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Bret Rasmussen's Wrong Foot Forward


Stephen W Clark
Stephen W Clark
They say you have never been really stuck until you ride with Bret Rasmussen. And after 45 minutes of digging snow trying to move an M8 that is stuck inside a tree well on a deep powder day, I agree that trying to follow Bret can really get you stuck.

Most mountain riders go looking for nice open areas to play in but Bret doesn’t exactly fall into that category, he does the complete opposite. When he snowmobiles he actually goes looking for the trees, and not just lightly wooded areas, but steep forests with trees spaced about 39.5 inches apart! If they happen to be even closer, well, its OK because he will just put his M8 on one ski and slide through the opening.

After just once riding with Bret and seeing his amazing sled control, we decided we needed to learn some of his tricks, so we attended one of his riding clinics.

For those not familiar with Bret Rasmussen, he is from Preston, Idaho and grew up riding in the backcountry around his home long before there was such a thing as a “mountain” sled. Bret’s father sold Arctic Cats out of his garage when Bret was young and he followed in his father’s footsteps, owning an Arctic Cat dealership in Preston. Bret was one of Cat’s top hillclimb racers for many years and won several titles.

Since selling his dealership Bret spent a few years on the Cat M-Series demo tour where he took riders out on demo rides. But Bret is also an innovator and constantly looking for ways to improve mountain snowmobile performance. Several of Bret’s ideas have been applied to Arctic Cat’s M-series sleds and he also works closely with Boondocker Performance. Recently he has teamed with Deviant Sled Works to produce an instructional DVD about backcountry snowmobiling and has started on-snow instruction with riding clinics. Bret rides snowmobiles about 5 to 6 days a week in the winter and has done so for many, many years. His experience and talent make him one of the best, if not the best, technical mountain snowmobiler. Even Chris Burandt says so.

In the past few years Bret and Chris put together a video documenting the tips and tricks to riding the way they do. The video clearly explains the techniques and demonstrates them with slow motion footage. When we watched the first “Schooled” video everything made complete sense, what they teach is nothing revolutionary and many of the basic moves mountain riders already do. But the video drives those points home and makes you more aware of your riding technique.

However, it’s easy to see the techniques on video, applying them on snow is another story. So we decided to get our schooling first hand at one of Bret’s clinic to see how these techniques are taught.
Here (above and here) Bret demonstrates using his wrong foot forward on the left hand running board in order to lean the sled into a left sidehill. Notice the bars and skis also are turned slightly away from the hill. The opposite would be done to lean the sled into a right sidehill as demonstrated below.
Riding with Bret
We attended a Ride Rasmussen Style Clinic at Tabby Mountain Ranch in Tabiona, Utah, last season. Tabiona is in mid-Eastern Utah and has some unique terrain. The lodge is located in an area of red soil and rocks, it almost looks like Moab, but close to some big mountains.

We were some of the first guests in this recently finished lodge built to host hunting and snowmobile trips in the winter. Absolutely no expense had been spared in constructing this amazing lodge that sits on a huge fenced plot full of enormous elk. One of the lodge’s owners, Ray Schoenfelder from Black Diamond Xtreme, also attended the clinic. Ray was the guy who developed the Diamond Drive used on Arctic Cat snowmobiles and is a snowmobile technology innovator himself. He owns Black Diamond Extreme and has several very fast and light M-series machines that he brought along.

Bret has always been known for his wild riding style, where he rides with legs flailing to control the sled. He calls this style “wrong foot forward,” and you basically put the wrong foot on the running board to get the machine steering in that direction. To sidehill or turn left you would put your right foot on the left running board and stick your left leg out for leverage. By using this you can have a lot more leverage on the sled. To make it turn sharper, or sidehill on a steeper hill, just throw your leg a little further out.

The basis of Bret’s clinic is to teach riders four basic riding positions required for mountain riding. Before we even hit the snow Bret exhibited and explained each position on a stationary sled in the lodge.
Stephen W Clark
4 mountain riding positions
First position is Neutral. This is legs on both sides of the machine knees bent. Second position is still straddling the seat but your heel is off the inside running board and the other foot is leaning on the seat. Third position has the rider with both feet on one running board and heels hanging off the rails for maximum leverage. In the final riding position, position four, or wrong foot forward, the rider positions the wrong foot on the running board with the other foot hanging off.

Wrong foot forward is the most aggressive of the riding positions. The other riding positions, in many cases, are just transition positions to wrong foot forward. Basically the riding position should be determined by the steepness of the hill or how hard you want to turn the machine.

On the snow Bret conducted several drills allowing us students to put these techniques into practice. We did a series of downhill u-turns with Bret evaluating our riding along with a couple of guys videoing. At the end of Day One we watched the video to see what we were doing wrong.

The video evaluation really helped because how you think you look on the machine is quite different from your real position. Visually studying your form helps you make changes on your next ride.

Bret’s principals are easily understood and make good riding sense, so attending Rasmussen’s clinic can help any mountain rider. The hard part is remembering to apply those principals while on the sled!

Yet a couple days at the clinic certainly helped improve my riding. Bret identified a few of my bad habits and explained how to correct them, just like a golf pro can help smooth out a swing. One bad habit, keeping the correct foot on the running board but twisting my body and hanging the right foot off the board. This position is quite common, but has drawbacks, and once explained it’s clear that it doesn’t work as well as wrong foot forward.
Our experience at the clinic was great, the riding incredible and the lodging and meals spectacular. Plus we had a fun and knowledgeable group of riders at our clinic.

Bret has lived and breathed snowmobiling for most of his life and he tells a load of interesting stories about his experiences over the years. Plus he likes to play a few tricks. One of his favorites is calling you out and having you try to follow him through some ridiculously tight trees. More often than not this doesn’t go so well for the follower and you either end up hitting a tree or getting stuck, meanwhile Bret is navigating through the hazard with ease, likely laughing the whole time.

So how much better am I now? Well, I still can’t hang with Bret, but can definitely give it a better shot. Now instead of getting stuck at the bottom of the hill, I get stuck a little further up the hill. … at least I’m making progress.

More info: Ride Rasmussen Style,; Deviant Sled Works,; Tabby Mountain Ranch,; Black Diamond Xtreme
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