When it comes to snowboarding I am constantly re-inspired each year and learn more about the possibilities and culture this sport brings. Last year I got my first taste of the backcountry. This little taste has lead to two great adventures in one season. This year, if you’ve been following my Instagram story, you have probably noticed that I have been purchasing my own personal backcountry gear for some sweet adventures this season.
Back in March, my second backcountry adventure included a bonfire, snowmobiles and snowboarding. The day was far from perfect, but the people and the experience are one I will never forget. This is an adventure I would highly recommend (minus the mishaps).
Location: Montezuma, Colorado
Sport: Snowmobiling & Snowboarding
Gear: Pack, Water, Snacks, Beacon, Probe, Shovel, Snowmobile, Helmet, Goggles, Snowboard
As with any winter backcountry trip there are some important things to know before you go. Part of that is being prepared with the proper gear. This includes a snowboarding pack large enough for a probe and shovel at minimum. This pack must be on you at all times while riding as it is the lifeline for the others in your group. Your lifeline (and also your crew’s) is your beacon which you should also be wearing at all times. Before heading out you should check the batteries and make sure you know how to use it properly.
These steps are just a very brief overview and extremely important because there is always a risk for avalanches. Whether that risk is high or low, you are entering an area where your life could be on the line.
HEADING TO MONTEZUMA
I cannot tell you how stoked I was to find out we were going snowmobiling! Growing up in Western Minnesota I grew up on sleds, going out every weekend with my dad. That is what started my winter obsession and the need for that adrenaline rush. I have been snowmobiling since I was maybe 10 years old. Unfortunately with the winters as of late in Minnesota, my dad sold our sleds my senior year of high school. This day came about 10 years after I had last driven a snowmobile and never had I dreamed of driving one in the mountains.
In the morning we went out to a local shop in Frisco Colorado to rent a snowmobile. They provided us with the sled, truck and trailer for a full day. Then off we went up to Montezuma.
Our plan for the day was to “make camp” in the bowl of the mountains where we would be able to chill, eat, and have a few drinks. But most importantly, snowboard. We had to snowmobile up with all our gear for the bonfire, snowboarding, and cooking lunch. We also brought chairs and coolers with us, perks of having a snowmobile rather than hiking up.
In the bowl, there were several different camps of people. Some with all snowmobilers parked next to a mountain wall they would try to ride up as high as they could, competing with each other. Then there was us, a random crew of both snowmobilers and snowboarders with a sweet bonfire set up.
There were many more people than sleds as we were running shuttles to bring up people and gear. Some sleds equipped with baskets which were perfect for the shuttle. Others had a some sweet homemade rigs for what turned out to be snowboard racks.
Once everyone was accounted for we started grilling and taking shuttles up to the peak for some turns on our snowboards. This was done by riding 3-up on the snowmobiles equipped with snowboard racks. Let me tell you, this was something I had never done and was super nervous to try. I’m used to operating a small sled by myself and now I’m being put in a position of three of us riding up on a mountain sled. There is one person standing on the right side, one person standing on the left and the third person straddling the seat standing as well.
GAMES & BONFIRES
Once all the snowboarders gather at the top we start taking turns riding back to camp. One at a time just in case there were to be an avalanche slide. Once we got back to the bonfire there were dogs and the rest of the crew to greet us. It was an all around amazing experience.
After everyone had taken their turns we started playing some beacon games. I would highly recommend these anytime you get a chance to keep you skills sharp. While we were up riding, someone hid a beacon farther back in the woods of the mountainside. We had to turn our beacons to search mode and act as if we were rescuing someone from an avalanche. This included using our beacons to find the approximate location, probes to find the depth and shovels to dig it out. The person to find the beacon first was awarded a prize at the end.
The rest of the day was socializing and relaxation until we had to pack up and head home before dark. This day though amazing didn’t come without some issues along the way.
During the second shuttle up, I was driving the sled we had rented. I thought I had remembered the path we took up the first time but turns out I got myself into a bit of a sticky situation. I ended up off trail and with all the extra weight on the snowmobile of coolers and other accessories for the bonfire party along with another person, Holly, I tipped the sled. This cost us at least an hour of daylight. Thankfully I was not far off trail so we walked to it and waited for someone to cross our path and help us bring it back upright. It ended up taking four of us ladies, those machines are not light!
The riding conditions were also not that great, it was a fairly icy ride on our snowboards so I was only able to get one turn in. Even with all these delays and mishaps it was still one of the most memorable and fun riding days of the season. Sometimes the experience and the people we meet overrule the bad.