Brandon Stalk and the rest of the diehard sledders across Turtle Island are looking at the sky, hoping for the delightful white stuff to start coming down, so they can rev their engines and take to the trails. (Photos courtesy Brandon Stalk)
A word of warning to the birds and squirrels that run atop the trees in peace throughout the winter months, the sleds are coming.
…and we’re not talking about the one reindeers or huskies pull.
We’re talking about the ones with names like Sidewinder, Arctic Cat, Ace and Vector.
Brandon Stalk is one of those ready to rev up his snowmobile when the ground is covered in a blanket of white, and he spoke with The Eastern Door about his winter passion.
“A nice blue sky Sunday day is the best time to ride, but a good ole night ride with friends is pretty fun too,” said Stalk.
Stalk had some advice for those thinking about getting into the sport (are we calling it a sport?).
First off, these rigs ain’t cheap.
“You can find a good used one for around $3,000-$5,000, or if you want to buy a brand new one they run about $7,000 all the way up to $14,000,” said Stalk.
According to snowgoer.com’s list of top sleds, the Polaris 600 Indy is most affordable and starts at $10,199.
Doing homework, and knowing how you want to use your rig is important, according to Stalk, as not all sleds are ideal for every situation.
“You want to buy a sled that fits the type of riding you do the most,” he said. “Some people like to stay on the trails and some like to adventure off trail in the deep snow. If you have the skills and the right sled, you can get almost anywhere.”
A key component of your ride is, obviously, the track, which runs continuously and will effect where you can and can’t go.
“The track makes a big difference here,” said Stalk. “Shorter track lengths with less aggressive grips (lugs) are really good for smooth trail riding. Longer tracks with deep lugs are better for deep powder and hill climbing.”
As with four-wheel ATVs, dirt bikes, and speedboats, safety is not to be ignored when going into the mountain on a machine that can top 100 KM/H.
“If you’re a beginner, always ride with someone experienced, someone that knows the area,” said Stalk. “It’s very important you know the terrain. Don’t take any risks beyond your limit. These machines get up and go like you wouldn’t believe, but they don’t stop as fast.”
Maclean’s Magazine reported that as many as 50 people die in snowmobile accidents annually in Ontario and Quebec alone.
One particular area to watch is ice, which can be deadly.
“Before going on open ice, always check with local clubs,” said Stalk. “Never go on the ice if you’re not sure. Even if there are tracks.”
Stalk would like to try hillcross racing one day, a four-sled drag race up a ski slope. Racing? Of course.
“Because, why not?” said Stalk.