Like many seasoned riders, we are often looking to find and explore new riding areas, we use a variety of tools, but one of the greatest tools is Google Earth. Google Earth will allow you to scout out possible riding terrain in advance, to find places to drive to and what logging roads to use to get to the goods. You can also determine the slope and foresee other possible terrain challenges, such as drainages, cliffs and shelves that lead to good riding areas. When we are riding on one area you can often see other areas across the valley, or the next mountain range, and using GPS tools, like a Garmin Rhino, we can use our location to pinpoint precisely in Google Earth, where we were and where we want to go. Regarding Garmin Rhino’s, you can connect your device to your computer and overlay your tracks into google Earth, they will show you every place you went while the GPS tracked your location. This is a useful tool to use to help you further extend your riding in an area, as you can now have a birds eye view of the areas you rode.
Recently we found a new riding area we call the Circle, we observed this area across the valley from another favourite riding zone and one of our group members, Homer, used Google Earth to scout it out before we headed into physically explore the area. We choose a better visibility day and headed off out of Revy. We arrived at the sled drop zone and proceeded up the logging road to the open alpine and we began exploring the boundaries of the first area and then searched and found a route into the next and so on and so forth. As we went into each new zone, we spent some time getting to know the area, how to get in, and out, because you never know when the weather will change and you want to be able to safely get back to the truck. As we explored the area we kept finding new areas and also areas that we were stifled on how to safely access the zone, as to access some areas the avalanche risk was too high or the zone required drainage access that, again offered terrain hazards and risks. The ability to go back to Google Earth and overlay our GPS tracks allowed us to find alternative routes for our next visit to the area. The experience of finding new riding zones is one that brings back the early days of our group exploring Boulder and area on our 136 inch sleds. The difference with exploring now is we have greater technology to pre scout areas, far superior sled technology to get into and out of areas and much better terrain safety understanding to help ensure our group arrives back at the cabin safe each day on the hill. Each day we are out sledding, not only are we having fun but we are working on becoming better sledders as we continue to push the boundaries or technology and the mountains we are exploring. What makes mountain riding so exciting is that the landscape is ever expanding, it’s the last free frontier of sledding, we are free to explore and learn and challenge ourselves, all while we spend time with friends doing what we love to do.
So I hope that you too are out pushing your comfort level, finding new areas to ride and explore and that sledding for you is your escape into another world.
Again, thanks for checking us out.
Sled-Revy has a complete line of Merch and Backcountry Gear that we have tested in the backcountry.
We often sled at night, sometimes we sled at night because we have been on the hill all day and into the night, sometimes we ride at night because we got onto the hill late and we still have fuel to burn, sometimes we ride at night to help rescue a fellow sledder off the hill. Certainly, in December and January, we end up riding at night because the days are so short, it gets dark early and we are out riding as we try to extend our day in the early season. For whatever reason we are up on the hill at night we love the experience. Based upon the weather, each time we are on the mountain at night it is a different experience. If it’s snowing, the wind often is calm and the quiet snow falling is a special experience. If there is a clear sky and the moon is out, being on top of the mountains with the moonlight in the trees or open meadows makes things seem surreal and ethereal.
Whatever the conditions are at night riding at night seems more intense as you often can’t see beyond a short range, the sledding areas you might be very familiar with during the day looks very different at night. The familiar zones take on a new feel and a new challenge as you have to navigate the terrain and snow conditions without the ability to pick lines and view the terrain as you would be able to do during the day. The landscape and terrain become less predictable and hidden objects, hazards and creek beds become less visible. Riding at night also can trigger many people’s animal instincts as we know that inherently there are more dangers at night, we grew up with ghost or scary stories about things that go bump in the night. But it is not always completely dark when we have ridden at night, we have ridden on full moon nights and it can be almost as bright as the day, you can see long distances in open bowls, and tree riding in twilight takes on a mystical experience with the moon casting long shadows through the trees or glistening in the snow covered open meadows.
When you are riding at night it is very important to ride with a buddy. You should never ride alone even under ideal conditions but riding at night it is doubly important to stay close to someone who can help if you are stuck or need help. It is easy enough to struggle to find people during the day, but at night if someone in your riding party is stuck or in need of help and they can’t start their sled to show where they are it will be even harder to find them.
Riding at night will have the terrain, hazards and stationary objects coming at you even faster as your vision and sled lights will often result in you driving faster than your light. What this means is that your light will not project out far enough to help you better prepare for the terrain and possible hazards. If the snow is deep enough, it may completely cover your headlight, resulting in limited to no vision or ability to navigate the terrain.
This needs to be mitigated by having a very good external light that gives you the ability to surveil the landscape and provide the lighting needed to get off the hill safely. We like having a powerful light that is independent of our sled, one that we could use hands free to work on our sled, find items in our Avy packs or navigate the terrain. We at sled-revy we have tried and used several options offered in the marketplace, some were good, but very expensive, others cheap and you got what you paid for. Ultimately, you need to find a light that works for you.
We hope that you get the opportunity to head out into the backcountry at night, and enjoy a fantastic night riding experience, we also hope that if your out there that you stay safe. To help you stay safe check out our line of Backcountry Gear, including a survival kit with free shipping.
Sled-Revy has a complete line of Merch and Backcountry Gear that we have tested in the backcountry.
We are always looking to give our riding buddies a hard time when they get stuck, this is when, more often than not, taking a picture or a video and posting and sharing it with friends. Everyone get stuck, that is for sure, but sometimes mother nature and the mountain chooses you to have the worst stuck or get more stucks than anyone else that day. On those days, our group presents the person with the “Golden Shovel Award”.
