Dean Blotto Gray snowmobiling in the Whistler backcountry

Dean Blotto Gray snowmobiling in the Whistler backcountryBlotto vs. The Beast | Illustration: Mark Kowalchuk

A true life story of Dean Blotto Gray, as told to Nate Deschenes

The sun is starting to set and we’re 40 kilometers deep.

“Huh?” I think, “Is this how we’re doin’ it?”

I’m anxious, but there’s no real fear of being left out here because they will do whatever has to be done for everyone to get out safely.

I have to get myself ready for this. I did alright on the ride in, but keep in mind we still have to go up and down these huge mountains we came in on. In other words, it’s not mellow — not for me at least.

I should note that I’m on this beast of a sled, an Arctic Cat 1000, and it takes a lot of effort to maneuver. That, plus my limited snowmobile experience means I am doing a lot of extra work. I’ve also been shoveling all day, so I have dead arms.

It starts off with an eight or nine kilometer sidehill, which I’m not really pulling. [Mikey] Rencz and [Mark] Sollors agree it’s not all my fault — that my sled is just way too much — so that makes me feel a little better. I make it through that part and regroup before a technical section where you have to punch it to make it over this knob. After a quick rally, I get after it. But immediately, things go sour.

“I wish I would have filmed that!”

I somehow let the sled get ahead of me and am hanging off the side, pow blasting me in the face and basically headed for ruin, when this ditch appears. It’s obvious there’s no avoiding wreckage, so I brace myself in such a way that I don’t totally eat the handlebars. It all happened fast, but when the snow settled there were two sprained wrists, a bruised knee and a cracked rib.

Dean Blotto Gray snowmobiling in the Whistler backcountry with Aaron LeylandPowderhounds. Mikey Rencz and Logan Short | Photo: Aaron Leyland

The filmer, Aaron Leyland, saw it firsthand and was like, “OH MY GOD!” before saying, “I wish I would have filmed that!”

Thanks, dude.

After we get me all cleaned up, the boys build up my confidence and assure me they won’t let anything happen to me — that we’ll be out soon enough. By this time it’s totally dark and we still have to hit this series of five or six ups and downs over these huge mountains, full throttle — the whole deal.

The crux for me comes during a 700-meter climb, followed by a sharp right switchback and yet another ascent of 1000 meters. If you don’t make this right you’re flying into no man’s land and your sled is gone forever. It doesn’t help to see that all of the guys are having trouble with it. In one way it gets me off the hook if I can’t pull it, but it also does nothing for my confidence.

They all finally make it and it’s my turn.

After a first failed attempt and this valley of death at the forefront of my mind — I don’t know who reached down from above and grabbed me — but I somehow make this turn and rally up to the guys at the top of the huge L-shaped climb.

After that it was all pretty easy — very painful — but at least it wasn’t super technical.

When I got to the trailhead, last of course, there was a big laugh for me.

“Yeah, you made it!” they all cheered.

Dean Blotto Gray snowmobiling in the Whistler backcountry with Aaron LeylandTruly “out there.” Mikey Rencz and Mikkel Bang | Photo: Aaron Leyland

They had to load my sled and find my keys because I was just done. The fatigue alone now compounded with all of these injuries made for a messy scene. I could hardly move.

The thing is, we were out there all day and no one rode their snowboard. But that’s how it is in the Whistler backcountry. It’s hard to explain how much work those guys put in for their shots, so I have a maximum amount of respect when they turn in those video parts.

Some people ask me if after all these years it’s worth it.

The bonds you build with experiences like that are, to me, as rewarding as any experience you can have on your snowboard. Knowing that we’re all there for one another, no matter what, is one of the most special feelings that snowboarding has ever given me.

So my answer is simple: Absolutely!

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Originally featured in Snowboard Magazine: The Detour Issue