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Travel: Riding with Chris Burandt

A Timbersled, a 2017 Pro-RMK 174 and Chris Burandt ride into the woods ... what happens next?
RELATED TOPICS: CHRIS BURANDT | COLORADO | TRAVEL | TIMBERSLED | POLARIS
Ross Robinson Burandt's Backcountry Adventure Polaris RMK
Guide and expert rider Ross Robinsion shows the AmSnow cameras what an RMK pump gas turbo can do at Burandt’s Backcountry Adventure.
Photos by Mark Boncher & Mike Duffy
This past March, AmSnow had the pleasure of riding at Burandt’s Backcountry Adventure (BBA) with legendary tree-negotiating extraordinaire Chris Burandt and his team in Buena Vista, Colo. Now you can too!

Editor Mark Boncher and AmSnow’s resident avalanche expert Mike Duffy (www.avalanche1.com) experienced a weekend of exclusive rides at BBA. There, they put the new 174-inch Polaris 800 Pro-RMK and a handful of new Timbersleds through the wringer. Here are some highlights from the trip ... the same trip that is up for grabs in AmSnow’s big sweepstakes! Enter for your chance to win!
Burandt's Backcountry Adventure lodge
That’s not a lodge, that’s a castle! The lodge at BBA actually has fixtures, doors, and wood from an old English Castle. AmSnow test rider Mike Duffy (www.avalanche1.com) is a Colorado native, and he qualified the lodge as one of the nicest snowmobile lodges in the state.
Staying High
Chris rolled out the red carpet for us, and everything from the lodge to the sleds to the riding was top-notch professional. The castle/lodge that Burandt leases for his clients and guests each winter is a $3 million+ property built with all kinds of remnants literally salvaged out of an old English castle. Five-inch-thick doors that are 12 feet high with iron latches and hinges guard each room, and bookshelves and trunks easily five times older than any of us can be found throughout.

To make the stay even more international, three great clients from Greenland (Jackie, Svend, and Christian) stayed at the lodge and rode with us. Americans swapping snow stories with riders from the Arctic Circle was a treat in itself! We also had two friendly folks from Canada in our riding group, riders Ryan Law and his dad, Jace.  
This lodge also sits higher than 9,000 feet in elevation, so for those of us from Wisconsin and Greenland, that elevation took some getting used to. But the view from here is worth the shortness of breath!

Our first morning, we dropped down to Chris’ shop, which had no fewer than 25 beautiful Polaris RMKs of varying lengths available. Thankfully for us, Polaris had dropped off a brand new pre-production Pro-RMK 174 for us to ride. But if you schedule to ride with the BBA crew, they can outfit you with 155- or 162-inch-long RMKs, and a 174 will be there for this coming 2016-2017 winter. Burandt will also be running at least eight Timbersled bike conversion kits for customers to try for the upcoming riding season. AmSnow got to throw a leg over all of these machines!
Chris Burandt's Backcountry Adventure Polaris 509 Klim
Chris Burandt
Don’t Get Too Comfortable
If you want to be pushed to your limit and learn from the best in backcountry riding, Burandt’s is the place. It is not for the unmotivated, so bring your energy and positive attitude!

On our first day, we loaded up the sleds with sandwiches in the Hot Doggers. Each of the BBA sleds had one standard: that you put your sandwich in before you ride and then stop in the woods at some point to eat. Each sled also is equipped with the Burandt mountain storage bag and handlebar storage too. There is lots of room on these RMKs for everything you need. It’s a treat to have hot food, snacks, water, extra goggles, extra gloves, extra balaclava, shovel and more that you do not have to carry in or on your backpack. Wasting energy carrying gear is not smart when you are riding with these guys.

For most of the first day, I rode the brand new Polaris 800 Pro-RMK 174. I am a “flatlander,” but I have a little mountain experience under my belt. My background on mostly shorter sleds probably contributed to me feeling like the 174 could climb and churn powder with amazing efficiency, even at the super high altitudes of 11,000-12,000 feet we were riding at.
Burandt's Backcountry Adventure Svend Peter Lagersted Greenland Polaris
Rider Svend Peter Lagersted from Greenland also leaned and learned alongside his group of Greenland friends.
The riding area we went to was near St. Elmo, Colo., and the elevation was killer! There were great snow depths, incredible views and super technical tree riding, but it was also pretty tough for us lower-elevation folks to breathe once we got stuck. Thankfully, the 174 was able to churn itself out of most of the mistakes I made. This sled does allow you to go slower than a 155. I noticed this often as I was following better riders on 155- and 162-inch sleds all day. However, you still need momentum, and stopping or slowing down in bottomless sugar snow while trying to go up a steep climb is never recommended.

Chris and his crew (riders Ross Robinson and Chase Bunting) took us out of our comfort zone right away … on purpose, that is. In order to evaluate skill level and athleticism, and to make you a better rider, these guys will try you by fire … and it works. We were all stuck on the very first big hill that Chris took us up, but by doing that he was able to tell what skill level each person was at. Chris and the guys will give you points and teach you along the way all day, but at dinner that night, Chris also spoke with each client about particular things he or she could work on.

