled tech gets better. I’m all about access snowmobiling, but even I know I can’t stick within the legal riding corridor above timberline on Pearl Pass. So thanks for mentioning touring up to Pearl Pass under human power. How did you like the footbridge mods, if you noticed?
    Matt,
    Is the col you’re talking about north facing and draining into Castle Creek above Pinecreek Cookhouse? All those north facing cols on the ridges off Star are great skiing, but I usually don’t tell many people that I’ve been skiing back there; it’s kinda regarded as a dangerous area with “agro” lines. The north facing col on the far east is the Iron Mine valley, at one point the iron mine was going to extend into there. I think that’s what you’re talking about.

    Amos

  26. ron March 3rd, 2009 6:55 am

    lou,
    There is a bolt on the back of the sled near the wheel that can be moved to a lower position that will really help handling, Also, be sure to get the Nytro back “right side up” quickly as one of the major flaws of the machine is that it quickly leaks oil when turned upside down. There are al kinds of mods to fix this on http://www.totallyamaha.com

  27. Lou March 3rd, 2009 6:57 am

    Jack, around here it’s usually pretty obvious where to park a snowmobile when using it for ski or climbing access. Aside from the frenzy of sled assisted skiing done back on Richmond Ridge behind Aspen Mountain, they’re usually used that way just to get up a snow covered road that’s open in summer to auto traffic, and perhaps driven across a lower angled area from said road to the base of a mountain. More, our Wilderness boundaries alone dictate where you stop motorized travel, if nothing else. Though you may see sport riders violating the Wilderness line, folks parking sleds for skiing are not going to leave their sled sitting there in legal Wilderness these days as those laws are enforced when possible. In other parts of North America I’ve heard it’s sometimes a tougher call, as firmer snow and more forgiving and legal terrain allow snowmobiles to range wider even while towing skiers or being ridden double.

    Our biggest problem regarding snowmobiles here in Colorado, in my opinion, is when the USFS and highway/road departments provide too few trailheads and thus concentrate both motorized and non motorized use, such as the situation at Vail Pass. We have plenty of uncrowded terrain in Colorado, with more trailhead variety much of our motorized non-motorized conflicts would cease to exist. Instead, everyone congregates in one place then gets angry at each other, then the non-motorized folks take the moral highground and frequently lead the push for regulations, user fees and land divisions. A whacked out situation in my opinion…

    What’s more, ski hut builders here in Colorado frequently (if not nearly always) build their huts near or directly adjacent to legal snowmobile trails. The backcountry skiing hut users then share those trails with snowmobiles, and there you go, unhappy campers. This trend (of building ski huts near snowmobile trails) might be winding down, if so that’s a bit of good news.

    In all, I’ve not seen that it’s that difficult for us all to “coexist,” as that bumper sticker frequently seen around places such as Carbondale and Boulder asks us to do.

  28. Lou March 3rd, 2009 7:02 am

    Ron, THANKS, I was wondering about that oil leak. Ours definitely dripped some when left over for a while during one really bad roll. Will certainly fix that, as it kinda makes a mockery of the environmental friendliness of the 4-stroke (though the amount of dripping oil is actually pretty minimal).

  29. Lou March 3rd, 2009 7:16 am

    Amos, the footbridge looked much more sled and skier friendly, thanks if that was you who fixed it up, always wondered about sticking a ski into the railing or just going off it! Was that you up there on Sunday? There were a couple of sleds parked at the bottom of Backyard just past your place, one had an expired registration, tisk tisk.

    We were planning on stopping by your place if you were there, but no tracks leading in or out from your door and no smoke coming from the stack. We parked our sleds fairly low, just past the pond. Probably go a bit farther next time but I’m really not that into driving past the huts full of non motorized folks when I can easily skin that section. We did see some sledders coming from over Pearl Pass, and yep, they were not on the road.

