Backcountry Sled Tricks 101 – Getting Started in Linking Snowmobile Turns

“Duffy pow” photo getting started on linking snowmobile turns in low angle terrain.

If you’re reading BCA’s Backcountry Tricks 101, you’re probably a decent snowmobiler (and/or skier and snowboarder) with some basic backcountry knowledge. Hopefully, you’re constantly improving your backcountry safety skills by taking avalanche courses. But what about your riding, what have you been doing to improve?  In this Backcountry Tricks 101 blog, BCA sled ambassador and avalanche educator Mike Duffy of Avalanche1 gives some advice on how to learn some new mountain riding skills that you can take to the backcountry!

As a professional snowmobile safety educator and rider, here are some backcountry tricks that I’ve learned, plus some tips from sled pros Ashley Chaffin and Jeremy Mercier to help you in getting started in linking snowmobile power turns. Watch and read below and get out and give them a try!

Getting Started in Linking Snowmobile Turns – Low Angle Terrain

In snowmobiling on lower angle terrain, I’m weighting the front end in a counter steer. Weight is shifted to the foot on the inside of the turn as you counter steer.

Give some throttle through the turn, rebound out of the turn, as the front end is unweighted, I counter steer for the next turn and weight is shifted to the other foot. All done with a foot on each running board. Eyes up, looking way ahead and getting a rhythm going.

Each sled performs differently, find the sweet spot on yours. It’s not a muscle maneuver, but finesse. Be light on the sled, no need to be aggressive.

Learning to link snowmobile turns in low angle terrain will make it easier and consistent maneuvers around trees and terrain features. You’re always looking and thinking a few turns ahead.

Linking Snowmobile Turns – Steeper Terrain

There are several ways to enjoy deep powder on a snowmobile. But linking downhill pow turns on a steep sustained pitch is one of the best feelings on earth. A little pressure on the running board in the direction you want to turn, a slight counter steer and some practice is all it takes!

Ski-Doo backcountry expert Jeremy Mercier on a steep pow turn. Instagram @mercier4colorado. Photo credit: BBFoto

Getting Started in Linking Snowmobile Turns – Practice Tips

There are few things in life that equal linking pow turns on a sled in deep powder. It is, after all, my favorite thing to do! The new Ski-Doo Summit and Freeride carve the sweetest turns due to their skid design and suspension and below are a few tips to help you carve up the deep snow.

  1. Body Position – Standing with a slight knee bend and an athletic stance will allow you to keep balanced as the sled moves beneath you. Try not to over lean or sit down.
  2. Throttle and Brakes – Both throttle and brakes are your friends, and there is no substitute for having good throttle and brake control, it is after all what every move requires so practice having smooth engagement.
  3. Counter Steering – When in deep snow you are actually steering with the backs of your skis. So when you want to carve to the right, the initiation is started by turning your steering to the left. This undermines the right side of the sled, and with a little brap of the throttle at the same time, your sled will carve to the right. If you fall over on your right side, that is actually a good thing because it means you are committed. Next time just bring back the steering to center to control how far you carve.
  4. Practice Slow – If you can do something slow, you can do it fast. However, trying to link turns fast right off the bat will slow your progression. Practice doing a slow carve to one side downhill first, then back to center, then the other side. This will teach you how to carve with technique, not just strength. Once you can do link snowmobile turns on each side, you are on your way to pow carve blissness!

There you have it! So get out and practice, and have fun linking snowmobile turns.

Mike Duffy is owner and lead instructor of Avalanche1, providing professional avalanche education for mountain snowmobilers.