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In the last week we had two trips to the backcountry that were top heavy with ‘Type 2 Fun’. “What is Type 2 Fun?” you ask? That is also known as sled wrestling, or water buffalo dancing. This is when your sled gets stuck, usually in deep snow or a tricky slope, and you need to get it back up and facing the right direction.

In summary: This is not easy work.

Most of the folks I have been out with also call it ‘fun’, I’m not sure that it really is, but, if you are going to get better it is definitley a necessary evil so you might as well call it fun. Maybe after time you can convince yourself of that 😉

No matter what you are likely to sweat, grunt & swear as you do this so there are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. Take off extra clothing: Seriously, you can start to sweat just getting back to your sled. You should be wearing a helmet and you are probably wearing extra layers for the sled ride so start by taking them off and getting them out of the way.
  2. Listen to Advice: There are folks who have done this thousands of times, listen carefully to what they want to do and ask why.
  3. Work Smarter Not Harder: This goes hand in hand with point #2. If they know enough to give advice they have probably had to figure out how to work smarter. Here are some tips I’ve learned so far:
    • Get snow under the track: Most the time you have ‘dug a coffin’ in the fresh snow. Now you are spinning the tread with no traction so…. Using your boots push as much snow as you can under the treads. Sometimes you might have to get the sled on its side so you can push more snow below where the tread will be when you set it down again.
    • 6 inches at a time: Rather than attempting to come out of your newly dug hole in a burst of glory, get your partner(s) to grab a hold of the ski(s) of the sled and they pull while you give enough throtle to move it 6 inches. Repeat this until you get out of your hole
    • Get it pointed where you want to go: Sometimes the most effective way to do this is not with the handlebars but by getting out, grabbing the skis and yanking them the direction you want to be moving in when you start the beast up agagin
    • Gravity is your friend: Do not fight gravity, work with it, but sometimes this takes a little thinking and can be counter-intuitive:
      • Which end of the sled should you try and move? Is it the back? Lift & move the track end to get yourself pointed more downhill? Is it the ski end? Where you and a buddy can start to yank the skis down the hill. Pick the end that will be the least amount of effort to move. Every situation is different.
      • 2 o’clock should do it: You don’t necessarily have to get it pointed all the way down the hill, if you can get the nose pointed to 2 o’clock momentum & gravity should do the rest of the work when you apply the throttle
      • Know when to roll ’em: Sometimes, the best answer is to give the sled a barrel roll out of the hole and down the hill. Of course you want to make sure it won’t run away on you and barrel roll to the bottom. But sleds are pretty tough & roll well. You might consider removing your skis before you do this.

If nothing else I see now that it is crazy to head out even on the most mudane mountain sledding experience by yourself. A sled full of gas can weigh up to 500+ pounds. Getting stuck can be as easy as slightly leaving a packed trail and ending up sinking in new, un-packed snow. Getting out by yourself could be impossible and you might have a long trek back to your truck to get assistance.