    BTW, for sled skiing access from Aspen side, the vicinity of your place (or lower) is the best area to stop and park, in my opinion. If Pitkin County and the USFS decide to close the Pearl Pass road to snowmobile use (could happen, as it appears Pitco has never met a snowmobiler they like), they’ll hopefully leave it open up to you.

  30. Andrew McLean March 3rd, 2009 9:19 am

    Lou said: “Though you may see sport riders violating the Wilderness line”

    I see this all the time, as well as sledders trespassing on private property. As a backcountry skier, I can’t catch them, let alone get close enough to get their registration number (required to file a complaint). Nor am I about to turn around and follow their tracks four miles back to the trailhead to get their license plate numbers. The solution is that the sledding community (you guys) need to police your own rogue elements.

  31. Lou March 3rd, 2009 9:40 am

    Andrew, self policing is always something to consider, but in the case of sledders much of that would be like an at-home social drinker trying to hang out at bars and catch people drinking and driving. In other words, the core slednecks who rage over Wilderness boundaries are an entirely different group and culture than those of us tooling around on snowcovered roads looking for parking spots. What’s more, even on a sled you’re not going to catch those guys unless you’re one of them and have a bigger motor. When they know they’re in legal Wilderness or off a designated travel corridor they tend to sting quickly and are gone before you know it.

  32. Mike March 3rd, 2009 9:48 am

    Lou- I’m looking to do the Burnt Mountain to Buttermilk tour this weekend. You blogged about it a few years ago and promised a map and waypoints for the best line. Do you have those, by any chance?

    -Mike

  33. Lou March 3rd, 2009 10:01 am

    Sheesh, I broke my promise! You’ll have to make it an adventure. It’s not that tough, just know that if you drop too low on the northerly aspects you’ll hit the Government Trail, so you want to trend into the Sugar Bowls area just before Buttermilk so you can get back on the ridge for the final bit into the Buttermilk ski area.

    Thanks for the reminder about this, I’ll go do it again soon. More, if I have time later today I’ll grab a few known waypoints off a map and publish here.

  34. Andrew McLean March 3rd, 2009 10:17 am

    I fully understand that. However, rogue sledders are what causes people like me to support anti sledding legislation, and for reference, I own a sled. It’s no real skin off my nose if sleds are banned and the people who really have something to lose by it are the law abiding riders, such as the readers (hopefully) on this website. What can be done is for the sledding community to take a firm public stand against rogue riding.

    Using your analogy of at-home drinkers curbing raging drunks is very apropos and how Alcoholics Anonymous works. Raging drunks might listen to other drinkers, but definitely not to a pious priest. Likewise, some rogue sledder out high-marking in the wilderness is not going to listen to a backcountry skier, but they might listen to a fellow sledder who says “Hey, you are going to ruin this for all of us if you don’t mellow out.”

  35. Lou March 3rd, 2009 10:32 am

    Andrew, I’d agree that the sledder will listen to other sledders. To a degree, anyway… They also wake up when their friends get busted. I’ve seen that happen on Independence Pass, where they used to rogue ride in the spring after the paved road opens, but they don’t anymore after a bust (though the place gets hammered in winter when no one is around but sledders — sort of like, what is the sound of a snowmobile in Wilderness if no one hears it? (grin).

    Thus, a good solution to this would just be for the USFS and sheriff to set up some stings in the more heavily trespassed areas. (As many readers here know, I’m a strong advocate of enforcing Wilderness access laws, for a variety of reasons.)

    As for supporting legislation, I’d caution anyone that making more laws about recreation is something we should all think long and hard about, as if that becomes a trend the pointer could swing around back to us skiers for who knows what reason. Besides, at least in this area the rogue Wilderness riding is already highly illegal, it’s just not enforced. Perhaps the Wasatch is different in that way, and you need more laws for some reason?

    I have to say that from my limited knowledge of the Wasatch, I sure don’t see why I’d want a sled for skiing there (other than bringing mine to join friends for cabin access), but I guess the Uintas are a different story?

