Most guys have been there; you’re hanging out with a new, great gal who’s cute and adventurous … and it’s inevitable. If she’s a snowmobiler, you’ve got it made. If she’s not, hand the magazine over to her, buddy, because this is girl talk. By the end of this article, she’ll be ready to hit the trail with the guys without the slightest bat of an eye.
Entering The Zone
First of all, you must realize you are entering a special universe of guy time. I won’t dwell on analyzing the X and Y chromosome, but we all know women and men are wired quite differently.
If you are new to snowmobiling, hang out for a few rides here and there, but don’t expect to be his constant companion, sharing Eskimo kisses at every check of the trail map. Let him have his time riding alone and his guy trips. Having said that, if he dumps you every weekend and he only shoots you the occasional e-mail asking you to feed his dog, you may want to re-think things a bit.
If this is your first snowmobile experience, be choosy. Days when the temps are above zero, the winds are minimal, the terrain’s agreeable and the distances are reasonable will help make the experience an enjoyable one. Whatever you do, though, do not beg to go on the 250-mile day trip right off the bat, because you’ll be sorry.
What are you going to wear? (We women have our priorities!)
Your bottom layers are critical and wicking properties are essential. You need to stay dry and warm inside.
Cotton has its drawbacks. It tends to build up moisture and hold it next to you. The newer synthetics like Coolmax and Lycra pull moisture away from the body to the outer fabrics where evaporation can occur.
The layer over wicking underwear should insulate against the cold. You need to trap warm air yet allow ventilation, therefore breathable layers is key. The amount of layers you wear depends on the temperature outside. Overdoing the layers is my mantra as I’ve rarely been too warm riding. You can always remove layers. A turtleneck is always a nice option for warmth, plus the curve-conscious fit is an attractive winter eyeful for a guy fresh off a testosterone-producing ride.
There are numerous brands of long underwear that will serve the purpose of bottom layer warmth. If you have thick bibs, these two layers should be enough. Jeans tend to have thick seams, hold moisture and just aren’t comfortable. Fleece or yoga pants are a better option for a second layer: Just make sure the side seams aren’t so thick that they cause discomfort in your laced up boots.
Speaking of boots, they should not be too tight. Only once did I make the mistake of trying a chemical thermal pack in the toe of my boots, which amounted to the feel of a cold golf ball smashing my toes. Unless you are stylin’ in Herman Munster boots, there will never be enough room to allow air to circulate around those packs to enable the right oxygen/carbon/iron mix for a chemical heat reaction.
Choose boots about a half to one size larger than what you normally wear to allow an extra layer of socks. Your boots shouldn’t be too big, though, because proper placement on the sled foot-rails and good grip is essential. Some of the non-itch marino wool socks have really proved their worth in my experience; one thick and one thin is my ticket to toasty toes.
A quick word from advice from my brother: leave the long, cute scarf at home. He claims every woman he has taken riding initially comes with one. Any loose clothing can be a danger with a spinning track underneath you.
And ladies, a tip from me: Remember to protect your goods with a decent support bra — let’s keep the day pain free.
For bibs and jackets, bigger is once again better to accommodate layers and to maximize flexibility. This is no place for a cute, tight pink ski bunny outfit. No guy will be impressed and you’ll inevitably end up freezing while your derrière will be disgustingly wet and filthy from the seat. A windproof/waterproof outer shell is essential to enjoying and surviving the trip. Venting for excess moisture is suggested.
It’s probably not necessary or wise to immediately run out and drop between $400 and $1,000 on the coordinated fashion set to match his sled. Yes ladies, if you thought guys didn’t really care about what they wear, check out the get-ups of many enthusiasts. The sledding industry could arguably knock Armani and Hilfiger on their arses. Every year sled graphics and color schemes change along with the perfect suit to compliment every model of sled … seriously!
For your first few times out, ask your guy if he has an older suit for you to wear. I have found that an economical camouflage jacket, one that is longer to my mid thigh not only provides an extra bit of warmth over my jacket but makes for a longer line. Whatever you wear, make sure it has some reflective tape or material for visibility in the dark or the snow dust.
Gloves or mittens? A good quality pair that covers you up and over your sleeves is essential. As a passenger, I prefer mittens. I ride with two small lining mittens inside some leather choppers along with heat packs, which stay impressively warm for about four hours. When I drive my own sled, I wear a glove on the left and a mitten on the right so I’ll have the finger dexterity for the brake with the glove, but the warmth for the throttle hand where I only use my thumb. Sadly, my circulation leaves a bit to be desired, so I put the heat pack on the back of my glove hand. Everybody has their own systems: feel free to experiment.