The golden shovel award has evolved over time, presently, it is a small trophy with a person and a small shovel, we have the recipient hold the award as we take their picture and then present them with a framed certificate that states they have been awarded the Golden Shovel Award, and given the title “sir stuck a lot”. No one wants the titles and awards, but everyone in our group has received this award at one time or another, no one is immune for getting stuck or having the worse stuck of the day. Now the criteria is not necessarily the “most” stucks, because when we ride we often push ourselves, and sleds into challenging terrain and situations. Sometimes the golden shovel award goes to the “best” stuck of the day, the one everyone needs to help to get the sled out of some hole or in a precarious or challenging situation. Usually these bad stucks happen at the end of the day, most everyone is tired, but wanting more, often someone makes a mistake and that becomes the stuck of the day.
The golden shovel award is not about making fun of someone or their riding ability, it really is about building that camaraderie in our group around sledding and having fun with our ridding buddies. The golden shovel award is about hanging with your buddies and sharing stories, the dimension of the sport that is almost as fun as riding itself. The golden shovel award is one of many rituals or experiences we share with our ridding buddies, these events, and stories lead to a special kind of relationship that goes beyond sledding, sledding is the glue that binds the group and keeps our friendships strong outside of sledding where we spend time quadding, boating and family time together. The golden shovel award is one of those fun things that we hope we never get, but love to give out to our friends, if you come to our cabin, you can see the Golden Shovel and if you ride with us, maybe, you can be awarded this prestigious recognition.
Beauty and the Beast: Highway 1 from Calgary to Revelstoke
We came up with the descriptor – Beauty and Beast for this stretch of highway because many aspects of this highway are world renown for the beautiful landscapes, vistas and mountain ranges that make it one of the most stunning drives in the world. The beast aspect is the dangerous and often perilous characteristics of this small thread of pavement through very harsh terrain coupled with ever changing mountain weather. This highway sees about 10,000 vehicles pass along it every day from Calgary to Revelstoke and further west all the way to Vancouver. The stretch of highway passes through three world famous national parks, including Banff, Yoho, Glacier and scoots right next to Revelstoke National park, some of the most beautiful places to visit in the world. Highway 1 is Canada’s national highway that stretches from coast to coast and it is a major connector economically for western Canada and is the main highway to get from Calgary to Revelstoke, and so it sees lots of commercial as well as tourist traffic.
The highway from Calgary to Revelstoke is 412 km (252 Mi) that passes through iconic mountain towns, towering peaks, national parks and is one of the most scenic and dangerous highways in Canada. After leaving Calgary, the gateway to the west, and a hub for the oil and gas industry in Canada, you come to the mountain Town of Canmore that sits on the edge of Canada’s first national Park, Banff. The Town of Banff is located a short distance off of highway 1 and is nestled in the Rocky Mountains it offers a variety of mountain outdoor experiences. As you continue to travel along highway 1 west you will pass by the famous Lake Louise. The picturesque Lake is world famous for its pristine emerald coloured lake and is certainly worth the drive to see it. After you pass Lake Louise, Highway 1 west continues down into Field located in the Kicking Horse River valley within the confines of Yoho National Park. Field is the last outpost before arriving in Golden British Columbia. The road between Calgary and Golden is busy with heavy transport, tourists and many travelers heading out to enjoy the backcountry. This first section of the road, from Calgary to Golden on your way to Revy certainly can be challenging with deep snow and changing weather conditions, however it is relatively easy and less hazardous than the next section past Golden. This first part has more aspects of the road that are twinned, more passing lanes and there are more towns or places to stop for breaks or help if needed.
Left: Sunset heading west on Hwy 1. Center: Hwy 1 from Roxanaphotography.com website. Right: twinned road east of Golden
The stretch from Golden to Revelstoke is truly the beast. This 150-kilometre stretch of highway that cuts through the Selkirk Mountains, the Continental Divide, and includes the climb up and through Rogers Pass in the Glacier National Park. Rogers Pass is a national historic site with an elevation of 1,330 meters, or 4360 feet and is a highway through heaven. This stretch of the Trans-Canada is known for receiving a mind-boggling amount of snow each year — an estimated average range of 10 to 12 meters, or 32 to 40 feet, making the drive a trial as well as a beautiful winter wonderland. This stretch of the highway is mostly single lane in each direction with plenty of sharp curves, narrow bridges and steep hills, drivers should be prepared to drive in changing weather conditions, slippery deep snow through the high mountain passes can also mean heavy rain with hydroplaning situations in the valleys. Many parts of British Columbia between Oct. 1 and April 30, it is mandatory for all passenger vehicles to use winter tires with either snowflake or M&S (mud and snow) symbols, and heavy transport truck must use tire chains were required. While the terrain and conditions can add a challenge to this drive it truly is a beautiful tour through rugged, undeveloped mountain landscapes. The remoteness of the drive adds to the magnitude of the landscape as you wind along the thin stretch of highway carved out of these rugged mountains.
Top photo: one of several beautiful mountains in Rogers Pass. Bottom: Roger Pass from a nearby mountain ridge
We recommend carrying a first aid kit and survival kit in every vehicle. Our are tested and proven and fit nicely in any vehicle. Our comes well stoked and with free shipping. Get them here.
You should be prepared for road closures that can last a just few minutes up to several hours; many are caused by avalanche control and sadly some by accidents. The weather can change dramatically and there can be very powerful storms that dump several feet of snow in a few short hours. While many avalanche prone areas have snow sheds, which are partially enclosed tunnels in very high avalanche zones designed to keep travelers safe, other areas need to be temporarily closed for avalanche control. As you travel through the passes you may spot the military five-ton trucks pulling the Howitzer artillery. The military use howitzers to blast away at the mountain peaks that are laden with snow. They of course close the stretch of the highway they plan to work on and then remove the avalanche danger in a controlled fashion. After the military bombards heavy snow laden mountain peaks, highway work crews come in with large tractors and other equipment to clear any debris that has covered the road and then open the highway up again.
