by Matt Entz
A couple of weeks ago, temperatures at my house in southern Colorado were hovering around 15 degrees above average and there was no snow to be found except very high in the mountains. The 10 inches of snow on the ground in my riding area was enough to get the sleds out, but not enough to really ride. Our last snowfall occurred in early November and my patience was running low. With 2 new pro rmks, a handful of new parts to test and get dialed, and some exciting newly released gear for the season, there was only one logical solution…… ROAD TRIP!
There were pictures flooding the internet and my phone via text messages from Wyoming of the deep powder that we dream about all summer long. After numerous messages searching for someone to hit the road with, my good friend and boondockers newcomer Cole Willford was as excited to search for snow as I was. Cole is a factory Polaris hillclimber in the RMSHA circuit in which he won a points championship in 2012. Last season he also earned his first World Championship at the prestigious Jackson Hole Hillclimb. His primary riding area in western Colorado was in as sad of shape as mine. I made the 4 hour drive to Grand Junction, Colorado and we loaded Cole’s brand new Polaris Assault in the Mountain Skillz trailer(courtesy of DOBBS Enterprise) along with everything necessary for a multi day trip. At this point our only plan was to find snow. We made our way into Utah along Interstate 70 catching up on how our families were doing, what we had been up to over the summer and fall, and some of our plans for the upcoming winter. We also came to the conclusion that we had no idea where we were headed or who we were going to ride with. Neither one of us could have possibly imagined the great experience we would have over the next 4 days.
A couple of hours into Utah, I received a text message from Ryan Harris, editor of SledHeads and SnoWest Magazines, saying that he could meet us in the morning for a ride around Island Park, Idaho. This was great news and now we had a destination and someone to ride with. Within the next half hour or so, Cole and I had more messages and phone calls than we could keep up with. In that short time more riding options for the next few days were presented than we would have time for. As we approached Idaho Falls, we were welcome by fellow boondocker Ryan Searle and his family. They provided us a great place to stay for the night and he would join us for our ride the next day.
Ryan Harris and Steve Janes insisted on eating a healthy breakfast at burger king before hitting the mountain. The snow in the parking area was deeper than anything I had ridden previously this season. Ryan took the lead and quickly exited the trail weaving through trees and gaining elevation. A couple miles in, I had the pleasure of watching Ryan execute a near perfect handstand as his pro rmk was stopped abruptly by a stump hiding just under the surface. Neither man nor machine was fazed so we continued on our way. Snow depth continued to increase as we reached the top of the first ridge. Despite the cloud filled sky, we found our first photo opportunity. Cole pulled out another variation of the handstand, this time with the sled airborne. Unfortunately he didn’t stick the landing, however, he avoided damaging his sled on a freshly uncovered rock. Not to be left out, my sled pitched me into the snow several times also. Ryan led us off of the ridge into a large valley where we found the best snow conditions of the day. Snow covered trees made for a beautiful view as well as an educational opportunity. The elegant white puffy trees of the northwest are of no relation to the snow covered trees I’ve experienced in Colorado and Utah. At home while riding tight tree lines, the branches flex and the snow softly falls to the ground. Not in the northwest! The deceptive soft pillow appearing branches are actually big blocks of solid ice, and experience says they will separate a rider from their sled upon contact. Ryan Searle, Cole, and I spent a majority of the afternoon taking turns helping each other get unstuck as we explored a very fun riding area. As darkness filled the sky, we figured that was a good time to call an end to day one. Pictures can be found via the SledHeads facebook page.
