The POWDER is DEEP and you are having the ride of your life…and then… STUCKFEST!!!
It happens to everybody… We all get stuck, some more than others. But what can make a bad day or a great day is the ability to get unstuck quickly and easily. There are some basic fundamentals that should be used when getting your sled unstuck and depending on what situation you are in, you might choose to use one of the methods.
Most modern day snowmobiles would never get stuck without the dead weight they are forced to carry around; that’s YOU! The reason they do get stuck is because the weight they are carrying forces the track to dig into the snow past it’s point of flotation, usually hanging up on the rails.
To minimize the likeness of getting stuck, there are a few things you can do:
*Always stop facing downhill
*As you are losing forward momentum, if the situation allows, momentarily take weight off the machine by stepping off it or by running beside it for a few steps while it builds momentum back up
*Try scooping, either when starting out or as you are losing momentum; that is, alternate between lifting the track in and out of the slope, rocking it off its rails, so it continually has fresh snow for traction.
Sometimes getting stuck in inevitable, and believe it or not, half the battle is to know how to get stuck in a way that sets you up for an easy exit. The less weight you have on the sled when it stops, the less stuck it will be. So if you can jump of the sled, while keeping throttle and momentum up for a second, a riderless machine can retain enough momentum to climb out of its own trench. If you are climbing, watch your relative forward momentum: A general rule of thumb is to turn out at 5mph/8kmh when the speed is falling – but it is very difficult to watch gauges in climbing scenarios so you have to learn what a diminishing speed sounds like on your sled so you know when to turn out. If it is trenching, and that’s the way it is going to be, in it’s last few feet of forward momentum, if you can tip the machine at all so that it doesn’t get hung up on the rails, that will give you more freeing options.
Here are some basic methods to getting unstuck and when to use them:
Ski Pull = this is a simple method that works well in situations where your sled is on a relatively flat surface or aiming mostly down hill. It will work best if you are not completely buried to your running boards. Some people use a product called the Snow Bungie to help with this. As you get more experience you will find that if you need a Snow Bungie you will likely just use a different method.
Roll over = this method works well when you’re stuck on a moderate hillside. By rolling your sled over in the snow and back onto its track, you are getting it out of it’s hole and back on to fresh snow where you can likely get going again easily. You need to make sure that you are not on too steep of a hill where your sled could get away from you and roll down the hill into fixed objects like trees, creeks or rocks.
Stomp, Lift, and Move = This method can be used in a number of circumstances but the basic logic here is that you would stomp down the snow next to the track of your sled where it is stuck. Then Lift the sled up out of its own hole and move it over to the now packed snow. Stomping the snow down makes it so that you don’t have to lift the sled very high and also gives you a firm launch pad to set the track down on.
Dig = Shoveling, sooner than you think you might need it, could save you a lot of aggravation and effort. Pulling and yanking can quickly become a lost cause, only tiring you out inducing they stuck cycle. Here are a few examples where a few minutes of shoveling can save you in the long run:
1. Stuck on a steep hill = You might find yourself stuck on a steep hill that you know will put your sled in danger if it rolls down the hill with out you. When this happens consider digging a shelf out of the snow on the hillside to pull your sled onto. Once your sled is pulled safely onto your shelf that you have dug, you can usually ride out pretty safely.
2. Stuck in a creek or tree well = When you get stuck in some kind of hole and every way out is higher than your sled is, you may have to dig an exit ramp out from this hole. Understand that it will take some time so be patient and don’t over do it. Your goal is to build yourself an exit ramp that you can ride out from to safety.
3. Pinned against a tree on a hill = in this situation you may have lost control. Trying to lift your sled up hill against gravity is extremely difficult if not impossible. Instead you should try to dig into the hillside behind your sled to get it to level out so that you can more easily pull the sled away from the tree. You will end up driving your sled away from the tree off to one side or the other.
Pack a path= the concept here is that the soft deep snow gives you much less traction vs. stomping or packing a path in front of your sled to give you additional traction that you need to gain speed an momentum to be able to exit what every obstacle that you need to overcome. The places that I have used this method the most are when I have been down in a creek drainage or off the edge of a hill where going down is not an option. Especially if I know I only have one shot at getting out before it turns into an even worse situation! Taking the time to pack a decent path about 20-30 feet in front of your sled will allow you the ability to get speed and momentum that you can use to power out of the trouble spot that you are in. Part of this process would include packing the snow down in front of your belly pan and in front of your track to help it settle down to the packed snow.
Lastly, you can add in the coined “the pin and wiggle”, where you pin the throttle and shift your weight back and forth from one running board to the other while “wiggling” the sled back and forth helping the sled to gain new traction.
Just remember if you are not getting stuck you are not getting better!
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