Above: The military blasting away at snow laden mountains for avalanche control
Left: snow shed covered with avalanche debris. Center: Avalanche debris across the highway. Right: Rogers Pass web cam during a road closure.
The Good News
This section of the highway is certainly a beast; however, it is one that can be conquered by being prepared. Being prepared for driving in the mountains in the winter is what will prevent most problems for travelers. You can mitigate many issues by having a well maintained and serviced vehicle with the right tires. If your a sledder, check and service your trailer, wheels, lights and hubs, we certainly have seen a number of trailers abandoned on the side of the highway after they break down. Don’t drive if you’re too tired, pack winter survival gear in your vehicle, pack extra food and water in case of road closures, have a working cell phone and charger, most importantly, drive to the conditions. The Drive BC web site is a great resource that provides up to date road conditions, construction slowdowns or road closure information. This site has a series of webcams that cover most of the main roads in British Columbia and parts of Highway 1 into Alberta, including Lake Louise and Banff, you can view current visuals that can be used to help plan your trip.
Even with all the challenges of this section of the highway, you want to drive this highway because you get to enjoy the beautiful views as well as it brings you to the great sledding in Revelstoke. The deep snow that falls on the highway also blankets your favourite riding areas. Revelstoke gets on average 60 feet of snow each year; this is what helps make Revelstoke one of the top three sledding destinations in the world. The deep snow, the beautiful mountain town and the amenities keep bringing back thousands of sledders each year. Many of us travel this road on a regular basis, we understand the challenges and we understand that the risks, when mitigated, results in fantastic journey into a sledders paradise. So if you plan to travel this highway, make sure you too prepare for the trip and come get some of the epic snow and terrain Revelstoke has to offer for sledders, we at sled-revy hope to see you on the hill. Remember, be careful out there. We recommend carrying a first aid kit and survival kit in every vehicle. Our are tested and proven and fit nicely in any vehicle. Our comes well stoked and with free shipping. Get them here.
Top: Revelstoke from Mount MacKenzie. Above: Downtown Revelstoke
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Mountain riding is like no other sledding experience, the beauty of the backcountry along with the challenging terrain has lead to a massive explosion in this sledding segment. Mountain sled sales account for a huge portion of each manufacturers total sled sales. More and more people are drawn to the backcountry to partake is this fantastic sport, and we have seen towns like Revelstoke, always a popular destination, explode with sledders coming from all parts of the world to enjoy Revy's famous snow and terrain. We at Sled-Revy after seeing so many new sledders to the backcountry, we thought we should help make their first few trips more enjoyable by covering some of the basics when it comes to sledding in the mountains.
This article is not about mountain riding techniques so much, it is about how to prepare for your first trip or the first couple of trips you and your group are planning to take to the mountains to experience the awesome backcountry mountain riding experience.
What to do, how to prepare:
Most first-time riders to the backcountry are often coming from the mid-west, prairies or eastern parts of Canada or the United States, and perhaps have ridden sleds lots in the flat land, or lake country but have limited knowledge about riding in the backcountry. Riding in the mountains will be a new and awesome experience, and the first-time riding will be filled with great memories, awesome pictures and hopefully a desire to return to the mountains for more adventures. We at Sled-Revy have put together this article to help first time riders to help you prepare for your first backcountry sled adventure.
Get into shape:
Most flatlanders will be challenged by the elevation change, for the Revy area, most riding is done in the 4000-7,000-foot range and this is pretty low elevation when compared to many places in the United States, where riding takes place at 10,000 feet or more. To help deal with and prepare for this elevation change, you need to build your cardio capacity and efficiency. That means working out, on a treadmill, elliptical, at the gym or running, there is no secret to cardio fitness, you must exercise to get fit. There is lots of info on the web on how to build your aerobic and anaerobic capacity, the key is to start and start early. Related to cardio fitness is general fitness, lift weights and build capacity, endurance muscles, rather than bulking up. You want to be able to function all day in a challenging environment and so you need to be in as best shape you can be heading to the mountains. If you are not in good shape, the challenge will be mental and muscle fatigue related to less oxygen. You will be using muscles you may not have used, like the ones you will use to get yourself or your buddies unstuck. Like any specialized sport, there are certain muscle groups most people just do use on a regular basis, so if you get to the gym and workout, you can mitigate these issues. Getting unstuck, helping friends get unstuck, as well as navigating the terrain will tax your body, being tired while riding in the mountains will often lead to rider errors and getting stuck more often. Often people will make riding errors because their brain is oxygen deprived as well as their muscles might be fatigued resulting in having less control of your sled, so the sled and terrain control you. If you are reacting from the terrain, rather than to the terrain, this often leads to rider errors, getting sucked into tree wells, running in to stationary objects or getting stuck more often, creating a vicious cycle of tiredness. It is very hard to sled yourself into shape, and certainly on a short trip to the mountains, you want to enjoy every moment of your time in the backcountry, so get into shape and make the most of the sled trip. One of the fastest and most effective methods we have found to get into better shape and to lose weight is the Keto OS system we use. Lose weight, more energy and feel great. Use this link to learn more.
Food and Water:
Eating well every day you are in the mountains is important, have a big breakfast, pack a lunch and make sure you have a good dinner, you will be burning more calories than usual. Pack snacks and lots of water, more water than you think you need, drinking water all day and after riding will help mitigate many of the elevation issues as well as help with muscle and mental fatigue. With a trip to the mountains many people will include alcohol, either on the hill, or after riding, either way alcohol consumption will affect your ability to ride. Alcohol increases fatigue, fogs your ability to make good decisions and slows your reaction time. Alcohol will further affect your elevation sickness and will inhibit your physical and mental recovery. We recommend riding and drinking water, lots of it, you can’t drink enough.
