Ready. Set. Ride.

The Road Less Travelled

By Terri Windover, Connect Contributor

A file photo of Kevin Boudreau enjoying the snow near in Anzac. Photo by Terri Windover, Connect Weekly

A file photo of Kevin Boudreau enjoying the snow near in Anzac. Photo by Terri Windover, Connect Weekly

They are calling for a snow filled winter with frigid cold snaps. There was a time when that news would send me scrambling to book flights to warmer destinations throughout winter.

After spending the last decade learning to love the snow and its activities, my tune has changed. Now Kevin and I plan our season maintenance on our Skidoos and I re-pack our supplies for those “what if” moments.

After a less than stellar summer and fall, I want to be ready to ride my Ski-Doo if winter arrives early, not scramble at the last minute for my next snowmobile vacation, whether it’s a day ride through our gold award winning Stoney Mountain trail system or a weekend away in Grande Prairie where the Swan City Snowmobile Club is working hard at getting ready to host the Alberta Snowmobile Association snowmobile rally February 18/19 2017.

It’s a good idea to do an early check on your machine. This way, if you discover anything major, you’ll have time to fix it before the snow settles in. Remember, everything’s been sitting idle for many months, and many things can happen to your equipment. If you discover you need a fix, you can find it before stock sells out, a real issue here in Fort McMurray. Here’s a few tips to get your snow slinging beast ready for a great riding season.

The Once-over
There is NOTHING worse than breaking down on your first ride because you didn’t check your machine over thoroughly. Your friends did not sign up so they could sit and stare at you as your frozen fingers fumble to open your tool pouch beside the trail. Trust me they’d rather be ON the trail. So, every wear part gets the once over to confirm its good to go. An ongoing log-book is great to keep track of what’s been done or needs to be done.

The Trailer
You want to ensure that you get to where you’re going with the snowmobiles in one piece. Make sure you check all major components of your trailer – tires, bearings, hitch and chains, axle and springs, bed and cover, lights and electrical. ALL OF IT.

Your Vehicle
Unlike the sled and trailer, our truck has been used constantly since last winter, towing our boat or camper or making runs to the dump, so Kevin does a complete winter service, including installing snow tires. I am very lucky to have a guy as handy as Kevin my life, and let’s face it, he gets to eat all my delicious cooking. Win-win.

Your Gear
You want to make sure everything is fitting and working properly by inspecting all fasteners, straps, seams and making certain that everything still fits your body. Nothing worse than finding out you lost a glove right before I ride (yes I’ve done it). A quick inventory check and you’ll know what you need to replace.

Where and When
It’s always fun to plan our winter rides. Planning allows me to compare events, destinations and routes, schedule dates and confirm which friends are accompanying us. Between rallies, ice fishing and the racing circuit I find our winter schedule can fill up fast.

Prepping the Beast
Whether you’re going on a day trip or a three-day run, ALWAYS be prepared. Just the fact that your snowmobile can transport you far enough from home, roads or people that you’re basically on your own if anything goes wrong, should make you want to be ready for anything. Unless you want to be “that guy” in the news.

  • Before leaving, send a friend your departure time, route, expected lunch stop and return time. Update it from the trail if changes occur. Make sure your cell phone has a full battery charge. I place it in a ziplock with a hand warmer in my inside breast pocket to keep it warm. It’s a smart idea to give everyone in your group a “lifeline” number to call if you become separated. That way, even if they can’t get in touch with you, a third party will know where everyone is. Make certain all riders have a map, and that there’s at least one GPS. Always carry a basic survival/first aid kit and a stout piece of rope at least 20 feet/6.1 m long. Watching Kevin step off his sled and fall through an ice hole one year has imbedded that one in me deeply.
  • Pay attention to your sled, because you need it to get back. Do a once-over inspection prior to each trip, before leaving home. Carry spare plugs, belt, gas line anti-freeze and a basic tool kit, including duct tape, plastic ties and wire. And don’t set out without full gas and oil tanks — and knowing where your next fill-up is.
  • Expect the unexpected. If you always wear water and wind proof outerwear, you’ll never get caught if the weather suddenly changes. Dress for the coldest part of the day in layers that can be removed.
  • I also have a handle bar bag, which contains work gloves, a bottle of water, sunglasses and a roll of toilet paper, among other essentials. On my person, I carry chemical hand warmers, water proof matches, some calorie dense snacks, and lip balm.

If you follow this list your chances of a trouble-free season will improve greatly. Now it’s time for all of us sled junkies to start doing our snow dances. Let’s get this party started.

– Connect Weekly –