Riding at BBA is all about becoming a better technical rider. The guys from Greenland that were there ride lots of mountainous terrain, but there’s less elevation and little to no trees in Greenland, so learning how to stay on a sidehill through trees and rocks and stumps was something very new and challenging. Likewise, the Canadians (Ryan and Jace) also got hands-on advice. You can see Ryan’s awesome riding with the Hickshow production folks at www.hickshow.com. Ryan is not even in high school yet, but he and his dad rip the powder northeast of Washington State, in British Columbia. In that area of Canada, there are also fewer trees, and they are spaced out. This is the biggest takeaway that you will learn from Burandt’s riding camp: learning how to negotiate tighter trees on steeper hills.
Burandt's Backcountry Adventure Mark Boncher Polaris Timbersled
Timbersled Tryouts
On the second day of our visit, we were all able to spend some more time on the Timbersled dirt bike conversion kits. The base machines were Husqvarna 450cc dirt bikes with FMF exhausts. We had both the Timbersled ST 120 kit and the LT 137 kits and we quickly realized there is a big difference between the long track 137-inch version and the shorter 120-inch version. For a smaller-sized average motorcycle rider like myself, the short track was easier to maneuver in the trees and tight spaces on steep terrain. AND, the short tracker could still climb like a possessed monkey!

Most impressive to all the riders was the decrease in effort that it took to pull technical sidehill and tree lines that would be above our skill levels on a conventional sled. Certainly, Chris Burandt could have done these lines on a sled, but we are admittedly a bit below his (and his crew’s) talent level. So, the Timbersleds were a skill-leveling metric, as long as I was on a Timbersled and they were on regular sleds.

To be honest, we couldn’t do everything the more experienced Timbersled riders could on the bikes, but we could go a lot more places with a lot less effort than we could on sleds. It is important to keep noting that super deep, steep and tight backcountry spots are BBA’s bread and butter, so that’s where we hung out all day.

Everyone in our group tried the Timbersleds. Even guys like Jace, who originally was tentative about riding them, changed their tunes once they saw how much easier it was than expected. Granted, these are intimidating machines, but I have met many men and women who have enjoyed first-time rides on them. Basically, you stay in 1st or 2nd gear and there isn’t much clutch work needed until you get in the super tight and steep trees. You will also need to work the clutch coming downhill in the trees.
Burandt's Backcountry Adventure lodge great room
Burandt's Backcountry Adventure kitchen
That said, not everything is wine and roses with the Timbersleds. They are twitchy and prone to falling over in parking lots, low snow trails, and road crossing situations. We would say that they are downright dangerous in these places. The bikes can also be more difficult to get unstuck in super deep snow, simply because it takes a bit to understand where to pull, push, dig, and how to work the throttle to get them out. Also, going downhill can be a little unnerving as the bikes (especially the longer tracked 137-inch version) tend to submarine into soft snow or tree wells. Finally, getting the bike back upright in deep snow is NOT fun, especially for folks of smaller stature.    

Push Yourself
Like most things in life, you need to put some energy into your riding to get the most out of it. I would suggest anyone who wants to really try riding in the most technical scenarios to try BBA, and make sure you try their custom sleds with add-ons like FOX EVOL shocks, Skinz Arms, Vok and Boondocker performance upgrades and more. You won’t be disappointed! And while you’re there, try out one of the Timbersled-equipped bikes as well. Just give it a whirl! Trust me – it is fun!

More info: www.burandtsbackcountryadventure.com, www.avalanche1.com.
Burandt's Backcountry Adventure Chase Bunting Polaris
Chase Bunting showed us a few different re-entry moves ... that we didn’t dare try.
WHY THE PRO-RMK 174?
There has been lots of talk about why or why not someone should ride a big 174-inch-long sled. The 2017 pre-production 800 Pro-RMK 174 we rode boiled down to three positives and three negatives ... at least for a very part-time mountain rider like me.

PROS
- Better going uphill than the 155 or even the 162.
- Easier to go slow without getting stuck in many situations.
- Did not fall over as easily/unexpectedly as the 155 in ruts and things

CONS
- Took more effort to keep and get onto a sidehill, as it either seemed to want to climb straight up the hill or fall straight down the hill.
- If you did get stuck, it was a bigger chore to dig out. (P.S. Thanks Chris, Ross and Chase!)
- Less “playful” than a 155 or a 162.

Burandt's Backcountry Adventure Polaris Timbersled stuck
We quickly realized the Timbersleds get stuck too, but you have to try pretty hard. Luckily the guys at BBA showed us how to get them unstuck too!
5 TIMBERSLED FIRST RIDE IMPRESSIONS
  1. Helmet giggles. It is so fun in the steep and deep that you’ll have to have someone smack the smile off your face.
  2. SOOO EASY to sidehill. Slopes that were out of the talent range for us on sleds instantly became accessible on snow bikes.
  3. Do not attempt to ride these on concrete, road crossings, or trails with little snow unless you are very experienced … and/or have super long legs.
  4. The long track version is more apt to submarine if you are carrying too much speed straight down a hill.
  5. The short track version is more maneuverable in pretty much ANY situation.
Burandt's Backcountry Adventure Ryan Law 11 years old Polaris
11 year-old rider Ryan Law sawed up the sidehills and took notes from his idol Chris Burandt.

BURANDT'S TOP 10 TREE RIDING TIPS

  1. Look up the hill, not at your front bumper.
  2. Your sled will follow where your eyes look 90% of the time.
  3. Always have a Plan B. If your first line does not work out, have a second option.
  4. Keep at least one finger on the brake at all times.
  5. Stay on your edge (sidehill) for more control with more route options.
  6. Keep your momentum, but not too fast, you should go slow... just don’t stop! Achieve a balance between “on the throttle” and “in control.”
  7. Take the steepness out of the hill. Use your sidehill techniques to get momentum back.
  8. Learn how to get unstuck by yourself without a shovel.
  9. If you start trenching, take your weight off the sled and let the sled drive back up on top of the snow.
  10. Put ice scratchers down when you’re on the trail ... your sled (and guides) will thank you!
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