Where to ride:
Once you have chosen a mountain destination, you need to do some research online to help plan a successful trip. Know where your hotel is, where restaurants are, and where the staging areas are located. Other important things that will make it a great trip will include, what riding permit information you need, if there are trails, are there groomed trails, what are the riding area boundaries and restrictions. While online, review the riding maps, terrain and any GPS coordinates of the key areas, reference spots as well as warming huts. Put these into your GPS in advance, at home when you have the time. Use Google Earth to get a further overview of the riding areas, terrain, drainages and as well as the roads and turn off to the staging areas and where to unload your sleds. Planning these little things in advance will help you get on the hill and enjoying the trip sooner, no one wants to be lost and unsure where to unload your sled or here the best places to ride, you want to get on the hill and enjoy the most of your day. As with most sledding destinations, Revelstoke has designated staging areas and groomed trails that lead to warming huts, all maintained by the Revelstoke Snowmobile Club. The Club provides maps and trail guides and we recommend you review their webpage and be familiar with the material in advance. You need to know that there are areas, at times, closed to snowmobiling for habitat protection, as well as other terrain and natural features that should be avoided for safety reasons including avalanche hazards. If you are using the groomed trails in Revelstoke, you will be required to buy a daily trail permit from the Revelstoke Snowmobile Club at the trail head. There are further permitting requirements the province requires, it is your responsibility to comply with all local, state and provincial requirements, noncompliance hurts all users and can lead to consequences including bad press, fines, and anti-sledding groups using noncompliance sledders as an example to push for more land closures. Check the weather and avalanche conditions before you leave on your trip as well as each morning, avalanche conditions for your riding area can and will change daily, ride smart, ride safe. Weather can change quickly and dramatically, being aware of changing conditions will affect where you ride and help keep you safe.
For your first time riding to a new area in the backcountry we highly recommend that you use a local guide, someone who knows the area, will help keep you safe, help with logistics as well as help ensure you have a great trip. If you are going to the mountains by yourself, it is imperative that you DO NOT ride alone, again hire a guide, your life is worth the fee. Wherever you ride, plan in advance to help make the most of your time in the mountains, to ensure you have a great trip as well as arrive home safe.
Rent or bring your own sled:
This quandary will depend upon a variety of factors, to bring or rent your sled. If you are planning on flying to your destination, obviously you will be renting. But many people choose to drive to their mountain destination and such, will choose to use their own sleds. Many people bring their own sleds to the backcountry, and certainly with the popularity of cross over sleds or the popularity of mountain specific sleds in the flat land, this may not be a major issue. The things to keep in mind is the power to weight and the flotation ability of your own sled. The reason why the 800, the 850cc and now the factory turbo class with a 155”, 165” or the 175" inch track is the factory standard that most riders use, is because the larger displacement sleds provide the power needed to rotate the longer tracks. As well, the longer tracks provide greater floatation, the power and flotation are what has made the new generation of mountain specific sleds so versatile and capable to conquer much more of the terrain than just a few years ago. There certainly is debate over the “ideal” mountain sled track length, however, the vast majority we see on the hills are in the 160” range, there are the 150” and 170’s” out there and both are great options, but if you are going to rent, we suggest the 160” track length. So, if you are going to bring your own sled, be aware that on deep snow days, your 146” track is going to limit where you can ride and may, depending on your ability, lead to you being stuck a lot more. If you are bringing your own sled make sure it is set up for the area you plan to ride, clutching, is crucial, check with your dealer or go onto sled forums to see what people are doing to ensure you get the most out of your sled. Do a thorough inspection of your sled or bring it to your dealer and ensure it is in top running condition, tell them you are heading to the mountains and ask what they recommend for your sled. If you break down in the backcountry you often cannot pull your sled out to your vehicle, necessitating an expensive alternative like a helicopter rescue. Either way, a broken-down sled means you are not riding and probably your buddies are not riding, that’s never good when you travel to ride in the backcountry. If you are planning to rent, make sure you reserve your sled, in many popular destinations, rental outfitters are often fully booked in advance, plan ahead and reserve your sled. The benefits of renting are you often get the latest and greatest sled, you might have an opportunity to try different brands as well, plus the sled will be set up properly and ready to go for you. Renting a sled takes many of the headaches out of your trip, just show up and ride.
What to pack on your sled/backpack:
We created a full list and explanation to what you should pack with you each and every time you head into the backcountry, you can read that story here. Packing and carrying a few key items will help ensure you have a safe and fun trip. I remember once, a group of two sledders asked to join our group as we took a short cut, the short cut turned out to be impassible due to low snow. We had to hand pull sleds up and out, all while cutting willows to get a path. We asked the two sledders if they had a saw or a few other items, they stated that they only brought “snow pants and liquor”. While it is a funny statement now, we were less than amused at the time. So, make sure you bring more than snow pants and liquor when you head to the backcountry. As a minimum you should have a survival kit, get our tried and true kit with free shipping here.
Mountain Riding Techniques:
As stated at the start of this article, this article in NOT about backcountry riding techniques, rather how to plan for a successful trip. However, we would be remise if we didn’t include at least a few links to backcountry riding techniques. These are just a starting point and there are lots of links on the web for further research.
How to get unstuck:
We here at Sled-Revy love sledding in the backcountry and we want this awesome sport to grow, our sport needs continued growth to ensure it is a viable sport and to push back against the ant-motorized eco groups. So, we hope you take at least one trip a year to the backcountry, and like so many of us that started with one trip, are now avid and regular sledders enjoying the backcountry. We hope that you enjoyed this article, please share it with people you know that are planning a trip out west.
Sled-Revy has a complete line of Merch and Backcountry Gear that we have tested in the backcountry.
