Riding Tip: Boondocking 101 with Chris Brown
When I’m not teaching riding clinics or running the snowmobile lodge, you’ll find me boondocking in the trees. I spend a lot of time riding in the old growth due to the weather and the fact that the trees are so fun and challenging here on the coast. Technical tree riding is something that not a lot of people do around Whistler, so it’s easy to find untouched powder just about anywhere you look. Since I spend a lot of time teaching people how to become better technical riders in the trees I thought it would be cool to share some boondocking tips.
What is Boondocking?
For me, boondocking is jumping off the trail and riding your sled wherever you want to go; it’s about exploring unridden territory. It takes skill, stamina, agility, strength and of course confidence to boondock properly. There is an art to technical boondocking and once mastered, the places you can take your sled are endless. It’s fun to challenge your friends to a little game of “try to follow my line” in the trees. With a little bit of practice you can soon start winning these games… Being able to sidehill on both sides at a slow and controlled speed, and able to stop and go and any point are critical skills for technical boondocking.
In this issue, let’s talk about rolling your sled on its side. You should be able to “snap” your sled over on either side from both a dead stop and while rolling. To do this you need to get on the side of the sled you want to turn. We’ll start with a dead stop and a left “snap” for this example. Place your inside (right) leg on the left running board, two fingers on the brake lever and turn the handlebars the opposite direction you want to turn (counter-steer), in this case to the right. Now, in just one motion, blurp the throttle and at the same time throw your outside (left) leg out for the “snap.” This will give you the leverage (your body weight) to pull the sled onto its left side with very little effort. You can now continue side-hilling or you can stop with the sled on its side and choose your next move.
This fundamental move is the key to technical boondocking. It is the most important move for being able to ride in technical terrain. It takes some practice to master both sides so keep trying until you’ve got them dialed. Once you master the “snap” on both sides you can work on controlled side-hilling. Controlled side-hilling involves body language, the right pressure on the running board and the right steering and brake/throttle control.
Running Boards are super important to boondocking. You need to have a strong set of running boards that are clear of snow and ice to have full control of your sled while boondocking. If you aren’t using aftermarket boards like Skinz, then make sure you are always kicking your boards clean. A stiffer running board will give you a more responsive sled. While boondocking, you use the weight of your body through your feet to better steer the sled. If you put all your weight on your running board and it flexes your sled will respond more slowly.
Your ski stance affects how your sled will boondock. A wide ski stance takes more effort to lay over while a narrow stance rolls over quite easily. A narrow ski stance gives you better agility while riding tight trees. The sled is easier to lay over and easier to hold it on its side. Jumping with a narrow ski stance is fun too. Wide ski stances are good for cornering on groomed trails and for climbing mogul fields. I personally prefer a narrow ski stance (38”-39”) for all of my sleds.
When boondocking in technical terrain, you need to be prepared for everything. I wear a 30L Highmark by Snowpulse avy pack with some essential items. In my pack you’ll find a shovel, probe, lightweight Thermarest, space blanket, saw, Leatherman, whistle, inReach GPS Messenger, cell phone (and car charger), matches, lighter, tampons (firestarter), first aid kit, map/compass, water, food, candle, spare gloves and socks, wool hat, heat packs, pain killers, zipties, rope, headlamp and a metal cup. If I had to spend the night, I would be prepared.
For more, check out Chris Brown’s RIde Whistler website