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Backcountry Snowmobile Profile: Keith Curtis

By John T. Prusak

Earlier this year, Snow Goer sent surveys to some of the backcountry heroes of the sport — generally, sponsored racers or freeriders from all four manufacturers. Two of those profiles were featured in the October issue of Snow Goer magazine (Rob Alford and Rob Kincaid). Throughout the fall, we’ll post some of the other profiles here on snowgosite.wpengine.com. Enjoy.

 

SNOW GOER: How long have you been riding?

KEITH CURTIS:  22 years
SG: What sled are you currently riding, and what’s on it that’s not “stock?” How have you customized it to fit you?

CURTIS:  This must be a trick question! I race 3 different Pro Chassis snowmobiles in 5 classes in the RMSHA hill climb circuit. This year I will be racing a 2014 PRO RMK 600 in stock 600, 2014 RMK Assault in Stock 800 and Stock 1000, and another 2014 Assault 800 in Modified 800 and Open Modified. My mountain sleds will include a nearly stock 2014 Assault 800 and a 2014 RMK PRO 163″ Pro for the steep & deep!

A list of goodies for my Modified 2014 Assault 800 race sled and 2014 PRO RMK 163″ to customize it KC711 style, bare with me:

1. Signature Polaris/KC711/Arctic FX wrap

2. Boondocker Performance 63 series Tial turbo w/innercooler (PRO RMK 163 has a 60 series Boondocker Turbo)

3. Revalved Walker Evans Piggy Back Shocks (PRO RMK 163 is upgraded to Walker Evan’s piggy back edition shocks)

4. SPG Air Frames

5. SPG Front Bumper

6. SPG Rear Bumper

7. Polaris Riser Bag (Mountain sled only)

8. Polaris Gas Rack (Mountain sled only)

9. Pro Ride underseat Bag (Mountain sled only)

10. Polaris Underhood Goggle Bag (Mountain sled only)

11. Avid Products anti-ratchet drivers

12. SLP Powder Pro Skis

13. TBR Vents

14. Camoplast Peak 2.5″- Hillclimb race track. (PRO RMK 163 goes anywhere and everywhere with the Camoplast Extreme X3)

SG: Name your favorite powder riding destination.

CURTIS:  Seeley Lake, Mt.

SG: Describe your favorite type of riding?

CURTIS:  My favorite hill climb race course is the World Championship Hillclimb in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Jackson is full of challenging obstacles that include 4-foot ruts & vertical ledges, ice, stumps, rocks, not to mention the intense steep terrain! Jackson is an absolute riot on deep snow years because of the extra deep ruts. Low snow years are a bit on the sketchy side because winning a class or King title relies not only on rider skill, but luck as well! A rock or stump to the ski can ruin a perfect run, this is why it’s always a good idea to keep the front end up through the rock garden and over the stumps!

 Q: What’s one tip you’d have for a Western riding novice?

CURTIS:  Always bring plenty of water and food along!

SG: The one thing newcomers to the West overlook is…

CURTIS:  Reading the terrain. Avoid terrain traps and avalanche zones. There is plenty of awesome riding zones that don’t require as much risk.

SG: Something I learned last season is…

CURTIS:  Install tether’s on all sleds… my mountain sled got away from me last winter and hit a gi-normous tree! The tether would have surely helped plus they are easy to install!

SG: My “other” job, when not snowmobiling, is…

CURTIS:  KC711 Racing owner and agent, cross training, staying proactive on the mechanical side of things, and racing dirt bikes: I qualified to race the 2013 ISDE in Sardinia, Italy Sept. 30th- Oct. 5th.

SG: Do you have a brief “brush with death” story?

CURTIS:  So there I was… side hilling away having a grand old time and I found myself stuck cutting my way across the mountain, my ski’s dangling over a 20-foot cliff, there is a rock band 10 feet straight forward, and my lower running board was jammed against a tree. Not a fun situation to be in and of course the others in my group were a couple miles away! After cutting a tree down and barreling off the cliff sideways my ski caught a rock throwing me off my sled. The next thing I knew the bulkhead was on top of my head and I kept calm, wiggled my arms out, grabbed the front bumper and pulled myself out from beneath the sled. Thank God the throttle didn’t get jammed wide open! It was one of the scariest experiences on a snowmobile. Lessons learned: Always wear a tether and make sure others know where you are riding.

SG: Because of your prominence, some folks might dream of riding with somebody like you, but who do you dream of riding with?

CURTIS:  I think it would be a riot to ride dirt bikes with Travis Pastrana then take him out on sleds to see what he is capable of!
SG: Do you have a snowmobile track preference? What’s your perfect combination of length, width, lug height?

CURTIS:  Racing- 155-inch, 15 wide, Peak 2.5-inch lubs trimmed down to 2-inch

Mountain- Camoplast Extreme X3, 163-inch, 15 wide

SG: What do you do for off-season fun?

CURTIS:  Ride moto, bicycle, go RZRing, fishing, hiking, golfing, hanging out with friends and family.

SG: Tell us about your tow rig.

CURTIS:  “Stella” is what the Boondocker crew called my 2008 GMC 3500 dually with a flatbed/sled deck when they owned it! Powerlabs Diesel in Idaho Falls, Idaho, tuned it up for me with bigger exhaust, cold air, and a custom EFI live tune with a turbo brake. Of course it is wrapped with Arctic FX’s creative touch and it does its job, whether it’s hauling my 43-foot gooseneck to the races or cursing across the Northwest with two mountain sleds in the back.

SG: Tell us about a funny time when you learned a lesson while riding.

CURTIS:  Well I don’t know how funny it is but I will tell anyways! I was with my dad and a bunch of our buddies by our cabin in Polaris, Montana. I was 12 years old and just invested my life savings into a 1998 RMK 700. My parents paid half and I paid half. It was an early season ride and we were breaking out a trail by Crystal Park. We came up an interesting side hill with trees below. Being I weighed a whole 100 pounds and my experience wasn’t stellar, I let my dad take my sled up the gnarly looking trail. Watching from the bottom, I witnessed my dad hit a rock, get ejected from the sled, and the sled rolled into a tree directly on the hood. I thought my life was over and I was in tears!!! Ha ha, fortunately, in the end, everything was replaceable and was OK; it turned out my life was not over! Lesson learned: sleds are always replaceable.

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