Teacher and Students Work on 2018 Mountain Sled in Best High School Program Ever
Do you ever wish you had learned more important life skills back in high school? You know, crucial stuff, like how to modify and maintain a high-output, performance oriented two-stroke mountain sled? Well, just such a program exists at Naicam School in Saskatchewan, Canada, thanks to the students and its Vice-Principal, Chris Chudyk. Together, they’ve created a new mountain snowmobile high school learning experience.
Students Learn About Mountain Sleds in High School Program
Snowmobiling is a regular winter activity for the residents of Naicam during the long Saskatchewan winters. The high school kids live and breathe sledding there, according to Chudyk, who teaches small-engine class at the school. And the students are particularly drawn to the allure of mountain sledding. This despite the location of the small town in the heart of the Prairies, far from the nearest mountain range.
For three years now, Naicam School has offered the same standard curriculum small-engine program that runs in six other schools throughout the district. However, many of the students—having grown up in a farming household—already have a strong understanding of the utility four-stroke engines covered in the regular class, and aren’t always challenged by the material. Chudyk recognized this limitation, and wanted to offer the students the opportunity to challenge themselves further, with subject matter of greater interest.
And so the idea for a new kind of learning experience—focussed on mountain sleds—began to take shape.
Despite resounding support from the school district, as an extracurricular club the program would receive no funding from the school. Support would be limited to the use of the school shop space. Undeterred, Chudyk went down to the local powersports dealer and bought—with his own savings—a 2018 Arctic Cat Mountain Cat 153″ sled for the kids to work on.
Mountain Sledding and High School Dreams
Vice-Principal Chudyk grew up riding sleds. “Dad and Mom had a Ski-Doo dealership for a little while when we were young. We’ve had a sledding family and a culture ever since I can remember.”
Chudyk hasn’t grown up so much that he forgets what it’s like to be a high school kid, dreaming about long tracks and mountains.
“[Sledding] is something that I’ve always been around, but it wasn’t until high school that we started getting the ideas to go out west, getting into the mountains and riding there. I made my first trip out to the mountains in 2000, and with the exception of a few years we’ve gone out at least once or twice every winter. My brother and I…that’s what we focus on. We have sleds to ride around here, but we focus our attention on the mountains.”
An Idea Takes Shape
When the idea for the program began to take shape in Chudyk’s mind, the first thing he did was talk to the students. “I asked them how they’d feel about having a sled group,” said Chudyk. “I could have told them that we were going to work on 440 Everests and I’m pretty sure they would have been pumped,” he said with a chuckle.
With resounding interest from the students, the next step was to develop learning objectives.
“Basically, if you look at a service manual, that would be a breakdown of how we’re doing it. We talk a lot of the time about clutching or engine work or gearing; we’ll call that a section. We call [another section] suspension, so that would be shocks and setup,” said Chudyk.
Mountain Snowmobile High School Program – Elevated Education
So far, the program has spent a good portion of time in the classroom, focussing on the theory and understanding of the components of the high-performance machine. Certain special components of mountain sleds, like CVT clutching for example, have required specific attention.
In the shop, the students started out easy with installation of a wrap and learning about the performance properties of different designs of skis before installing a custom set. They moved on to more complex concepts such as understanding driveline components, including performance clutching and the installation of a belt-drive conversion kit. And most recently engine performance modification has been the subject, with the arrival of a Speedwerx Stage 2 performance kit.
The club generally meets once or twice a week after school for 4-5 hours. Because the program is not part of the school curriculum, all session must take place outside of school hours. Learning session times are flexible—by necessity— based on other demands on the students’ time, and availability of parts and accessories supplied by supporting companies.
Chudyk hopes that with the Speedwerx Stage 2 engine modification underway, the program will be able to spend some additional time with installation and, of course, the all-important testing and tinkering.
Form Versus Function and the Economics of Sledding
Chudyk knows well that mountain sledding be an expensive pastime, having personally experienced the joys and tribulations of the sport throughout his adult life. That’s why he has made it a point to educate the kids of the economics of their beloved sport.
Chudyk teaches with a mindset, “knowing these kids are going to go out into the sledding world with the ambition to do this stuff, make money and spend it in the wrong places. And [be] led down paths that they regret. Because that was me. And so, I just wanted to show them the parts of the sled and the areas they could work on that would actually make a difference—on a budget,” said Chudyk.
“It’s all great to be 35-years-old, have a career and be able to buy stuff. That’s all good, but that’s not where they’re at and that’s not what they’re going into. Charging them into a pile of debt because it’s cool isn’t a good idea. So to make it realistic is our goal. It comes down to what we can afford to do.”
For the kids, that meant addressing concerns like, “if you want to make power, how can we do that without just dumping hordes of cash on it? How can we make a sled handle better? What setup do we need when we go to the mountains, versus trying to ride around here. Showing the ups and downs of the modifications.”
Industry Support for the Project
Since the inception of the idea, several mountain snowmobiling brands have enthusiastically come on board to help by supplying discounted parts and accessories for the project. These companies have also been instrumental in providing technical documentation for their products and their application, which has helped the students better understand the concepts behind the modifications.
TKI Industries has supplied a belt-drive conversion, reservoir protector and brake lever.
C&A Pro Skis has provided a set of custom coloured BX skis and mounting hardware.
Rehab Wraps has come through with a project sponsor wrap.
One of the most interesting learning experiences for the students will no doubt be installing a Speedwerx Stage 2 kit on the 800cc C-TEC2 engine.
Fox has offered discounted build kits and upgrades for the 2018 Mountain Cat suspension.
Marlon has generously offered a discounted extension for hauling the long-tracked mountain sled to-and-from testing sites.
For Chudyk, the industry support is not just about allowing the students to learn about performance modification. For him, it’s the encouragement for the kids in the form of recognition from the snowmobiling community that matters most.
“All of a sudden, they go on Instagram and see that Speedwerx liked something that we posted. Or David McClure liked something that we posted. And their reaction is, ‘Holy crap, this is awesome,'” said Chudyk. “It makes it real and solidifies that interest.”
You can follow along the mountain snowmobile high school club at Naicam School on Instagram, at @principalofsledding