By Bob Stockwell, with Michael Morgan, LMFT
Backcountry snowmobiling is an all-in sport. It takes a clear mind and full focus along with physical abilities to get into, and out of, the best lines and moments.
But sometimes focus fades. Maybe you’ve just spent 30 minutes digging your buddy out of a tree well (it’s never you, right?!?), you haven’t had enough water or food, you’ve had one too many Monsters. Or maybe you’re riding with someone whose skills far outpace your own, and as a result, you’re feeling intimidated.
Whether it’s the start of the day or early afternoon, getting your mind into the right place is critical. Michael Morgan, a licensed therapist, specializing in sports performance, shares some practices to set and reset your mental state throughout the riding day.
At the Start the of Day
Make mental preparation a part of your start-the-day routine. As you check your gear and oil level, set the radio channel, and make sure your beacon is transmitting and receiving, take a couple of minutes to slow your mind and get it ready to go, too.
Have a Blast. There may be some temporary setbacks with equipment, unpredictable terrain, weather situations, etc., but you’re going to have a blast and be in some of the most beautiful landscapes on earth. Enjoy every time out and look at the whole experience as an adventure.
Think and Prepare, Then Let Go. Check the weather and avalanche forecast. Evaluate the terrain and talk with others who have ridden there recently. Make sure your equipment is up to par. Know the risks. Check and re-check. Be prepared for the unexpected. You will feel more confident and less stressed, the more prepared you are. Plan. Then, let go of thinking and enjoy the feeling of being exactly where you want to be.
Find an Excellent Mentor. You will reach your point of limitation soon enough, and you won’t be able to progress to where you want to be without working with riders, who have paved that path or understand that path more thoroughly than you. This is true in snowmobiling, as well as any other area that you want to progress in. Seeking guidance isn’t a weakness…it’s just smart.
Ride with Trustworthy People. You are putting your life and your family’s life in the hands of those you ride with. Make sure they have your back, and you have theirs. There is a great camaraderie that happens when ride with your friends. Lift each other up.
Be Kind to Yourself. “Man, you suck.” “Dude, you are the worst.” You won’t make a lot of friends with negative talk. You also reduce your own riding ability with that kind of self-talk. Don’t be hard on yourself, instead build yourself up with encouragement. Self-belief is one of the biggest keys to success in everything you do.
As the Day Goes On
Yeah, you’re tough. You don’t need a break. Except you really do. The physical and mental exertion of riding that 400+ pound beast takes its toll. To be at your best throughout the day, take breaks for food and hydration. During your breathers, take a few minutes to do a mental once-over and make any needed adjustments so you can close out the day strong.
Focus on Nutrition and Your Body. Your mind and body are intricately connected. If you’re feeling down or negative…EAT SOMETHING. Take plenty of food with you, and drink plenty of water. If you’re having trouble focusing or your body is exhausted…take a break. Most accidents happen when people are tired or worn out. Pay attention to your body, and don’t argue with it.
Don’t Compare. You are not competing against your crew. You’re competing against and progressing toward your full potential and capability. Cheer each other’s successes and remember that everyone else is doing the best they can and wanting to have fun. Enjoy the process of growth, even though sometimes it feels like a setback. And remember that when one of your buddies succeeds, it’s your success, too.
Know Your Limits, Then Push Them. Be aware of your abilities, strengths, and limits. Then, find a way to push them. Don’t do this all by yourself. Seek out positive mentors and riders that can help you get to the next level. And remember that, as the day goes on and you expend physical and mental energy, your limits will change. The line you rocked in the morning is going to be harder to nail later in the day. And that’s ok.
Think Worst-Case Scenario. This may be the opposite of what you would think a sport psychologist would say, but it can be empowering when you confront your greatest fears. If the worst-case scenario is that you could embarrass yourself…lean into that, confront it, feel the fear, and do it anyway. If the fear is that it could lead to potentially serious injury…press the pause button, re-evaluate, and find a scenario that doesn’t involve risking injury or worse.
The Gift of Fear. Don’t Doubt. If you have fear, pay attention to it. Sometimes it’s there for a reason. However, once you make a plan and a decision, commit to it. Believe in yourself.
No Failing, Just Learning. The most valuable lessons you will learn are from “failures.” Don’t put yourself down, learn. If there’s a line that gave you fits, explore it, lean into it—was it a strength issue? Was it a technique? Does one of your buddies have an idea for you on how to do it differently? It’s all about learning and progress, not perfection.
Gratitude. Maintain Perspective. Live in gratitude. You’re snowmobiling. You are with some of the luckiest people on the planet. You have money, resources, support, and a situation that most don’t have. Don’t mess it up with a negative attitude. Be grateful to be out in nature, spending time with your friends, see what you are capable of.
Michael Morgan, based in Sandy, Utah, is a licensed therapist specializing in sports performance. A professional pickleball player, Michael has worked with professional athletes in snowmobiling, golf, tennis, and basketball, as well as coaching individuals in learning to cope with their current stresses and find their own unique identities and strengths. Connect with Michael at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their website at www.momentumcounselingservices.com
Are you excited about the snow coming down? Already been out for a ride, but didn’t take time to get your sled ready for the season? Now is a good time to go through your sled and make sure you have it ready for the winter. Here is a list of things to check on your sled:
- Check your belt for wear and replace the belt.
- Grease and inspect your chassis by finding all the grease zerks on the suspension and pump in snowmobile grease (low-temperature grease from your dealer.)
- Check your hyfaxs to see if they need replacing.
- Clean power valves on sleds that need it.
- Change brake, Diamond Drive, coolant, other fluids as directed by your user manual.
- Fill with 2-stroke oil.
- Add fuel system cleaner or drain the tank replacing with fresh fuel.
- Check track adjustments according to your owner’s manual.
- Check your service manual for any other required maintenance.
- Run the sled to operating temperature before you go out to ride.
- Prepare your trailer by checking lights, grease bearings, and checking tires.
If you have any questions about maintenance, contact your local dealer. Here is a video from Polaris with some suggestions on things to check.