Snowmobiling for Dummies, Snocross for Experts

I have a confession to make…I’m not the greatest when if comes to riding a snowmobile.

Now, if you come to an AMSOIL Championship Snocross race and ask me who got the holeshot, I can tell you. Who bobbled in the whoops? Got it covered. Who took the checkers? Obviously. But hit the backcountry to ride a snowmobile? Be prepared to laugh.

So, when we visited Jackson, Wyo., for the latest rounds of AMSOIL Championship Snocross and decided to visit KLIM headquarters in Idaho Falls, Idaho, to do some riding, you can imagine I was a little bug-eyed. My eyes bugged out even further when I realized I’d be riding a Polaris 800 RMK 155. Termed the “lightest, strongest, most flickable deep snow sled on the market,” this mountain adventurer (the sled) was way out of my rolling-hill league. I know most of you reading this are experts (and we are, too), but my unfamiliarity with riding this type of sled on this type of terrain certainly put into perspective how difficult it is to actually race one of these bad boys.

Riding in the mountains

Here are four riding tips I learned from the experts at KLIM while riding with them in the Idaho backcountry.

Look where you want to go

It’s a simple tactic I also use when teaching my skiing students how to turn. Your body will naturally shift toward the direction you’re looking. Also, your eyes will already be pointed toward any obstacles you may encounter.

Transition your weight

One major mistake on my part was not positioning my weight appropriately when riding over uneven terrain. If you hit an uneven patch, you may have to stand on one side of your sled to balance your weight. Position yourself so the sled will balance evenly along the fall line – the line down the mountain or hill which is most directly downhill.

Hold one finger on the brake at all times

VERY IMPORTANT! (And kind of obvious.) If at any time you need to stop in an emergency, you’ll be ready.

Hold down the throttle going uphill

At one point we cascaded down (and further down) the trail to the Snake River. The entire time we were making our descent, a little voice in the back of my head was saying, “You have to get back up here somehow.” After a little fretting, I simply followed this advice: Keep your thumb on the throttle the entire time. In the end, I made it back up the hill in better condition than my downhill (minus my backward goggles).

And, let’s not forget the reason we made the trek out to Jackson Hole (other than the beautiful scenery): my expertise – the racing. The mountain terrain proved no contest for the Scheuring Speed Sports crew, with Hunter Patenaude taking second on Friday in Pro Lite and Lincoln Lemieux taking a dominating win in the Pro Class. The series will take a short break for Christmas, then reconvene Jan. 4-5 in Canterbury, Minn.

After that day of riding, I gained a much better understanding and appreciation for the effort and mental concentration it takes to race a sled (don’t get me wrong – I already had a lot of respect for these racers). Even something so simple as the positioning of the throttle took on new significance.

Relive all the AMSOIL Championship Snocross action on CBS Sports Network. Round two from Duluth, Minn., airs Saturday, Dec. 22. A complete listing of airings can be found here.

We’ll see you at the races!

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