To say Ashley Chaffin was born to ride snowmobiles might be a bit of a stretch, but when you’re raised in Valdez, Alaska, and your father has raced the grueling Iron Dog cross-country race, maybe there is a bit of leaning in that direction.
Chaffin started racing (and dominating) snocross in Alaska at a young age but has since turned her attention to freeriding. She has been featured in extreme riding videos, graced the cover of magazines and has been a sponsored “Ski-Doo Freeride Ambassador” since 2011. She even blogs on Ski-Doo’s Elevation website — click through to read her stuff.
Her profile is the latest in a series on backcountry heroes of the sport here on snowgoer.com, based on surveys sent out last summer. Two of those profiles were featured in the October issue of Snow Goer magazine (Rob Alford and Rob Kincaid), and here’s a link to an interview with Polaris rider Keith Curtis.
SNOW GOER: How long have you been riding?
ASHLEY CHAFFIN: I’ve been riding for as long as I can remember. My dad raced in the Iron Dog when I was a little kid so I have always been around sleds. My parents bought me my first one when I was 5 years old and have been hooked ever since.
SG: What sled are you currently riding, and what’s on it that’s not “stock?” How have you customized it to fit you?
CHAFFIN: Last season I was riding a 2013 Ski-Doo Summit X 146. The Summits are awesome sleds right out of the box so I didn’t change much. I put on Fox FLOATs all the way around, a shorter Fly riser, C&A Pro MTX skis and a Toyskinz wrap.
SG: Name your favorite powder riding destination.
CHAFFIN: Thompson Pass in Valdez. The terrain is amazing, it gets a ton of snow, and its only 30 minutes from my house. I’m really lucky to live to where I do.
SG: Describe your favorite type of riding?
CHAFFIN: Tough question! I love riding deep powder all winter but springtime in Alaska is hard to beat. If I had to pick one, it would probably be spring riding because of the long sunny days, soft snow and big jumps.
SG: What’s one tip you’d have for a western riding novice?
CHAFFIN: Don’t be afraid to try new things. Even if you think you might get stuck or crash just try it anyway. The only way to learn new things is to go out there and do it.
SG: The one thing newcomers to the West overlook is…
CHAFFIN: How quickly the snow and weather conditions can change. Things can happen fast when you’re out in the backcountry so you always need to be prepared for anything and have a plan to keep everyone safe.
SG: Something I learned last season is…
CHAFFIN: I got SCHOOLED by Bret Rasmussen last year in Wyoming and I learned a lot! Most of the places we ride in Alaska don’t have trees so when I went down to ride with Bret that was the first thing I had to learn, and fast. We had great snow and he is a lot of fun to ride with. I can’t wait to go back!
SG: My “other” job, when not snowmobiling, is…
CHAFFIN: I own two coffee shops, so when I’m not off playing in the mountains that takes up most of my free time. I make a mean cappuccino so if you’re ever in Valdez, stop in and say hello.
SG: Because of your prominence, some folks might dream of riding with somebody like you, but who do you dream of riding with?
CHAFFIN: Tom Brady. I’m a big Patriots fan so I think it would be fun to go ride some pow with the Golden Boy.
SG: Do you have a snowmobile track preference? What’s your perfect combination of length, width, lug height?CHAFFIN: I had an awesome set up on my Summit this past winter. It was a 146- by 16- by 2.5-inch. It was great in the powder, got me everywhere I wanted to go in the mountains, and was a blast to jump in the spring.
SG: What do you do for off-season fun?
CHAFFIN: Hanging out on the water. Whether its wakeboarding, fishing or just laying around working on my tan, if you’re looking for me in the summer, you’ll probably find me on a boat.
SG: Tell us about your tow rig.
CHAFFIN: It’s all about the Mega Cab! I drive a 2011 Dodge mega cab diesel pickup. I put a sled deck on it, leveling kit, rims, 35-inch tires and I’m a girl so it’s got a lot of room for all the stuff I like to pack.
SG: Tell us about a funny time when you learned a lesson while riding.
CHAFFIN: About ten years ago, when I first started riding with the guys I was trying to show off. I had my sled pinned and trying to carve on crusty snow. Needless to say I caught an edge, flew over my bars and my sled flew end over end. I was laying face down in the snow and didn’t even want to look up! I torn my pants and broke both my kneepads. I learned two lessons that day.