  36. Dan T. March 3rd, 2009 10:39 am

    Hi all,

    I’m no sled expert, but I do use an older touring sled for occasional access. I tuned the suspension this year with good success by shortening the front limiter strap and stiffening the rear suspension. This increases pressure on the skis and gives better steering ability. Snowmobiles really have three suspension points; the skis, the front track, and the rear track. If the front limiter straps are too loose and the rear springs too soft the ‘bile wants to “wheelie” any time the power is on. Any throttle at all will try to “jack up” the front track and unweight the skis, thus the limiter straps. Once the skis are unweighted then your trying to balance on the track and it’s really tippy, ( the “bowling ball” ?). If you really want the skis to bite, crank the front straps until the ‘bile is bridging between the skis and the rear track. The more track suspension travel, the more track traction and the more power you have the more it wants to wheelie.

    In my non-expert opinion, full bore mountain sleds are not ideal for use as utility or transportation vehicles or as little “snow trucks”. They are highly engineered for aggressive full bore riding one -up. The video is a good example; listen to the opening music ,also notice the skull stickers on the sled, or how about “hold the throttle half to 3/4 open”, way aggro. I think they are the “crotch rockets” or maybe the full on motocross bikes of the snowmobile world. Asking them to work in a utility role just seems like barking up the wrong tree.They are perfect for “crossovers” or people who are just as interested in sledding as skiing, or as I’ve been told more than once … “sometimes I don’t even take my skis off and just sled instead”. All the crossovers I know ride single, no towing, rarely side by side tandem.

    I don’t know if they make them anymore but, simple , light, torquey, low geared, utility sleds are ideal for transportation in my experience. When the snow is too deep or steep that’s when the skins go on. ( Although it is amazing what an old Skidoo Tundra and it’s ilk can get through with seasoned hands). I also have an old twin track Alpine, unstoppable in any kind of snow but also almost unsteerable and at 850 lbs if you get it stuck …….

    Dan

  37. Tony March 3rd, 2009 10:41 am

    Lou, Jeff,

    Can you go into more detail on how you use bike inner tubes when towing a skier? In particular, I am a bit confused as to how you attach the tow rope to the inner tube in a “z” confirguration such that the toe rope can be easly released. I have wrapped toe ropes around ski poles and gripped over the wrap so that the rope unravels if you let go, but I can’t see how to do that with an inner tube.

    Thanks, Tony

  38. Lou March 3rd, 2009 10:45 am

    Tony, I’ll blog that tomorrow! Good idea. So all, please hold comments on towing methods till tomorrow morning’s blog post! I’ll do some photo diagrams and if anyone wants to email me any drawings or photos please do so and I’ll publish.

  39. Lou March 3rd, 2009 10:58 am

    Dan, good thoughts, thanks! The reason why we got the mountain sled is that in many situations we have to break out a trail before we can tow on it, and a full-on high performance sled seemed the way to go for that — so that’s what we did. My son and I also enjoy riding, so there was a bit of that factor as well, along with the fact that the only work and utility sleds we saw were huge heavy beasts that did not impress us.

  40. Andrew McLean March 3rd, 2009 11:25 am

    The Wasatch sledding issues have more to do with trespassing on private property. Two years ago, a section of private property which was completely over run with rogue bilers who thought nothing of trimming out few trees so they could blast around the well marked “PRIVATE PROPERTY” gate. That summer, a work party assembled a massive fence which has cut down (but not stopped) the rogue ‘bilers, as well as putting up more signage. It seems ridiculous to have to go to this extent, almost like putting a “Do Not Cut” sign on every tree just to prevent a few morons from claiming they didn’t know it was illegal to chop down them down.

    Another good case in point was the recent illegal sled assisted ski descent of Mt. Moran in the Grand Teton National Park which did zero to further the sledding cause in the Park.

  41. Lou March 3rd, 2009 11:38 am

    Sorry to hear about those rogue sledders on private property, that really gets my ire up! Hmmm, isn’t trespassing why they invented shotguns? Seriously, there are already strong laws that protect private property, so this sounds like an enforcement issue rather than anything to do with making more laws. Ditto for Mount Moran?

