My forearms are aching a little as I write this, and my right thumb is pretty sore. I finally got that floating feeling I think you’re supposed to get when your sled is gliding along the surface of mad powder. You couldn’t have asked for a better day. Blue skies, layer shedding heat, and stuck city. Being stuck on a snowmobile is great, as long as it’s not you. If no one is getting stuck, either the snow isn’t great, or everyone is playing it too safe (no one is playing it too safe, except maybe me.) Although my sled somehow found itself submerged a handful of times throughout the day, I still walked away from the day with a deep pleasure and satisfaction that I skillfully and gracefully (I only mumbled a few inappropriate words) made it through another fear-crushing day.
Snowmobiling scares me. In a “what if I die today” kind of way. I’m sure I don’t have to explain the many, many things you can think of that could turn a beautiful day in the back-country into a serious nightmare. Still, there seems to be a big part of me that craves this adventure. People who know me would most likely not describe me as one who “lives on the edge.” According to the Aerosmith version, I’m not. I have realized however the importance of taking risks, and confronting your fears. So, here, in no particular order, are a few things that are critical to success when beginning snowmobiling, or anything else that scares you to death.
Ride with the Big Boys…and Girls
For several obvious reasons, it’s best to do things like this with a group of people. Not just any people, but the ones who know what they are doing. My husband has been riding snowmobiles, and other motorized fun machines, since he could stand up. He speaks the language, diagnoses the problems, and inspires the competition. Most importantly, he loves it. It is a part of who he is. Words can hardly express the reverence and respect he has for the untouched parts of the world he gets to experience on a machine. These are the people to learn from. They live for and love what they do, and they do it on a regular basis. They also welcome those who are willing to try. But, you’ve got to be out for the right reasons. Be ready to fail, ask for help, and be humble enough to follow direction. Don’t let your ego get in the way.
Don’t Be An Idiot. I know this may seem harsh, but it’s been a running joke in my family over the last few months. It’s kind of like Jeff Foxworthy’s old line “Here’s your sign.” Last week, a foot of heavy, wet, -perfect for playing in- snow had dropped overnight and I had to go to work. I was also running late, and knew it would be a long, slow drive on icy roads. When I went out to start my car, the door handles wouldn’t budge. My car was covered in ice and snow. I stomped back into the house and asked for a “little help.” My husband kindly came out and tried pulling all the door handles. I looked at him with raised eyebrows, thinking “How am I supposed to get to work with my doors frozen shut?” Finally, my 17 year old son asked if it was possible the doors were locked. What? Much to his delight, my doors magically and effortlessly opened after pushing the unlock button on the remote. D.B.A.I.
It is pretty funny when we do stupid things like my “frozen door” incident. All laughing aside, when you are in the back-country, or trying out new things, it’s best to do a little research first. Years ago, I found an article in a snowmobile magazine explaining, in detail, the steps for getting your machine unstuck. Going to battle with a 500 pound machine, waist deep in snow, can be defeating and debilitating. Aside from the right tools, and more hands, it helps if you have a little background knowledge. Because I had spent a little time reading up on a skill I would inevitably need, I am able to get myself out of some difficult situations. As I mentioned before, your going to need the help, but no one wants to do all the heavy lifting for you all the time. Don’t be an idiot.
Get New Goggles!
There’s nothing worse than fogged up goggles. On my last ride, I had to stop several times to wipe the fog out of my goggles. I tried riding without them, but it was snowing so hard I still couldn’t see the trail. “Just breathe less,” I kept telling myself. Really, breathe less? Anyway, my wonderful husband bought me a sparkly new pair of goggles, and I tried them out yesterday. I rode for about 10 minutes and was pretty happy to find that I could breathe and not fog up. To top it off, I also realized I could remove the protective film from the inside of the goggles and see clearly! I could see and breathe! Let’s not over complicate things. Remove the obstacles to joy. It could be some really simple things that are keeping you from amazing experiences and finding your talent.
I previously wrote a blog post where I discovered my need to make meaning out of every experience. Snowmobiling is something I never thought I would get good at or even enjoy. I still cry almost every time I go, but I also laugh, scream, and shout things inside my helmet I would never in my regular life. We all carry fears, rational or otherwise, that could be keeping us from our greatest potential. I will probably never be the best rider on the mountain but that isn’t my goal. I go because I know I need the adventure and the challenge. If I can do this, I can do other things, and I can inspire others to follow that path.
Would you share your fear-crushing story in the comments? Thanks for reading!