Scratch and Dent


We recently engaged a computer / dissemination expert who suggested that we switch our weekly updates on the www.strawberryhill.net site from written stories to a video format. In order to fulfill this mandate we opened a ‘Youtube’ and a ‘Twitter’ account using the alias’ ‘Ericbowater’ and ‘Urbanbayman’. Thus far we have submitted fairly low key / informative video clips but I thought we might create more interest if we interspersed the postings with some action footage from our Boondockers shoots in Newfoundland.

Dan Gardiner drops a big cliff

We have archived hundreds of hour’s worth of film in the past 10 years. Each season we shoot between 40 and 60 hours of snowmobile action. This is pared down to create a 45 – 60 minute snowmobile video and thus we are left with a substantial library of unused footage. No doubt some of this material is useless, but many of the shots end up on the cutting room floor simply because they didn’t work with a specific editing sequence, exhibited less than ideal lighting or were taken from a 3rd or 4th camera angle that would overkill the action. Needless to say, we have some great clips on hand and I have thoroughly enjoyed the time it’s taken to review them as well as the trip down memory lane.

I found footage from Dan Gardiner’s first trip to Newfoundland and shots of Jay Quinlan at Marble Mountain. We have endless footage of our first trip to Utah and of course the winter of 2007 was remarkable in every respect for it was not only a bountiful snow year, but I basically lived in Utah that season. There are dozens of drops, loads of technical descents and countless laughs in every reel. But the one thing that most impressed me was Dan’s old 2001 Polaris RMK 800. Many of you may well remember the ‘Red Baron’ – and so you should since he used it in through the 03, 04 and 05 film season, with appearances in the Boondockers, Slednecks (including a 211’ record jump), 2 Stroke Cold Smoke, Thunderstruck, and Redneck Fury film series. Quite an accomplishment when you consider both the miles and the extreme use a machine must endure with Dan in the saddle.

Dan Gardiner cliff drop

How is this even possible you might ask? It’s not easy let me assure you but over the years I’ve picked up on a few of Dan’s tricks. Hopefully by sharing them you too can stretch your riding budget and experience; wringing more miles from your sled and leaving more money for fuel:

1. Solid Platform: Make certain the sled you have or are planning to buy is best suited to your riding style and riding area. There’s little point in buying a long track if you’re going to be pounding through trails filled with ‘Yes – M’aam’s’ and a short track is near useless in a true mountain environment
2. Know the Terrain: Suppress the urge to ride too early in the season when the snow has no bottom and a network of rocks and stumps are just waiting to reach out and twist you’re A-arms or crumple a tunnel. Hike your favorite riding areas during the offseason so that you have a better appreciation of the hazards. Always probe a questionable landing and try to make fresh tracks whenever possible.
3. Turning wrenches: Is the best way to ensure you’ll keep turning your sled’s handlebars. A good maintenance schedule will keep your sled mobile and mitigates more disastrous consequences. Have an eye out for loose nuts and bolts, replace worn bearings and make certain all your gaskets and fuel / oil deliver lines are in good condition. Remember grease and lube is the life blood of your machine.
4. Stock or Walk: While there are some great aftermarket products available for your sled – the vast majority often create disastrous results unless you are a crackerjack mechanic with an arsenal of tools along for every ride. If you insist on making mods be certain that the parts fit well, are properly secured and tested in your riding area. Remember premium brand fuels and oils provide better performance, economy and extends the life of your engine.
5. Baby steps: I can assure you that Dan and the boys didn’t start out dropping 100’ cliffs. Take your time getting used to the smaller stuff and work your way up. The general techniques and skills utilized when dropping a large cliff are the same as a small cornice, but acquiring the confidence and troubleshooting abilities (the consequences of a mistake increase exponentially as the size of a jump increases) necessary to hit big drops take some experience. Be certain to probe landings and think of the sage advice Luke Maue offered last year “I used to get as big a rush from a 5’ drop as I get from a back flip!”
6. Physical Fitness: Dan is as fit as a fiddle and he wreaks enormous strength from a compact frame. This allows him to muscle the sled around, keeps him attached and in control of the sled and eliminates the fear of getting stuck. Better to spend a half hour digging than the rest of the afternoon picking up parts.
7. Nicks and dings: Technical riding and back country exploring usually includes some precise maneuvering. It’s better to tag a tree and sacrifice a side panel instead of pulling out early to find yourself on an unplanned descent through thicker trees, rocks or worse.
8. Bruises and scratches: Though your physical health is of the utmost importance you had best be prepared to suffer some pain to save your sled. Drop a shoulder to brush away tree limbs, get your gloves off when you’re yawing on the secondary for a belt change.
9. Enclosed Trailer: Salt is your sleds worst enemy. If you have to use an open trailer be certain cover your sled and thoroughly wash it the minute you arrive at our destination. An enclosed trailer eliminates any salt and also doubles as a great summer storage space once you’ve fogged the engine and drained or stabilized the tank fuel.
10. Ride Sober: Riding should provide a big enough buzz – if not then you’re just not riding hard enough. A clear head allows you to make faster decisions that can ward off serious injury and / or sled damage. Don’t ruin a truly incredible experience with alcohol or drugs.

Sweat your brains out!

-Andrew McCarthy

4 thoughts on “Scratch and Dent

  1. Andrew it has always been a pleasure reading your articles. Great advice! This article brought back some memories for me. Watching Jay Quinlin drop an 80-100footer in the Westeren Brook Gorge area. This was my first time seeing a drop that big in person. Holy $&@% is all I could think as he landed it and we all threw our hands in the air. Im pretty sure that shot made the cut in Boondockers 2 Tangly.
    Our trip to the Lewis hills together was also a great ride! It was a blue bird day and you shot lots of snowmobile action but not a lot made it to the movie.
    I was just recently in Revelstoke backcountry cat skiing. We filmed the entire trip with two Cameras. The amount of time it took me to edited the footage for a “home” movie can help me somewhat appreciate the effort it takes to edit 40-60 hrs of action for 45-60 min of movie.
    I hope You, Dan and the Boondockers team are having an awesome season. Take Care

    Charles Short

  2. Great article andrew! but when ya gets a new sled come to me for the tips, cause I’m right nutz, cause I’m alpha-beat!

  3. Great advice and thanks for my own trip down memory lane. Its a blizzard in Utah right now and it looks like we are off to one of the best starts to winter in the last 5 seasons. I’m looking forward to getting you down to Utah soon and hopefully making it up to the island.

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