Revelstoke over the Holiday season is a beautiful place to be, a small town nestled in the mountains, with fresh snow and the hustle and bustle of people coming into town to enjoy the outdoors. The hotels and restaurants are busy and trucks with sleds and trailers are everywhere, there is a real buzz in the Town. Christmas in Revelstoke is often a family event and family snowmobile time, you often see spouses and young children unloading in the parking lot and making their way up to the cabin. The cabin if full of rosy red cheeked children coming in to warm up, dry off, grab a snack and perhaps some hot chocolate. This is a great time to be up on the hill, to see the excitement of the kids as they buzz around the cabin, on the trails and on the flats out in front of the warming hut. This is often the only time the whole family comes to ride together. This too is the time when you see people arrive from out of country and province, with the holidays people have more time to travel to Revy for a few days. Revy is the Mecca of sledding, early deep snow, nice and light powder and Boulder is really a huge riding area with a number of riding zones for all skill levels, so make sure you get out there and explore.
In the Town of Revelstoke the shops are all decorated and ready for Holiday shoppers and at night the downtown is lit up and is so magical when the snow is falling and the trees are covered in snow.
The Revelstoke Snowmobile Club works closely with a number of locally run shops and stores that provide excellent services and entertainment options. These sponsors of the Revelstoke Snowmobile Club should be your first stop when you spend time in Town.
We will be in Revy over the holidays riding Boulder and the surrounding mountains areas and we hope that you are able to make the trip to Revy over the Holidays, we know that you will have a wonderful time.
Sled-Revy has a complete line of Merch and Backcountry Gear that we have tested in the backcountry.
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Image thanks to https://www.flickr.com/photos/88159035@N00/65427550
I recently read an article about search and rescue and they had a great statement about being prepared every time you head into the backcountry. They wrote "A good way to be prepared for misadventure is to plan for it by expecting to spend an unintended night outdoors every time you leave the staging area." With this idea in mind we wrote this post as there have been a few articles over the years in various Sled magazines, and some posts on-line, but we here at Sled-Revy.com thought it was an important enough topic that we put our own spin on what we take with us for riding in the backcountry to help when those unintended events occur. Certainly, most riding areas are different and might require a few changes or additions to the list, your terrain, size of riding area, weather patterns and snow pack will influence your choices, and certainly this is not a static list, add and subtract as you see fit. The list we have created is a list of what we use in Revy.
The purpose of packing items for your backcountry experience is multi purposed, having the items helps ensure that your experience in the backcountry is a positive one. We pack the items listed below to help mitigate the “what if” scenario – again to help ensure that our adventures are great every time. You cannot prepare for ALL circumstances, and this list won’t ensure your safety, however, it will mitigate many situations you may find yourself. We pack the items to help ensure we get off the mountain every time and we also belong to a community, the community of sledders, so we pack the items to help others that may be in the backcountry that are not fully prepared for the what if’s.
At Sled-Revy we have been riding in the backcountry since 2000, when the first purpose-built mountain sleds were being offered by the OEM’s, the first RMK’s, Mountain Max’s, Summits and Powder Cat’s. We have seen the reliability improve to the point where sleds rarely breakdown, and if they do, we have access to helicopters to fly them off. We have sleds that are now very fuel efficient, allowing for longer adventures and riding all day, and sleds now easily carry fuel cans to extend our trips in the backcountry. All of these changes mean we are out in the backcountry longer and into very different and often complex terrain than we did just a few years ago. Presently the new sleds have a greater flotation and power to weight ratio, allowing for riders to carry more items including more safety, fuel and emergency equipment to be easily carried with us into the backcountry.
One of the most important things you need to pack and bring into the backcountry is common sense, accompanied with backcountry training and for sure, avalanche safety training. Common sense and making right choices will often help you have a successful safe day on the mountain, however the vast majority of people we have helped to rescue needed rescuing because they made poor choices. Poor choices such as traveling into new terrain and getting lost, not riding to the conditions, for example dropping into an area but there is too much snow to get back up and out, not able to get out of an area due to a lack of skill in challenging terrain. Some people get stranded in the backcountry because they have not maintained their sleds and they breakdown, leaving them stranded. Again people can often prevent this scenario by preparing in advance and doing proper maintenance. In Revy, by far the most common reason for people getting stranded on the mountain is being stuck because of too much snow. In Revy we will get multiple feet of snow in a very short time period, it’s not uncommon to get three feet of fresh snow in one day, making drifts even deeper, leaving the unprepared stranded.
Common sense also plays an important role in what happens once people realize they can’t get out and off the mountain, the key is to stay focused, stay calm, and follow a plan of action to stay alive in a harsh environment. This is where any training and equipment you have will come into play, this is why you should take a backcountry/outdoor survival course, and or do research on the web and then practice the basics, such as, starting and maintaining a fire in wet conditions, how to build snow shelters and how to spot the sign of and prevent hypothermia, just to name a few. Part of every trip in the backcountry should include letting at least one person know where you are riding and a general time you will be off the mountain. The person could be a loved one at home or with your hotel front desk, in short, will anyone come looking for you if you don’t arrive home at a certain time and do they know your general riding area and expected route. Having this information will help the people out looking for you a place to start and perhaps shorten the time they spend looking for you, and the time you spend stranded on the mountain.
Once you have become stranded on the mountain, you are unable to get off safety and are now planning for a night on the mountain, you need to start implementing a plan. Part of your plan should include determining as best as possible where you are located, do you have GPS coordinates, can you communicate with anyone outside of your group to gather help. Can you walk out for help or get off the mountain, will the snow and weather conditions allow you to walk out, again, do you know where you are, and do you know where to walk in order to get help. Common sense reaction to being stranded and possibly spending the night on the mountain will be different for different groups, however, the purpose of this article is to provide a list of materials and equipment to help either prevent a night on the mountain, and or to help ensure you successfully survive the night or nights on the mountain.
