It’s easy enough to get into trouble on two wheels,but add a track and a ski and trouble becomes so much fun
Story by Glenn Roberts
Photos by Glenn and Emily Roberts
What are we motorcyclists to do when we’re forced to put our bikes away for the cold and snowy winter months? We can attend motorcycle shows during the Canadian winter from coast to coast, read magazines, watch a wide variety of motorcycle movies – many of which are worth watching more than once – or we can bundle up and take to the snow for our winter’s fill of internal combustion nirvana.
House Resort, which operates Great Canadian Snowmobile Tours. During the winter months, she looks after renting out the company’s two-dozen mountain sleds and accompanying clothing. Luckily, Daniel, her boss, owns a KTM-outfitted snow bike: most of the time I was on his KTM 500EXC, while Emily spent her time on a two-stroke Sherco 300SE-R that we rented from Infinite Powersports, just up the road from Glacier House. Both of the bikes’ conversion kits are manufactured by Idaho-based company Timbersled, which is why these snow bikes are commonly referred to simply as Timbersleds.
We were anxious to get playing in the snow, and without even a second of getting to know the bikes or the intricacies of handling them, we headed out on the massive trail system that encompasses over 500 km of groomed and ungroomed trails, and several hundred square kilometres of mountains, ridges, passes and lakes, all of which are accessible right from the Glacier House parking lot.
One thing became apparent the second we began to move on the bikes – they are very difficult to manoeuvre on hard-packed snow. The wide 30 cm track, along with 6.5 cm paddles and the wide front ski, doesn’t lean well on hard surfaces without some practice. Getting out of the parking lot and onto the trail system was a lesson in frustration and embarrassment, but after the first 40 or so switchbacks going up the groomed trail onto Frisby Ridge, I started to get the hang of it. Once we hit open snow in the alpine meadows, the frustration was over. The Timbersled easily carved corners similar to what I expect an ice racer would carve. The track and ski dug into the snow, and getting near-horizontal in a corner wasn’t hard to do.
For the most part, the Timbersled’s wide track will stand on its own, but being motorcyclists, we have this nasty habit of putting a foot down when we stop. I soon realized that leaning to one side and putting a foot down just means that your foot sinks in the very deep snow, and you and the bike fall over. Not a big deal really, but at 2000 metres, the air is thinner and the bikes are top-heavy; this exercise became a workout after a few tip-overs. We discovered it was better to just keep riding.
The day Emily and I spent up on Frisby Ridge, we had very warm temperatures, thanks to an “inversion.” I had never heard the term until Emily mentioned it, and then two days later I heard it again on the Weather Network. For lack of an official meteorological explanation, an inversion occurs when a warm front moves in above the clouds, pushing the clouds down, leaving cold air and clouds at ground level and hot air at higher altitudes. It was cold climbing through the cloud cover, but once we were above it, we had a hot sunny day on the mountain and could see the cloud cover more than 1300 metres below us hovering over Revelstoke. It was the most spectacular view I had ever seen.
Trade One Ski for Two
The following day, Gwen, Emily and I were scheduled to take three of the company’s snowmobiles up onto Boulder Mountain along with Kelsey, our guide. The day before, Emily and I hadn’t used a guide given Emily’s familiarity with Frisby Ridge, but it is highly recommended in unfamiliar territory. Guides know the area and advise you on where you can’t venture because of avalanche dangers. Both days, however, each of us was equipped with a backpack that contained a shovel and a probe, and had an avalanche beacon strapped to our bodies – all of which we were given training on how to use.
Emily, being the biker that she is, chose to…