The Dusty Trail
In the early ‘70s, I wasn’t even a twinkle in the eye of my parents; they were still kids back then. Apollo 14 was launched. Greenpeace was established. Bobby Orr signed the first million-dollar contract in NHL history. Disney World opened. Tupac was born. And Dusty Veideman—a true pioneer of the Revelstoke, British Columbia snowmobiling community—was preparing to ride a snowmobile to the top of Boulder Mountain.
Photos by Dusty Veideman
Dusty Veideman, Revelstoke Backcountry Sledding Pioneer
Long before Revelstoke became the mountain sledding destination it is today, Dusty Veideman was there with the ambition to ride his snowmobile to the tops of many of the peaks surrounding the resource town.
His desire was sparked, in part, because he knew what was up there. With a fixed-wing pilot’s license, a plane and exceptional camera skills, Dusty had buzzed these alpine areas and fuelled his longing to explore them. With his aerial photos, he could pick out the most probable routes to attempt—decades before satellite imaging technology made this possible for anyone with a computer and an internet connection.
And he had the support crew to help get it done. Dusty’s brother, Arnie, was a helicopter pilot for Canadian Mountain Holidays at the time. This afforded some internal privileges—he could listen in on the guides’ VHF banter to get current beta on the snowpack and avalanche conditions.
A new machine would be the final piece of the puzzle. Dusty jumped on the chance to upgrade from his 371 cc Ski-Doo Nordic (which was one of the more powerful machines of its day) to a new, elite, trail-breaking machine aptly named ‘Everest’. After a little clutching and the addition of variable jets, this yellow rocket was ready to sing to the top of Boulder Mountain for her first ascent.
The Big Push on Boulder Mountain
There had been unsuccessful attempts before, prior to the existence of the roads which now reach up to 1500m elevation. But that was about to change. There was word on the street that Revelstoke TV was feeling the financial burden of using a helicopter to perform regular maintenance on their antenna, which was inconveniently located at the southeast end of Boulder Mountain—pretty much directly upslope of where the trail booth sits at the east entrance today.
Local rumour suggested that the broadcaster planned to use a bulldozer to push a trail up there for ease of access, and it came true! That old Detroit diesel engine had barely cooled down from building the trail before Dusty, his brother Arnie and Bill Roger had their sleds all tuned up to go.
Even with the trail opened up, by no means did it deliver the guys right to the top. It was a full, three-day mission for Dusty and gang just to reach the location where the Boulder cabin sits today. Those three days were no walk in the park; they were gruelling, sweating, cursing, ski-pulling epics.
It’s easy to imagine how poorly a 300 lb machine with quarter-inch paddles and a 121” track might fare, breaking through an unsettled Revelstoke snowpack that had never seen winter traffic. It’s safe to say that Dusty and his crew were doing the trail-breaking; the sleds were just along for the ride. The crew would work to boot-pack a trail ahead so that the machines could push forward. But Dusty’s determination was relentless, and it proved to be both rewarding and contagious.
From these early pioneering days, we have the Veideman Trail (although it does not sit precisely where the original did). From that point of access came all the future trails which would be blazed by fellow riders including Waldy Piatrowski, who would crack into the alpine and discover for us the playful, rolling zone we know nowadays as Waldy’s World.
Tools for the Job
After a 10-year stint collecting snow pillow data for BC Hydro, during which he also worked as a standby tail-guide for Selkirk Tangiers Heli Skiing, Dusty’s thirst for exploration was strong. By then, his skillset had been expanded to include advanced avalanche training and an intimate knowledge of the snowpack. Boulder Mountain was the gateway to the rest.
The boys would meet at The ‘Ol Frontier for steak and eggs, then head out to bumper-push each other up every mountain possible. Begbie, McRae, Area 51, Turtle, Copeland, MacPherson, Fostall—if it was on the map, they were going to be the first ones up it on a sled.
Safety was not taken lightly with this crew. They had avalanche gear and overnight supplies with every member as it was fairly common to have a breakdown. Dusty had the skillset to dig pits, read the snowpack and use safe route-finding. Being up in that big country was no joke, and Dusty knew it from witnessing firsthand on his recce flights the huge alpine start zones that dominate the landscape.
Word of alpine riding areas with surreal backdrops eventually started getting out. Some people were excited to join, and others were in disbelief—but Dusty’s photos were proof of the beauty of Revelstoke’s backcountry sledding possibilities.
A True Pioneer
We have Dusty Veideman to thank for opening up our eyes to the endless opportunities for snowmobiling in the mountains around Revelstoke. The unique skillset of pilot, photographer and dreamer—combined with his grit, determination and avalanche awareness—allowed Dusty to pave the way for what mountain snowmobiling is today. I consider myself lucky to be able to sit down with a 77-year-old and listen to stories of trail-breaking exploration into the areas I ride to this day. And it is wonderful to see photographic proof of the happiness and friendships these mountains create, going back to the earliest days.
In Conversation with Dusty Veideman
Nadine: What was one of your most memorable or difficult first ascents?
Dusty: One of the most memorable and most difficult ascents was Mt. McCrae, in which two of us started basically from the bottom and—with very little logging clearcuts available at the top half of the mountain—just worked our way up to the top.
My partner at the time for this journey was Ken Soetaert, and we were both using Ski-doo Nordics. These were a heavy, wide-track machine that could carry all but your kitchen sink; but they had reverse gear, which really helped when zig-zagging through the steep timber.
Also about even with Mt. McCrae was Mt. Begbie, which my crew did not believe we could conquer. But through persuasion and knowledge from flying the area, we managed to do it.
Nadine: What did your riding gear consist of?
Dusty: The riding gear started out with [the] basics in the early seventies, but quickly changed to helmets and avalanche beacons and overnight supplies with shovels and axes later on in the ‘70s. [Our] clothing was always from the Ski-Doo dealer, as we had a very good dealer at the time.
Nadine: What did your non-snowmobiling friends and family think of you spending so much time and money pursuing this sport?
Dusty: Of course my non-snowmobiling friends were always curious, and some followed my footsteps later on. But those who did not know the sport always looked at it as back-breaking work.
Nadine: What were some of the best or “game-changing” modifications you did to your machines in the early days to help get you up the mountain?
Dusty: Mods that helped me up the mountain in those early days [included] expert clutching by Terry Fleming in his dealership, and also variable jetting on some of the machines. Mostly stock, though, on the engines in the early days, and [we] went to extreme mods in the later years with long-tracks and souped-up motors and different clutching, etc.
In 1995 I had a handmade sled which led my crew to many other areas for the first time. This sled has over 35,000 miles on it and I have it still, and it still runs well.
Nadine: If you could go back in time, would you do anything differently?
Dusty: I don’t know if I would have done anything differently. I had some very good friends who went on weekend trips as a very tight group, [friends] who looked after each other well.