Difference in Riding Style – Canada vs USA Riders
October 29th, 2017

Difference in Riding Style – Canada vs USA Riders

I find it endlessly intriguing to watch the riding style differences between mountain riders in the Western States and British Columbia.

South of the border, doing the dangle seems to be the predominant and overwhelming riding style. So many photos and video from the USA feature a rider shredding with their leg hanging off the running board like a dog marking its territory. Hop overs, turbo-wheelies, and busting ass up gnarly creekbeds: watching the Yankees tear it up is a lesson in precision placement and handling of a snowmobile.


Different Riding Style — Canada vs USA

Difference in Riding Style – Canada vs USA Riders

Elevator to dangle in some tight brush. Chris Brown showing you how to get technical. Photo: Matthew Mallory


Move north in latitude and there is a drastic difference in how sledders look at, process and slice ‘n’ dice their terrain. It would seem gravity has a hold in general on the guys and girls in Western Canada and they embrace it. Where this love of the fall line comes from we can only speculate. Is it a background in boardsports like skiing and snowboarding? The result of a more stable snowpack? Or the influence of riders like Geoff Kyle and Rob Alford in the Slednecks films, as opposed to Chris Burandt?

The fall line argument could also explain the popularity of Doos in the Canadian mountains. A machine that—in my opinion—is hard to beat when it comes to carving downhill turns and balance in the air. The black and yellow might not sidehill like an RMK or Cat, but drop it into the fall line and its handling becomes effortless.


Difference in Riding Style – Canada vs USA Riders

Stephanie Santeford cutting lines through the trees, one leg out and given’r. Photo: Matthew Mallory


Now it wouldn’t be fair to generalize every rider south of the border as a technical sidehilling surgeon, and riders to the north strictly as big mountain shredders. Wyoming shredder Rob Hoff can hang with the best of the big mountain brethren. While to the north, the guys and girls are shredding technical tree lines, but it’s just not shown in media as often (what else are they to do on stormy days?)


Is Riding Style Strictly a Function of Terrain?

This is just a theory, but I think a lot of riding style can be traced back to the snow conditions that are predominant in each rider’s area. I once asked Rob Alford in an interview about the differences between the styles of riding and his answer pretty much summed it up. “We have lots of tech tree riding in BC. Probably the reason why we haven’t focused on it like, say Burandt or Rasmussen, is because we have huge open alpine areas with features beyond your imagination. Those guys don’t have that.”


Difference in Riding Style – Canada vs USA Riders

British Columbia big mountain steeze from the Chozie. Kahn Yong Gee dropping in. Photo: Matthew Mallory


Chris Burandt and Bret Rasmussen, the Godfathers of tree riding, are living in areas that receive cold, blower pow. This cold weather leads to a snowpack that can be unstable—especially after a deep dump. The lack of stability forces them to get into spots that are not exposed. And since trees anchor the snowpack, it would have been sort of a natural progression in their riding. Add a turbo to the mix, and it was just a matter of evolution for their hop-over, sidehill-style to develop.

Meanwhile to the north, riders deal with snow that has more moisture running through it. Often the alpine can be (relatively) stable even after a big storm, more-so on the coast than the interior. Also, many Western Canadian riders have backgrounds in skiing and snowboarding, and you can easily see where the big mountain, cliff-dropping, pow-carving riding style stems. They took what they saw Jay Quinlan doing and ran with it.


Difference in Riding Style – Canada vs USA Riders

Spring time booter session with Jorli Ricker. Photo: Matthew Mallory


Some Young Guns Can Shred Every Riding Style

What’s really exciting now is to see the young guys shredding who have been influenced by both the Burandt and Dan Treadways of the sled world. I guess you could sorta call them young guns. Guys like Jay Mentaberry, who gets technical on the RMSHA circuit and then channels his inner big mountain madman and sends it off huge drops for films like 509. Then there’s Caleb Kesterke. When conditions warrant it, he’s dangling through tight trees and tech lines. But as soon as the right conditions lineup, he’s pointing the sled downhill, carving pow turns and sending it off big drops.

It’s awesome to see these guys getting after it; the young dudes coming up are becoming true, all-mountain riders, and it’s inspiring. With the season coming soon, what type of rider are you?


— Matthew