Now to the list, most items are straight forward and don’t require an explanation, while others we feel require more details on why we carry them.
Where we pack our gear.
We have Avi Packs that vary in capacity, personally mine is a 30-liter Highmark SnoPulse with lots of storage. Most of us use the Ski-Doo linq system, where we use the 19 litre bags, as well we also use handlebar storage bags
My avi pack is where I pack my backcountry first aid kit (I vacuum pack mine to ensure all items stay dry), vacuum packed extra layers of clothes. I also store toilet paper in my avi pack, right next to my first aid kit. We rarely carry extra fuel, the exceptions being when we have a long route into an area or on deep deep days. We do however, as an emergency back up, have a fuel can stashed in an area where we ride a lot.
We vacuum pack everything we don’t use on a regular basis, but want and need to be dry. Most items that we regularly use, like extra gloves, we will pack them in freezer bags, or even dry bags. Wherever you pack items, whether in an avi bag or storage bag on your sled, items will get wet and if they are needed in the backcountry they may be unusable if they are wet, therefore a waste of storage and provide you with a false sense of preparedness. Keeping the items dry also preserves their longevity and quality, both crucial if you are packing them for emergencies and plan to have them for several seasons. Every time you leave the staging area you need to be prepared, the following list is part of that readiness.
Now for the list.
Beacon – old batteries taken out in the spring, new ones in the fall – wear the beacon.
Metal shovel (can be used to melt snow over a fire) – we keep this on our avi packs.
Probe – stored in our avi pack.
For communications we have two systems, having a back up is important in many situations, communicating with people outside your group is crucial. We use the Garmin Rhino’s – great because they are multi use tools. GPS, group communication, walkie talkie, Go To function and many more useful features.
We buy Baofeng walkie talkies.
They are an inexpensive back up and function well in the mountains, with very good range. They offer UHF and VHF programing options, useful in British Columbia when traveling on logging roads – called Forest Service Roads. (FSR) In fact having the RR codes and a VHF radio are mandatory on all active logging roads -so do your research before heading up an FSR, you do not want to meet a logging truck loaded with logs coming down the mountain and they are not expecting anyone on the FSR. If you have programmed them correctly and have met the licensing regulations, you can reach repeaters – including the search and rescue repeaters. You need to follow all communication laws, rules and guidelines, and the radios need to be programmed to function as needed. There is lots of information on the web to guide you with these issues.
We have added a Garmin inReach to our group, we have one and when we go out as a group someone always carries it. This tool allows for communication via satelite with the outside world. This can bring help to your exact location very quickly and we never leave the cabin without it.
Backcountry First aid kit – We are kind of biased towards our own proven Backcountry First Aid kits. They are a great kit and comes with free shipping. However, you can make your own, search the web for ideas, but we ensure the following are in the first aid kits we pack to the mountains.
A variety of bandages
Medical and sport tape
Tampons – for your lady friends- also good to use to help with larger wounds — also can be used to dip in fuel tank as a fire starter.
Needle and dental floss — good for sewing up wounds — or a tear in clothing
Most kits purchased will have a basic first aid guide- if not – create one and include it.
Link to our kits
On with the list
Extra gloves and mitts - in dry bags.
Extra socks – vacuum packed.
Plastic bags (2 or 3)- if your boots get wet and you change your socks, the new socks will stay dry if you put in plastic bags.
Extra base layer – vacuum packed – ensure you are using a good base wear, that wicks away moisture.
Collapsible metal cup – we vacuum pack a few packages of hot chocolate and instant soup- great to have something hot to stay warm – but you do need a fire.
Water – we carry lots.
A few protein bars, or jerky
Toque (wool cap).
Survival kit- we feel this is so important we now carry it in our store - comes with so many of the core items from this list and has free shipping!
Fire starting material - little bricks purchased from a camping store - vacuum packed.
Magnesium fire starter - flint.
Toilet paper — good for #2 and fire starter - in a dry bag.
Whistle – Fox 40.
I need glasses to read - so I have a cheap pair in my handlebar bag.
Rope. One set for towing, another of light para cord for a variety of uses.
Duct tape, you don't need whole roll.
Folding saw – we use this lots – ski stuck on the wrong side of a tree, or collecting fire wood. You can order one from us - with free shipping
Fuses – get the type used for your sled.
Zip ties in a variety of sizes.
1 small LED flashlights- fresh batteries in the fall
1 helmet light that allows for extended use
4 tea light candles – vacuum packed with fire starter.
Some hard candy (for the sugar).
Basic tool kit.
Crazy glue – great for sealing small cuts as well as tradition uses.
Flexi magnet/grabber – for that lost bolt in the engine bay.
3 spare belts.
Lock deicer (we use this lot’s on the deep days, help keep the throttle cable ice free) – good to sanitize a cut or where ever you need alcohol.
Hand held chain saw for bigger logs - trust us, we have had to use this one a few times as well - a life saver!!. Ours comes with free shipping.
External rechargeable power bank for cell phones and the connectors needed to charge your phone.
Cell phone –fully charged- in a dry bag,
Allen key set.
30-gauge wire — good for binding items.
Extras – are there certain parts that break or fail on your model of sled – can you carry them? Ex- older summits would have the muffler pipe bolts back out – easy to carry one or two. You know what your sled needs, carry it.
As stated before, this is not a static list, and you need to review what works for you and your group. We go through our pack in the spring as we put our gear away, we throw out or remove items damaged or in need of repair. In the fall, usually in October, we go back through our packs, check what needs to be replaced, updated or repaired, we put fresh batteries in our beacon, flashlights and check the functionality of these items. We also check our riding gear, if it wasn’t washed in the spring, we do that now and we apply water repellent. If a clothing item needs to be replaced, we set about purchasing some new gear, great excuse to visit your local or regional sled show or your sled dealer.
