Prior to the great sled purchase of 2019 I had one vision of how two people ride on a snowmobile. That was: One person sits up front, handling the navigation, while the other sits behind hanging on. The person in the back has to have some awareness of what is going on with the trail but, other than that, can relax and enjoy the scenery.
If the case of flat lander trail riding this is correct. In the case of mountain trails and mountain sleds this is WRONG!
While the mountain sleds have plenty of power for 2 people, seating is really designed for one only. Why? Because the driver of said sled has a lot more complicated sled-wrestling to do: up steep hills, around hairpin turns & given’er through deep powder. When you add a second person to the sled this creates a whole new level of complexity for both the driver and the rider:
- Case A – Up Steep Hills: Steep is a relative term but here I mean > 30 degrees. When Eric & I ride I ride Squirrel (Or Princess, or gopher) where I am in front of him with limited stuff to hold on to. Soooooo, when he starts to go what feels straight up I have to hang on tight or risk knocking him right off the back of the sled. As long as you are paying attention you can prepare yourself as best possible.
- Case B – Hairpin Turns: Here is where riding squirrel gets really sketchy. Sleds are deceptively easy machines to run. Throttle on the right steering, brakes on the left. However, when you have someone between you and these controls exciting $hit can start to happen. If you steer hard to the left you can bump the brakes on your passenger. Bad, but not horrible. If you steer hard to the right however you can jam the throttle into your passenger. This can cause the sled to accelerate hard and sometimes dump the driver right off the back of the sled! Leaving the passenger & sled hurtling whatever direction the poor ejected driver had them going. Our first attempt doubling on the sled resulting in the sled and I shooting off into the forest and shearing off a fairly large pine tree right at the base. YIPES! Rough start. Eventually the squirrel (I mean passenger) can learn to get out of the way as best possible on turns but, unless you can completely disappear you are still in the way for fine turning control.
- Case C – Deep Pow: This sounds ideal, and it can be, but the deep snow requires all sorts of other more complicated and sometimes counter intuitive steering techniques for the driver. Steering from the side, steering down to go up, perfectly timed accelerations. All things that, as the squirrel (I mean passenger) you have no really feel for when they are going to happen and where you need to get yourself. Often this ends in the sled getting stuck in deep powder where getting the machine going again is like trying to Sumo wrestle when you are half submerged in snow. While this is a great workout no one really wants to be a sweaty mess before you even get to where you are going to ski.
Eric & I are still having fun exploring the back country but I have to admit that the sled ride is, for me, the worst part of the adventure. You are in the way, you know you are in the way and there are only a few things you can do to help. Other exciting elements are:
- Having trees and branches bang off your kneecaps at 20 MPH because your knees protrude past the sides of the sled (Your standard high end kneepads help with this)
- Banging your face off the ‘oh $hit’ bar when you go over bumps. After several teeth bashings and tongue bitings I’m pondering a mouth guard
Does this mean I need my own sled to enjoy our great backyard with the boys? Probably but I have some other issues with off trail vehicles that I’ll have to sort out before we do there.
Is it still fun? Yes, the touring up and skiing down never fails to make me gawk around admiring the great outdoors and smile.