    And all said I agree, this sort of stuff needs to stop. It indeed just results in hate towards the use of a frequently elegant and useful tool.

  42. RobinB March 3rd, 2009 1:09 pm

    Hi Lou-

    I just emailed you a pic of the system we use to tow our SAR members around.

    HOpefully it makes it through your spam filter in time to be useful.

  43. Randonnee March 3rd, 2009 8:21 pm

    Rogue sledders are crossing the entire (WA) Alpine Lakes Wilderness, and also are busting through many other WIlderness areas. I have seen snowmobile tracks at 10000 ft + on Mt Adams, a few miles above the orange Wilderness Boundary sign. Snowmobliers brag openly at snowmobile shops and local bars, where one may hear tales of amazing snowmobile climbs on pristine peaks in Wilderness. One day 3 years ago I parked my snowmobile at a summer Trailhead and walked on randonnee skis 3 hrs.up a peak with a friend, and as we sat on that Wilderness summit we watched two snowmobiles riding across two Wilderness drainages. At the time I called on my cell the Sheriff and USFS, both said there was nothing they could do. I took down the License numbers of the haul rig at the TH, gave it to USFS Law Enforcement, he said there was nothing he could do. USFS in Central WA on the Wenatchee NF has obtained Grant money and have started some Enforcement Patrols and actually issued some Citations.

    It does seem that outside of the USFS Wilderness folks is less alarm in USFS about the problem of snowmobile trespass, at least in my limited experience. There is also apparently a lot of “we can’t do anything about it” attitude based on the number of times that I have heard that said by USFS folks.

    Quite an annoying problem…

  44. Jack March 3rd, 2009 9:47 pm

    Thanks for the replies, Lou & John. I use my car, chair lifts, snowcats, fixed wing aircraft, helicopters, but mostly muscle power to take me to the powder. Haven’t used a sled (yet), but they open an incredible amount of AK terrain.

  45. Lou March 4th, 2009 7:16 am

    It always amazes me how some enviros spend their lives clamoring for ever more legal Wilderness, while in the meantime what legal wilderness we have is filled with snowmobiles, man made bridges, funky sign posts, water diversion installations, private land inholdings, outfitter horses eroding the trails, overgrown unnatural forests, poaching mountain bikes, and more. It’s sort of a fantasy vs reality situation. As always, my opinion is we’ve got enough legal wilderness and it’s time to exert all that energy toward managing what we have and enforcing existing laws. Once we get to that point, we could then debate things like having mechanized corridors for snowmobiles and areas where mountain bikes were allowed — and creating more legal Wilderness.

  46. Curt March 4th, 2009 10:49 am

    Thanks Lou for your great website- I check it most days over here in Durango. Having skied the Teton area, Cameron Pass, and now the Southern San Juans now for 26 years, I find myself more disturbed each year by more & more of the powerful mtn. snowmobiles poaching their way into non-motorized restricted areas. The San Juan NF folks could easily catch these guys with good binoculars, a few short ski-in locations and staking out the few parking lots. For whatever reasons, enforcement is not a priority, despite complaints and good signage. With no enforcement and blatant violations, I think the conflict between users is going to escalate. I am not anti-sled at all, but a backlash against irresponsible snowmobile use may be in order. Between the ATV, jet skis, & “biles the silence, clean air, and idea of earning with sweat your location in our wildlands has been significantly degraded. I hope your website can help us walk the razor’s edge of having responsible motorized use while rallying support against the growing trend of hi-marking (& ‘lanching) alpine bowls, poaching into restricted areas, and generally having unrestricted access on every acre of non-wilderness Forest. The recent Jackson Lake-Mt. Moran incident illustrates that even backcountry diehards are willing to bend/break National Park rules for their own recreational goals. How do we expect Joe the ‘Biler to follow rules when even backcountry mountaineers can’t resist? My answer: Backcountry skiers need to organize (like Access Fund, BLue RIbbon Coalitio, etc.) and get enforcement moved up. Maybe we need to donate dollars to an an enforcement program. Teton Pass now has a ski ambassador who tries to smooth some of the rough edges up there.

