Progression in the World of Back Country Snowmobiling


PJ Hulst, Staff Writer

In the past snowmobiles were simply just utility and transportation vehicles. Now they have developed into powerful machines that can open people’s eyes to what is possible in the snowmobiling world. This is all accomplished because of the progression from sled manufactures and the pros that ride them. 

Presently, 100 years since the production of the first snowmobile, we have much lighter sleds with long tracks, elevated chassis, and rider first positioning which all play an extremely important role in making these machines capable in the most demanding backcountry terrain. To break this down more in-depth, when you’re snowmobiling your biggest goal is to not get stuck. Getting stuck is basically when your track bottoms out and is no longer moving any snow. So, the manufacturer and engineer’s job is to design and produce a sled that doesn’t get stuck as often. Over the course of many years, they learned that 2-stroke motors prove to be the best at creating track speed while keeping weight off the scale, compared to 4-strokes. Having a longer track is fairly similar to track speed. By adding track speed to a larger track you begin moving a much larger amount of snow which in turn makes you faster and more powerful. By raising the sled up and out of the snow or elevating the chassis you reduce the amount of force that’s pushing back on the sled. This prevents your sled from having to power through as much snow in front of it. Lastly, manufacturers design the sled to put the rider first. Not literally rider first, but they orient the sled to give the rider the most control. This way they can ride the sled without letting the sled ride them. Meaning that the sled is much more predictable and gives the rider the largest advantage. It’s a huge request to ask the snowmobile manufacturers to get each of these topics perfect, but for the present day, they are doing phenomenal. 

    It hasn’t just been the snowmobiles that have progressed this dramatically. Professional riders of today have made huge accomplishments and progression in the sport. Guys like Chris Burandt, Keith Kurtis, Dan Adams, and Celab Kesterke are just a few of the present riders that have made huge riding advancements in the sport. Some examples of these advancements are side-hilling, the hop over, the re-entry, and the bow tie. Side hilling is the most self-explanatory skill. It’s simply riding horizontally across the hill with your sled on edge. Being on edge means to be on one ski and the side of your sled pushed to the uphill side. The hop over is a little more complicated. It’s a maneuver that turns you 180 degrees to a side hill in the opposite direction you came. While you’re side-hilling you swiftly turn uphill and hop over to the other side of your seat as your sled pivots in that 180-degree direction. The bow tie is very similar to the hop over. The difference is that instead of hopping over your seat as your sled pivots you let it continue turning until you’re faced in your original direction, like a 360 version of the hop over. Lastly is the re-entry, which is a move that contains a higher level of possible consequence. This is because when performing a re-entry you pull a 180 from going uphill to going down by basically wheeling over backward. This is where you start to see that risk factor come into play because when you go over backward if you don’t have the right angle your sled could fall right back on top of you. Each of these moves is mainly used for quickly changing directions while riding through the trees to prevent getting stuck. Obviously, these descriptions are very simple and could be pondered on for hours but these maneuvers are very hard and require a lot of experience and practice to master. 

   The work done by the snowmobile companies and professional riders is showing no intention of letting the progression ever stop. Now that snowmobiles and riders are so much more capable they open up a much larger world of terrain for the entire snowmobiling community.