Riding School
February 28th, 2018

Wrong-Foot Forward Dangle: the Backbone of Backcountry Riding

In our backcountry sledding history there is probably no move more iconic than the wrong-foot forward dangle. While its roots can’t be traced to a definitive source, the popularity can likely be attributed to the riding of Bret Rasmussen and Chris Burandt. These two dawgs have opened our eyes as to just how much control can be attained by dragging a leg. Over the years, Burandt has turned this simple technique into a moving work of art, and you could even say a career.

Where the snow is light and the avalanche danger sketchy, whole seasons can be spent riding wrong-foot forward in technical terrain. In steep terrain littered with trees, rocks and other obstacles, there really is no other move as essential to the success and fun factor of your day.


Wrong-Foot Forward Dangle: the Backbone of Backcountry Riding

Throwing your leg out to the side with your body weight held overboard is a wonderful use of the laws of nature. This technique can help maintain control with less strength and muscle fatigue. The dangle is crucial when you have to maintain a path with the sled on edge, or for hooking a sharp, controlled turn.


Wrong-foot forward

Matthew Mallory edges his sled through a creek bed. Photo: Ricarda K.


No doubt with the input of Chris Burandt, Polaris seems to have designed their whole mountain platform around the wrong-foot forward dangle. Fair enough, as it may be the most important technique in mountain sledding. The dangle has revolutionized how and where we ride, opening doors to new terrain and new levels of control. All strong sledders have the wrong-foot forward dangle in their tool chest.




The still image of a rider executing the dangle can be a frozen frame of an energetic, sometimes frantic move. It can look like a rider is barely pulling a move out of their ass in order to avoid disaster. Or it can capture a chill, cruising sort of control along a long, smooth line. The foot can drag, leaving a trace beside the track, like a surfer calmly cruising the face of a steep wave, trailing a hand. When it comes together, it’s a freeze frame that conveys energy, excitement, practicality and stoke.


Wrong-foot forward

Julie-Ann Chapman sidehills along the crest of a steep roll in the alpine. Photo: Matthew Mallory


On video, the wrong-foot forward dangle is pure poetry in motion; hop over, land foot on opposing running board, head locked on the way forward. The immediate reaction of the sled is obvious, digging in on edge like a ski racer, deep in a carve. It’s an amazing series of motions that scream loose, yet controlled—leaving the viewer slack-jawed when performed just right.


The Importance of Wrong-Foot Forward

Recently, I was out with a couple of friends on a gorgeous day with blues skies. A heinous crust, which wasn’t very conducive to carving a sled, was covered by a few inches of cold, dry snow. After scooting around, looking for—and failing to find—areas with less crusty snow, we settled on playing in some creek beds and trees.

It soon came to light that one of the riders wasn’t comfortable. She hadn’t figured out the dangle on her 8-Fiddy yet. Much of the remainder of the day was spent getting her on the rail, on edge and dragging a leg. Her stoke at the end of the day was palatable, not just from the added control she had gained but also the feeling of getting the dangle down.

I have some difficulty describing the feeling that a good dangle invokes. It’s not like the floating sensation of a pow turn. Or the stomach sucking, breathlessness of an air a little bigger than you’re comfortable with. Riding wrong-foot forward is the blue collar satisfaction of doing something right. Some muscle burn from actually working hard and a sense of accomplishment when you pull a line.


Wrong-Foot Forward


Riding wrong-foot forward is arguably the most important backcountry technique ever developed. It’s one of those essential moves that is used every ride. Whether that be in shitty, crusty conditions or deep pow. The dangle offers riders a level of control over their sled which has opened up new terrain. And we are still pushing the limits of where we can take a snowmobile.


The Backbone of Mountain Riding

The dangle has helped define the snowmobile careers of Bret Rasmussen and Chris Burandt. It has influenced sled designs. And it has even changed how your average backcountry rider looks at the mountain. If you are just starting to ride off-trail, spend your time learning the dance of the dangle. If you’re an experienced rider, keep dragging that leg and seeing where the wrong-foot forward can take you. The dangle is the backbone of backcountry mountain riding. It’s the key to unlocking exploration, control, safety and a hell of a lot more fun on a sled.


– Matthew

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