Bernie's Report - February 03, 2007

Snowmobiling in the Flathead, Feb. 1, 2007

Fernie in the winter is not just about skiing. There are a variety of snow sports one can enjoy in the surrounding area. Last Thursday, I was fortunate enough to be invited along on snowmobile (a sled, as they are called here) excursion into the Flathead Valley. The tour was run by Mountain Memories Guiding & Rental. It was a blast! My on-snow activities generally are powered by gravity but I also enjoy gasoline powered ones in the summer months. I have explored parts of the Flathead on my enduro motorcycle but this, for me, was a new experience. (This report was written on a flight east to visit family and posted when I found and internet connection.)

The weather lately has been quite cold and the forecast was not encouraging. Not exactly knowing what to expect, I layered up with merino wool, fleece and my most insulated ski wear. By the time we were briefed on the operation of the machines and had transported them to the trail head, the sun was shining brightly. As a bonus, there was about 10cm of fresh snow. Although it was quite cold (about -15C) we were all quite comfortable. We were supplied with balaclavas and full-face helmets. (Boots were also available if needed). Once we got going I was not at all cold. Snowmobile riding requires a fair amount of physical exertion. After I learned a bit about the riding technique, I rode standing most of the time. Standing allows for better control and bump absorption. (much like riding a dirt MC or mountain bike)

The snow machines we used were first class. Brand new 2007 Skidoos, 600 and 800cc. sleds. They have heated hand grips, a reverse gear, long travel suspension and tons of power. We were told that these machines were capable of 100+ mph on level snow. In the mountains you can�t find much level snow, so I�ll have to take their word on the top speed, but believe me the acceleration is exhilarating!

Our trail head was on Corbin Road. To get the feel of the machine and riders capabilities we initially followed logging roads and the gas pipeline clearing. Pipeline clearings are 20 to 30 metres wide and undulate over hill and dale. They are clear of stumps but they are not a highway. Some hills are quite steep and in some areas whoop-de-doos have developed quite significantly. Never the less you can go as fast as your nerves and skill will allow. As we gained more experience our guides led us off the beaten path where riding in the looser snow is another interesting challenge. At times the sled seemed to have a mind of its own and it decided which way we were going to turn!

We rode from 10am until 4:30pm. There were several opportunities to rest, if you so inclined. We stopped for lunch at the Fernie Snowmobile Association hut and in this location as at other stops there were opportunities for those with boundless energy to play in the surrounding hills while others rested. Many thanks to Clark, who invited me to participate, and to Vic and Keely. (Owners of Mountain Memories) for hosting a very enjoyable tour. It was a great experience that I would highly recommend.

PS. Since I have not had a chance to post this report yet I�ll add a short post script. It is now Friday evening and it feels like almost every muscle in my body is screaming out in pain. Particularly, my upper body . . . arms , chest, lungs, shoulders and neck. Who ever said that you don�t get any much exercise riding a snowmobile, has never done it. Time to take some �Vitamin I� and hit the pit. Hopefully, I�ll be able to move in the morning!

Keely watching to see if we all make it up the hill.

From the bottom of the hill

Fernie Snomobile Association hut

An old trapper's cabin

Powering down the pipeline right of way.

View from the "notch". China Wall centre right.

Unless you have been stuck, youv'e never snowmobiled