First Ride in the Mountains by Cody Borchers
My first ride in the mountains was in 1997 aboard my ’97 Polaris XLT.
By that time, my brother Chad and I were already pretty good at chewing cutlines and shredding open meadows in the foothills of Cochrane. On one of our rides to Waiparous, we met some great guys from Calgary—Frank, Lou and “Overboard” Cam. After the ride they told us, “We need to take you guys to the mountains!” From riding with us in the foothills, they knew our ability to manage the terrain was there. But it was super cool that they invited us out to for our first ride with them.
They were older than us and had a lot of experience in the backcountry, so we felt comfortable going with them. The boys took us under their wing and exposed us to an amazing new world we never knew existed!
First Ride in the Mountains
Riding the backcountry in the mountains was a whole new experience. The initial feeling of being able to go anywhere was so powerful. There were just so many new challenges: obstacles to navigate, sidehill manoeuvres to learn and jumps that called to be hit. After that first trip up Lang Creek near Golden, BC, we would never look back at those foothill cutlines again. It was an exciting time for my bro and me. Riding the mountains was so addicting! From there it seemed we planned a trip every weekend after that. I was hooked.
Soon after our first trip, it became clear that we needed to educate ourselves in the avalanche game. The mountains are something you need to respect and the sheer size of the slopes and obstacles told us that we had more to learn. Thankfully, our local shop had organized an introductory avalanche training course. Avalanche education was less comprehensive back in 1998 than it is today. Still, it conveyed crucial information like choosing proper spots to stop, how to safely cross suspect terrain and the use of a transceiver. After becoming educated, it was time to shred.
The main struggle back then was absolutely with the machines; we had to deal with finicky jetting, little 133.5” x 1.5” x 15” tracks and underpowered 600cc engines. The capability of the snowmobiles limited the places you felt comfortable to go. But with every trip, out came something new on the sled to make it go better. Triple pipes, and a 136” x 2” x 15” track! Those really made a huge difference back then.
The addiction was gaining momentum, and soon enough I was making more sacrifices and saving more money for gas and parts. I’d watch Slednecks, Roops of Hazard, 2 Stroke Cold Smoke and Braaap videos all the time when I wasn’t riding. Like the riders in the films, I loved to hit jumps and still do. My goal has always been to go bigger and better! Back then, we were learning to drop cliffs and get whipped out on windlips.
I knew where I wanted to be and where I wanted to go to accomplish the goals I had in mind. Golden is where we rode for the first few years before venturing out to Revelstoke later on.
In winter 2017, I re-visited some of our old stomping grounds—Gorman and Lang Creek. It brought back some funny memories of what a struggle it was to get to the places we do today with ease. Nowadays, riders can challenge the mountainside with more confidence and ability than ever before—on sleds straight out of the box!
I think that’s what drives me to keep charging. With better suspension, more power and sleds that are easier to manoeuvre, why wouldn’t you want to keep shredding? Age doesn’t have a number on one’s abilities and longevity in this sport now that the equipment is so good.
I can’t wait to see what snowmobiles will be like in years to come, knowing how far they have come in the last decade. That’s part of what motivates me to keep seeking jumps, drops and technical lines. It’s still fun to push myself, twenty years after my first ride in the mountains.
The year 1997 was a different time in mountain sledding, and we know so much more about avalanche safety now than we did back then. Today, we know that before venturing into the mountains, riders should be prepared with the knowledge that comes from an introductory avalanche safety course such as Avalanche Canada’s Avalanche Skills Training (AST) 1, and to carry the minimum requisite equipment—transceiver, shovel & probe—required to execute a companion rescue in an avalanche incident. – Ed.