To top off your ensemble, you’ll need a helmet. Not only does it protect you, it is critical to hold in body heat. Tip: If you stop on the trail, avoid removing your helmet; your hair will be downright scary and you’ll lose too much body heat, which will set yourself up for the chills later.
The helmet should have a snug fit, but not too tight. Be sure to always have it buckled. Barettes are great for keeping hair out of your eyes, but the wrong barette at the wrong spot combined with the pressure of the helmet can mean an instant headache.
I used to wear a bandanna as a face mask as the thought of those fuzzy wet masks from childhood days past made me gag. You will find the newer thin synthetic face masks called balaclavas offer superior warmth and fit. Another little hint: After a few frostbite spots next to my eyes, I learned to put a tiny strip of duct tape (one that is well fingered to decrease stickiness) next to my eyes on ultra cold days where the wind hit my face at mask openings.
If you wear glasses, expect them to fog unless you have excellent ventilation through the mask or the goggles. If you keep the shield open a crack, it may produce enough ventilation to keep glasses or sunglasses from fogging. If you can, opt for contacts. Your eyes may dry out quickly, though, so bring a bottle of drops. Shields that offer de-flective routes for your breath are incredible for the most part, when compared to years past. UV protectant lenses are critical to protect eyes from strain.
Now that you’re outfitted, you’ll want to think about what to take on the trip.
One must remember, this is still a social situation. More than once have I found myself the only lady fresh off a sled and walking into a room full of women looking like Tyra Banks. So a bit of pre-planning never hurts.
Before you ride (another hint from my brother), save the time of putting on makeup. It will only smear and run all over.
The No. 1 essential is a ball-cap folded up and put in the sled seat. Unless you are one natural beauty, a cap is an effective way to hide helmet hair.
A moisturizing lipstick will be welcome, as a day in the elements can be drying to the skin. Of course, wear a good moisturizer with a SPF of at least 15 before you head out. Leave the blush at home as the air will undoubtedly place a rosy glow on your cheeks.
I place all this — plus some cash (small joints don’t always take plastic) — in my bib pocket so it won’t freeze.
Advances in snowmobile technology will make your ride much dreamier than the girlfriends of earlier days. Upgraded suspensions, softer seats and handwarmers help keep us calm and comfortable.
After years of riding behind my father — a former champion snowmobile racer — I’ve learned that when riding 2-Up, it is vital to move with the driver as one cohesive unit. When you wrap your arms around your driver, you become one. Your weight transfers together, your sled responds better. That way, the driver doesn’t have to fight your extra pounds. With each ride you will develop a better feel and level of comfort.
The key to ride on the back of a sled is paying attention. You need to situate yourself such that you can look up and over one shoulder of your driver. You need to observe the terrain and watch the rider ahead so you can spot trouble. It is important to stay on your feet. Consider this your workout for the day. Be ready to slightly lift off the seat as you go over road crossings, bumps, and the like. It won’t take you long to get the feel of it. Do not hold a “frozen” position. Your feet need to stay on the running boards, and you need to bend from the knees and hips. Stay loose but alert. Most of all, remember to hang on.
Other sleds should respect the double rider by allowing more room. And hopefully, your driver will choose wisely where he is in the “pack.” If you are not at the back, he should work the lineup so a trustworthy and experienced driver will follow you.
While cornering, lean into it. Slide yourself off the seat and really keep that outside leg hooked over the seat while you place more weight over your inside leg. I found that my father could even corner faster at times with my weight counterbalancing the sled.
If he is considerate, your man will ease you into this experience. Again, if he drives to the point you are frightened to tears, and even a frantic banging on his sides results in an extra bump up of rpm, you’d better decide if his demeanor suits yours. He can always fill his need for extra speed when he is alone. But ladies, it is OK to relax a bit and just enjoy the experience. A swift run on a freshly groomed trail or a new familiar patch of powder can be exhilarating and safe. When backed by common sense and brains, it is a perfect opportunity to travel the path together, riding in harmony.
You may just like it so much, you’ll consider buying your own ride and pursuing your new-found snowmobiling interest. Even if the guy doesn’t turn out to be the man of your dreams, you can thank him for introducing you to a sport that will have you out with lots of other guys and gals praying for winters long and hard.