  47. Lou March 4th, 2009 11:14 am

    Curt, exactly. Officials need to enforce our existing laws or at least make more effort at it. That’s the biggest problem with all this. Once the laws are enforced, we can move on to figuring out where the real problems are with user conflicts. When it’s chaos, it’s tough to get a clear picture.

  48. Tim March 4th, 2009 12:09 pm

    I am a Forest Service employee and will add that on the White River NF we do take snowmobile intrusions into the wilderness seriously. Around Aspen we have caught 10 riders thus far in both the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness and Hunter-Fryingpan Wilderness and have issued tickets to the riders at $500 so hopefully word will get out. We also plan to patrol Pearl Basin this sping as well. Granted, it’s probably a drop in the bucket but we’re trying. Enjoy the mountains (legally!) and happy skiing!

  49. Lou March 4th, 2009 12:55 pm

    Tim, your enforcement is definitely more than a drop in the bucket (though it’s indeed obvious there could more.) That one time you ticketed those guys sledding upper Lost Man (Linkins Lake) in the spring…I’ve not seen a deep intrusion there since, though there were some kids up there last spring sledding about a mile in past the big W boundary. I think someone might have warned them off as they never came back.

  50. Max March 4th, 2009 1:31 pm

    If you think that the guys riding in the mountains are angrily trying to destroy the wilderness, you have yet to open your eyes to the athletic ability of these riders. Throwing around a 470+ pound machine is no easy task, and the stuff these guys are doing is truly amazing. Just go on google and search slednecks. Don’t get me wrong, illegal riding is NOT okay, however, you shouldn’t think that these guy don’t work for their peaks. Legal mountain riders=good. Illegal riders/poachers=bad.
    BTW, the ’08 nytro had some front end issues, thats is probably the main cause of the tippyness.

  51. Lou March 4th, 2009 2:06 pm

    Hi Max, thanks for the comment. I indeed do respect the athleticism of modern mountain snowmobiling. It’s become amazing! Like I say, let’s get it all happening legally, then after that we’ll work on any remaining user conflicts.

    We got the Nytro front end ball joint recall done and it seemed to help. Now I’m trying to figure out the best way to prevent it from dumping oil every time it tips over. Can’t believe Yamaha didn’t engineer something that helps with that — it’s a mountain sled and all mountain sleds spend time on their side at one time or another! But I’ve got several solutions to pick from, thanks to sledneck culture (grin)!

  52. Simon March 4th, 2009 9:02 pm

    Its funny to read about this all of a sudden- I was chatting a few weeks ago with a couple of the park rangers at Elfin Lakes, here in BC, and they were talking about the highlight of their job being the opportunity to chase down some sledders making an illegal intrusion.

    We all chuckled about how difficult it must be to chase down a sled while on tele skis, but I guess they get their man often enough; its an area where I don’t see too many sleds where they aren’t supposed to be.

  53. Lou March 5th, 2009 7:19 am

    Simon, let’s just hope that anyone in law enforcement doesn’t find chasing citizens to be TOO enjoyable!

  54. Cody March 5th, 2009 4:52 pm

    A bit off of the machine topic, but has anyone been up in the backcountry in the RF valley in the past two days. What aspects and elevations are skiing well right now? I’m guessing that there is a crust on a lot of stuff. Thanks

  55. dave martens January 18th, 2014 3:21 pm

    i have a 2012 T570 arcitc cat snowmobile and it is very tippy in turns and in deep snow what can i do to fix that problom, would wider skis help or ajust something, we call it the tippy T, NOT FUN TO RIDE AT ALL, please e-mail me back,or post on this ad,thanks.

  56. stevenjo January 21st, 2014 2:16 pm

    Lou – Do you remember what was involved with widening your ski stance? Did this require replacing or adjusting parts? I have the same issue on a 2007 Apex.

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