Monashee Madness

Story by Glenn Roberts// Photos by Glenn and Emily Roberts
April 1 2015

It’s easy enough to get into trouble on two wheels,but add a track and a ski and trouble becomes so much fun

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.

accommodations at Glacier HouseHouse 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.

Learning Curves

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.

riding TimbersledsFor 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

View of mountains 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 forfeit the sled in favour of Daniel’s KTM Timbersled. We departed Glacier House Resort and headed up the mountain trails, through the clouds and into another inversion. I don’t have a huge amount of experience on a sled, but I had as much fun on the 800 cc Ski-Doo mountain machine as I did on the Timbersleds the previous day.

Trouble at the Sugar Bowl

At 1900 metres, near the top of Boulder Mountain, we came across a large bowl the locals call “the Sugar Bowl.” In the bowl were seven sleds and riders, and they were taking turns at high marking. As we continued up the mountain on more established trails, Emily and I waited at the bottom of one particularly steep hill for Gwen to reach the top. I then pointed to a hill that wasn’t “tracked out” and told Emily I was going to go up that hill, and would meet everyone at the top. In doing so, I broke the first cardinal rule: don’t leave your guide.

This is where my trouble began. I was already committed to the hill when I realized it looked far steeper from below it than from a distance. I got to about six metres from the top when my sled started veering to the right. Even standing on the left footboard wasn’t enough to keep it going straight – well, that and my complete inexperience in deep snow on a steep hillside. I stopped as the sled was sideways on the hill, which is never good. As I was wondering what to do next, I noticed the seven sleds in the Sugar Bowl appeared to be the size of ants – I’m high above the Sugar Bowl and it’s a long, long way down. I waited for Kelsey to come to my rescue, but there was the simple underlying fact that she didn’t know where I was. I proceeded to cautiously roll the sled over, downhill, digging in my feet and holding onto the sled for dear life, hoping it wouldn’t become a yard sale as it rolled down the mountainside. I rolled it onto its top, so the sled was now upside down, then rolled it again onto its left side and finally onto its track, manhandling it to sort of face the general direction I wanted to go back down the hill. I got on the sled and started it up, but chickened out just as I heard Kelsey pull up above me.

“So, what are you doing over here?” she asked in a friendly but condescending tone. I explained, but I don’t think she cared. She then proceeded to tell me that beyond the 300 or so metres that we can see downhill is a cliff that meets up with those seven sleds in the Sugar Bowl. I swallowed hard and thanked my lucky stars. She had no problem taking my sled down on an angle while I rode her sled down, which was pointing straight down the hill.

If There’s a Well, There’s a Way

We met back up with Gwen, but Emily was nowhere to be found. Emily has trained and worked as a guide for years and knows not to leave the leader, but her intentions were to not go far, and she hadn’t. She also hadn’t planned on making a wide corner and getting stuck in a tree well.

A tree well is the area below a spruce that’s void of snow, because the snow doesn’t penetrate the thick bows. This can leave a very dangerous hole full of branches and loose sides. The snow here this time of year is about nine metres deep, so the trees we saw were only the tops.

While Kelsey was out looking for Emily, Gwen and I spotted her, with arms flailing and yelling hoping to get our attention. Luckily, other than getting whacked in the face hard with a sturdy branch and getting her bike caught in the branches, the tree well was only about three metres deep.

Emily had dug most of her bike out before we arrived. After getting it loosened from the entwining branches, I was able to click the bike into first and walk it out under its own power.

The rest of the day was uneventful but so much fun. I had learned my lesson of not trying something stupid, and Emily had learned not to accidentally ride into a tree well.

I can’t think of a better way for a motorcyclist to make the most of the winter blues and look forward to getting out again next year. And with some practice, I might even try some high marking, with a guide of course.

The Glacier House Resort’s Great Canadian Snowmobile Tours rents snowmobiles from November through to May. For more info about snowmobile rentals or Glacier House Resort, go to


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