Cole’s phone was being blown up as we proceeded back on the road by fellow Boondockers newcomer and hillclimb icon Keith Curtis. Keith was just up the road in West Yellowstone, Montana and raved about the snow he was riding in. He also mentioned a place for us to stay for the night. Upon our arrival into West Yellowstone, we were welcomed into the home of Brad and Brandy (owners of Polaris West dealership and sled rental superstore) as if we were family. They made sure we were ready for the following day's ride. Kevin and Keith led us from a faint roadside trailhead with a few inches of snow on a twisty narrow trail through the woods. As we quickly gained elevation, the snow depth increased dramatically. Keith led us into one narrow technical ravine after another. Each one seemed to have more snow and higher consequences for mistakes. We were having the kind of fun where each of us smile and laugh at the lines each other take as we push ourselves and machines to their capabilities. Kevin displayed his mad powder carving style in the butter smooth Montana fluff. Towards the end of the day, my gopro fell victim to a tree branch and our shoveling and searching ended in failure. With saved gps coordinates, next summer Kevin vowed to test his search and recovery skills. Stay tuned for boondockers 10 whether he is successful or not! Once again darkness filled the sky and on this day fog rolled in restricting our vision. No biggie, that’s part of the snowmobiling experience. Riding with Keith is always a fun and challenging experience.
Back on the road, Cole was communicating with Sid Huntsman (Klim snow sponsor coordinator) and his house was our destination for the night. We were treated to a terrific late night dinner with Sid and his wife. During dinner, Cole and I were informed that Stephen Clark (sledfocus.com) was going to be joining us for our ride the following day for a Klim photo shoot. When we didn’t think things could possibly get any better, Sid asked if we would be willing to wear and test a new line of gear for the future. Is this a trick question? Of course we were honored to have this opportunity! From the second we tried on the new gear, we were in awe. The following morning we suited up in the fresh new Klim gear and loaded up in the Klim trailer with Sid and the grandfather of snowmobiling, Chuck Summers. Chuck is a legend in these parts and father of Klim founder Justin Summers and his brother John, Klim marketing director. The destination for day 3 was on a short list of my personal most wanted to ride areas. I’ve always heard of Alpine, Wyoming offering big endless terrain and it certainly did not disappoint! Stephen Clark met us in town and followed to the trailhead. Again, we unloaded in marginal snow and followed a twisty path up through the woods crossing logs, rocks, and creeks but gaining elevation quickly. Within a few miles it was as if a switch had been flipped and all of a sudden we were in snow over our hoods on a good stable base. Off in the distance, the terrain and features continued endlessly and I found myself wondering why it took so long for me to ride this area. Stephen worked magic with his camera as we made the most of the cloudy conditions. The gear we tested definitely enhanced our riding in multiple dimensions and will be setting many new standards for technical mountain snowmobiling gear.
Upon arrival back at the Klim shop, we had the opportunity to meet and hang out with Justin and John Summers. It’s an honor to be involved with the Klim family and to see their passion and dedication to the future of their product, the industry, and customers is very inspiring. We twisted Sid’s arm and he was willing to take us riding in the same area on day 4 after a tour of Klim’s headquarters. It’s such an amazing sight and story to see where and how this company has grown and the direction into the future they are headed.
As the people gathered, a fun day of riding was in store. The group included Justin Cowett, Jared Sessions, Rocky Young, Tony Jenkins, Bret Rasmussen, a ski doo engineer, Sid, Cole, and myself. We returned to the same general area as the day before. The BoonDocker turbo sleds were flexing their muscle and showing why they are the leader in the snowmobile turbo market. The day consisted of breaking into smaller groups and chasing each other up, down, and across a variety of steep tree-filled slopes and drainages. Just like day 1 and 2, darkness filled the sky and somehow we acquired 2 more group members. Once the entire group was able to assemble, we made our way out.
After a good night sleep at Rocky’s cabin, we started our drive home. The majority of conversation on the trek back to Colorado consisted of reminiscing what a great trip it ended up. Considering our only initial plan was to find snow, we accomplished that and more than we could have ever dreamed of. Thank you very much to everyone who rode with us, put us up for a night, the entire Klim family, and especially our own families for your support! To top everything off, a storm moved into Colorado and dropped 5 feet in areas providing great snow and allowing for Mountain Skillz to finally open for business. Here’s to a winter full of good friends, great snow, and safe riding for all!
Check out www.mountainskillz.com to book a tour with Matt