November 21st, 2018

Thunderstruck 17 Review

In the evolution of snowmobile movies, there was a time when production crews got pigeon-holed into their own style of riding. There were movies for deep powder, movies for ramp jumps and freestyle, and movies for backcountry exploring. Of course, if you wanted to see the largest chutes slayed, you watched Thunderstruck. And while fewer filmmakers are producing sled films these days, Thunderstruck has remained a cornerstone of the industry. They’ve listened to the desires of their audience by broadening horizons and producing sled films that have something for every taste. Thunderstruck 17 features bottomless powder, awesome backcountry freestyle, technical draws and trees and—of course—some of the most wicked chute slaying you will find anywhere.


Thunderstruck 17 Review

Clay Hockel

The opening sequence shows a terrifying glimpse of a crash between the rocks in a massive chute before leaving us hanging and moving on to the first series, featuring Clay Hockel on his turbo Polaris. The snow is deep and the trees are tight while Hockel plays, breaking trails where there previously weren’t—and probably shouldn’t be.

It’s a powder lover’s dream with some incredible drone footage, powder wheelies and elevators. There are also several shots that prove things don’t always go as planned, with the camara operator almost becoming traction and a few up close looks at the bottom of Hockel’s sled.


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Yes, this is what it looks like for a cameraman who’s about to be used as traction.


Adam Onasch

In the next segment we get some stellar backcountry freeriding with Adam Onasch as he puts his turbo Axys through a series of re-entries, hopovers and tree hustling that will make anyone want to head for the forest. We again see that it’s not all glory and fame in the backcountry world as we witness some log and zip tie repairs to broken parts as well as a liberal use of fire to reshape a damaged ski. Good times.


Back to Thunderstruck Roots

Just as the film is settling into a tree and tight riding clinic, producer Jim Phelan and crew shift gears and get back to what started it all—huge hills, giant chutes and massive cornices. Aaron Case makes a run through the rocks and carves an insane sidehill that is mind numbing. Matt Entz gets in on the fun during this segment as well. Mr. Entz is well-known for his tree and technical riding. But let’s not forget that Matt is one of the most capable pilots to ever grab a set of handlebars. We get to ride along as he goes huge off of some very large cornices.


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Thunderstruck 17 showcases some great riding down low and in the trees.


Fuji Motoman

Back again for another round of Thunderstruck-style awesomeness is Randy Swenson, the OG of chute slaying on big power turbo four-strokes. His skill is undeniable as he throws his modified Yamaha Sidewinder around with ease and takes us up some of the steepest ascents that can be climbed. Jim Phelan’s experience shines here as the camera angles actually help show how big and steep these hills really are—a feat that is hard to manage.

The film then cuts back to the chute crash that was previewed during the film’s opening sequence as Randy slides down the mountain backwards before becoming pinned beneath his own sled. The music cuts out and we listen in to the mobile radios as the crew scrambles to make sure he is okay. It’s a raw look at how quickly things can and will go wrong when you are pushing limits as hard as these guys do.


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Thankfully Randy survived this gnarly tumble out of big chute.


In the Trees and Freestyle

The movie takes a breather from the big chutes and heads back into the trees for a logging segment with Matt Losey, breaking branches and widening trails wherever he goes. If you want to know how to clean tree sap off of your paint, just ask Losey—I am sure he must have a trick to it.

The aerial fans will enjoy the next segment as Cody Hunt throws his Arctic Cat off of everything and anything with backflips and whips off some incredible natural kickers and wind-lips. His sled spends more time in the air than on the ground, and most of that is either sideways or upside down. Hunt also performs some stomach-churning drops. A little drone footage is mixed in to help capture all of the high-flying antics.


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Backcountry backflip attempts are guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat.


Dan Bush then shows off his silky smooth style of riding, pushing his turbo Yamaha through the trees and up some massive hill climbs.


Worth the Price of Admission

If you only watch this film for one reason, this is it. Ladouceur takes his Arctic Cat down an extremely technical creek line while we follow along with a bird’s-eye view from a drone. It is quite easily one of the most amazing sled movie segments to hit the big screen. Beyond the creek line, Ladouceur makes his Cat dance through some of the most technical terrain a sled can master. The POV footage mixed in shows us that anything can happen as long as you never let go. The young BC rider has talent for days, and this segment alone is worth the price of admission.


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Thunderstruck 17 features some nicely placed drone footage.


Out of the trees and back into the hills we find another OG of big power and chute slaying, Julio Eiguran. Eiguran slips his turbo Yamaha between some uncomfortably tight rocks as he ascends some chutes that have rarely, if ever, been conquered.


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Tight chute slaying has always been a forte of the Thunderstruck Team, and this is no exception.


Snow Bikes Too

The snow bike crowd gets their fix of Thunderstruck action as we see multiple X-Games medalist and BC hero, Brock Hoyer, putting his Yamaha YZF/Timbersled combo through its paces.


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Once again, big air is the name of the game, and Brock shows he is the master of all things motorized by launching his Yamaha Sidewinder off many of the same jumps as his snow bike. If you have ever wondered if four-strokes can fly, wonder no more. Brock makes it look easy.


Brock Hoyer is an animal on his snow bike, but he rips it to shreds on his sled as well.


A Different Style for Every Rider

The segments continue on and feature more of the “young guns” such as James Finsterwald, Ryan Smith and Shad Simmons with no shortage of panel slides, tree dusting and wind-drift pounding antics. These guys obviously have a great time and the fun is captured well with laughter and few face shots of roosted powder doled out to each other.

Interspersed throughout is some further chute climbing including Clinton Biggs on his awesome turbo Ski-Doo and a deep snow segment with everyone’s favourite rock star Brandon “Tudizzle” Cox (along with a host of other familiar names). You are sure to be entertained for the entire one hour and 12 minute run time.


Do you enjoy freestyle? Well then, this POV’s for you.


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The action is fast and furious, Jim Phelan’s masterful use of camera angles is on-point and the crash footage is heart stopping. Overlaid with some hard charging new rock (if you’re a fan of Octane on Sirius XM you will get the idea) the overall package covers every brand, every style and every nuance of backcountry snowmobiling.


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Some interesting camera angles keep things fresh.


A tip of the hat to fallen riders Luke Rohde and Dan Davidoff is included and reminds us of how unforgiving the backcountry can be.

The world of backcountry snowmobiling has gone through a lot of change and growth in recent years and the Thunderstruck series has grown along with it. This family-friendly sled movie truly has something for everyone.


– Marty