We also review our Avy education material and or take an update course or upgrade our skills. Everyone in our group has at least AST I. We want everyone to have the skills to recover a buried sledder and even better, avoid as many avy dangers as possible.
At Sled-Revy, we want to ensure that each and every time you head to the backcountry you have a fantastic adventure. We love this sport and we want it to grow and prosper, that means a safe return home for everyone who ventures into the backcountry. Share your passion and knowledge with others and know that proper preparation and the right tools will help ensure you can continue having fun with this sport.
Again, thanks for checking us out.
Sled-Revy has a complete line of Merch and Backcountry Gear that we have tested in the backcountry. – We are now offering a full line of Sled-Revy merch, backcountry safety gear and so much more. Check out our store link. Store
Also - Learn about what we use that fuels us.
Disclaimer: The above may not be a complete or comprehensive list of every consideration for backcountry riding. It is intended only to provide backcountry riders with some common sense guidelines for making their own smart choices and developing a suitable ride plan and preparations for their own safety and security.
Some sledders never buy memberships with local snowmobile clubs for a variety of reasons, I have heard arguments where they state that they don’t ride groomed trails, they believe that the Crown land is open to everyone and people shouldn’t have to pay, I have heard people say that the membership fee is a too much to pay, and I have heard that because the trails are not pristine every ride, that they don’t want to pay. Whatever the reason people use to justify not buying a Club membership, they are wrong.
The role of snowmobile clubs goes beyond groomed trails and beyond what many people see because most of the hard and important work occurs behind the scenes as they advocate for our sport with various government agencies, environmental groups, as well as with the media.
Snowmobile clubs are the organized voice for sledding in the Province, without them, the individual sledder is vulnerable to aggressive groups and organizations that, if they had their way, would have us shut out of the backcountry in all areas, permanently. Snowmobile clubs are made up of volunteers, often just a handful of people that do the heavy lifting for the rest of us, they attend local, provincial and national meetings, they coordinate with local stakeholders as well as take care of the day to day running of a large organization, often, all done without pay. Most people do not volunteer in their day to day life, so they don’t know the time and effort it takes to make good things happen. It’s always a small minority of people in society that coach local sports, that organize fundraisers or give their time to the needy of society. Modern societies cannot function without volunteerism or local people taking up a cause, snowmobile clubs are no different, this sport is a worthy cause, In short, your local Club works hard for us and our sport so that we can enjoy sledding in the backcountry.
Sledders often assume that the backcountry will always be available to us, that the government values the economic contributions sledding provides for many communities in the mountains, but that is false. We have seen over and over again that the government is willing to shut entire industries under the guise of protecting the environment and backcountry from users like us. Governments respond to the loudest voices that argue that they represent a large volume of voters and if the politician doesn’t do what they are told, the vocal group will organize against them. So many anti-sledding groups are very vocal, well funded by people from far away places such as New York and California with long term goals to remove sledding from the backcountry. Just one example is the Yukon to Yellowstone Initiative, their stated goal is to turn most of the mountains from the Yukon to Yellowstone to motorized free zones, and they are well organized and extremely well-funded and have tremendous clout when it comes to government decision makers, and they are just one of hundreds of groups that hate what sledders do and enjoy. If you click on the Yukon to Yellowstone link, you will see that almost all the mountain areas we love to access, and ride are on their list to convert to motorized free zones, so you know that we are on their hit list. Snowmobile clubs are one of our strongest voices in support for our sport, they are made up of sledders and focus on not only protecting the existing riding areas, they also lobby for continued access to as much of the backcountry as possible, but they cannot do this without public support.
Your club membership helps pay for representatives to lobby the government on our behalf, it helps pay for education programs for the public and for our members to respect closure areas. The fee pays for groomed trails, and your membership shows the government power brokers that the Club speaks for lots of people. Clubs do not get multimillionaires donating huge funds to fight for our cause, they survive on the small fee you pay for the club membership. What is paramount is for our industry to educate the public that we are truly stewarts of the backcountry, we love the backcountry, we are out there enjoying nature and we are best suited to help preserve it. We need to get this message across, just like Duck's Unlimited was started by hunters for the preservation of wetlands, we need to be seen a people that want to preserve the backcountry for ALL users because we love the mountains we ride.
There are many reasons to join a snowmobile club, because the small fee you pay goes to pay for groomed trails, support for search and rescue, signage, nice mountain warming huts, but most importantly, they are the organized voice for our sport against people and organizations that never sleep, they are relentless in their opposition to what we love to do. Join you local club now, support the organizations that are advocates for our sport or idly watch as very powerful forces eliminate our sport.
Again, thanks for checking us out. Sled-Revy has a complete line of Merch and Backcountry Gear that we have tested in the backcountry.
Also - please go to the products we use page to see what fuels us.
Here it is early September, and we begin our countdown to sledding in mid to late November. We can't wait until we get the call that the snow has arrived and there is lots more fresh pow about to hit. We will do our final checks for the season and ensure our equipment is ready. We will review the weather bulletins and watch for the massive fronts that head to Revy in November and December. We are hoping this year will be another epic sled season, the Almanac predicts above average snow and cooler temperatures for the BC southern interior - fingers crossed. The previous two winters we had lots of moisture but warmer temperatures, resulting in almost no snow in the valley and the lower trail system, and sometime wet heavy snow up top. We certainly love to see lots of snow in the valley as that makes for better riding in more areas, it allows for access to more riding zones and relieves the pressure on the main riding areas in Revy. Cooler temperatures also make the Revelstoke Snowmobile Club groomers job easier, they hate the “mashed potatoes” snow that makes it really hard to put in good trails that can handle the trail traffic in Revy. Of course, keeping a good solid trail is also related to rider input, a steady throttle up the trail helps ensure there are less bumps being created. When a rider spins the track with lots of throttle, it creates a pile of washed-out snow, this is the basis to a bump and with more traffic, a mogul, soon you get a lot of these, and the trail conditions become terrible. So, a steady throttle is best on the trail, once off trail, wick the throttle as mush as desired.
The great thing about early snow season is the many challenges of bottomless snow and the many open creeks and uncovered stationary objects. A bump in the snow is probably a stump or rock, so tread carefully, you don’t want to damage your sled or hurt yourself. Some riders don’t like the early November riding for these reasons, but, we find the the excitement to get out riding overwhelms our trepidations. So, as the nights get cooler and the days shorter, we are prepping for our first sled rides in just a few weeks. We hope to see you out on the hill and in and around Revy this winter. When we arrive on the mountain for our first ride of the year, especially when it's covered in fresh deep snow, we will give thanks Old Man Winter!
Sled-Revy has a complete line of Merch and Backcountry Gear that we have tested in the backcountry.
The name of this area we call Pirates Cove got the name from a group of guys who call themselves the “Snow Pirates”. They named the area pirates cove because the first area has a u-shape like a cove, plus it’s a tucked in, out of the place zone on Boulder that no one ever rides because when you look down into the first bowl (there are 2, one above the other) the drop in is significant and there appears to be no way out other than back up a very steep incline, so most people come to the top – look and turn around to play in other areas. We found this spot by looking down – and we too were unsure if we could make it up , so we set out to find a way in from the bottom, that was no easy task and took several trips and hard slogging to find an acceptable way in. Those were great times and fun adventures as we searched out a route in very technical terrain, but we had many laughs and good stories. In the end we found a way up to the bowl we had looked down upon, and so we knew we had a way out once we dropped in and could take down and out if we could not climb back up. There were many times we dropped in that several in the group did not think they would ever climb back out, sled technology was not there yet for everyone and so we would watch and laugh as several in the group would pound on the hill in hopes of getting up and out of the pirates cove. The area offered such a challenge that one group member actually made decals and presented them to anyone who made the climb up and out of the “cove”, if you received a decal they became a “Snow Pirate” and most people proudly displayed the snow pirate sticker on their sled as a badge of honour. So, now that you know a bit about the pirates cove, our story begins with our desire to “drop the cove “ on Saturday January 3rd. The cove has 2 significant creek drainages running through the area, and with the low snow at lower elevations a couple snow pirates did an exploratory ride into the bottom end of the cove to ensure that the last drainage down was passable, that the creek holes were either not too big or at least the creek was navigable. The day before our planned trip to drop the cove, the two pirates did the exploratory jaunt and determined that, while the creek was not completely covered, it at least was passable with some finesse. So the day was set for Saturday and the conditions were excellent, blue skies, a bit chilly, but we would be sweating soon, so that was a minor inconvenience. We left the parking lot, up the trail, past Boulder cabin and up and over to the top of the Pirates Cove. We were a group of 7, bigger than we usually have, but 4 of us have been up and down the Pirates Cove several times while 3 were going to experience the Cove for the first time. As our group arrived at the top of the drop in, we stopped, as the drop in looked steeper than usual, plus with the early snow coverage we wanted to make sure the drop in was safe for everyone to proceed. So we took a cautious approach as myself and “G-Raf” (a nickname story for another time) heading down into the Cove, after we dropped in we called the others down on the radio. The snow was fresh and all untouched of course and we quickly banged up the main area while G-Raf and Robbie and I headed of into the trees to explore a shelf we have looked at but never ridden. There we found a lake we have seen on Google earth and explored a shelf we think might lead into the backside of Polaris bowl. We explored for a while and then headed back to the group and rounded everyone up so we could drop into the next area below the first bowl. We had to traverse through a partially filled creek, the creek was a challenge to navigate, so we popped over a ridge and found a new aspect of the Cove that we didn’t know existed, we played there for a bit, then we found a route into the last big bowl lower down in the Cove. On the way there we had one of our Cove newbies fall into a giant hole in the creek (see the video below) and after some laughs and heavy lifting he was up and out and we spent some time banging up the last big bowl and the surrounding tree riding area. The last drop out of the Cove entailed traversing a sparsely filled in creek and down some steep faces (see video below) and then onto a trail that would bring us back to our trucks. We had a fantastic day dropping through the Pirates Cove, we had great snow, good tree and bowl riding, some good laughs and fun times – a perfect sledding day. While the 3 newbies to Pirates Cove do not get a pirate decal- you only get that for going up from the bottom and out the top- they did get to experience an aspect of Boulder that very few have had the pleasure to partake in and they can at least say they have been in the Cove, so maybe next time we will bring them up and out and they can get the coveted Snow Pirate sticker for their sled. So if you’re up on Boulder and you see a sled with the “Snow Pirate” sticker, go over, say hi and ask them to tell you their story of how they conquered the Pirates Cove.
When we were in the Cove we had some fun and some laughs
In the Cove TJ does a nice climb and hits a small feature - just missing a tree.
Morgan finds a hole in a creek as we maneuver down the cove.
G-Raf plays in the Cove
A Snow Pirate in the Cove
The last drop out of the Cove - it's a bit steep.
A beautiful sunset to complete the day of playing in the Pirates Cove
We are people that love sledding in the backcountry, we love getting out and away from the crowds and enjoying the challenge of the deep snow and mountains. We love the Revelstoke area, we believe it to be the best place to backcountry sled. We are people that dedicate a lot of time to becoming better sledders and we want to pass this passion onto others as we believe there is no better sport than sledding in the backcountry.