inReach in the Field: Leading Backcountry Snowmobile Adventures

Julie-Ann Chapman moved to British Columbia, Canada 14 years ago aspiring to be a professional snowboarder. It was during backcountry trips while snowboarding that she discovered a new passion – snowmobiling in the mountains. In 2010, that passion grew into She Shreds Mountain Adventures, which Chapman notes was the first all-women mountain snowmobile adventure clinic in the world at that time.

“I wanted to see more women in the backcountry,” Chapman said, “and I wanted people to learn the safe and fun way.”

Becoming adept at snowmobiling didn’t come easy. When Chapman began practicing the sport seriously, she wanted to learn with technique and skills progression. Instead, Chapman acquired her talent through a lot of frustration and tears. “I learned the hard way, going with the guys and them always saying ‘just do it, just pin it, just man-handle it,’” Chapman said.

That difficult learning experience inspired her decision to start She Shreds. Chapman’s teaching method is to evaluate her clients’ abilities and help riders refine their current skills and advance to their own next level. This approach allows riders to gain confidence and have fun.

Chapman’s dedication to improving the sport has gained her recognition in numerous snowmobiling magazines as well as being named the British Columbia Snowmobile Federation (BCSF) Snowmobiler of the Year for the 2012/2013 season by the House of Commons of Canada.

Getting the Most Out of a Snowmobiling Adventure

Chapman’s expertise is freeriding in the mountains, descending lines, being creative with the natural layout of the land and jumping off cliffs.

“In the mountains, it’s all about the fun,” Chapman said. “The views you see, the places you get, the learning curve and progressing is what puts a smile on your face. The people you’re with make the experience as well.”

She explains that snowmobiling is a challenging sport that requires not only physical strength but also mental toughness and flexibility. “Be mentally ready for ups and downs with snowmobiling. Sometimes you have the best day ever, and sometimes it’s a stuck fest and you don’t go anywhere.”

Chapman finds that her clients who stick with snowmobiling find that their skills and confidence will improve. “It takes determination to progress. It pays off in the end, believe me.”


Key Advice for Staying Safe While Snowmobiling

Chapman and her staff design their clinics and rides with an emphasis on safety. The foundation of that emphasis is to always be prepared. “You never know what will happen in the deep backcountry,” Chapman said. “Always have survival gear, avalanche gear and first aid gear. And know how to use it. Always have a plan and a backup plan if something happens.”

Chapman also believes that having a satellite communicator, and not just a cell phone, is an essential piece of gear and recommends inReach® to her clients. “It’s very easy to use and an affordable way to stay safe in the backcountry. I use an inReach as my primary communication device to the outside world when I’m out of cell range.”

Recently, Chapman was in a situation where she was able to use her inReach to provide help to an injured snowmobiler she encountered when out sledding. The group tried to assist the individual, but Chapman triggered an SOS on her inReach device after the group determined that he needed medical assistance and was in a lot of pain. A search and rescue team arrived by helicopter about 30 minutes later, thanks to good weather and their location. “I later found out that the search and rescue team used inReach as well.”

Chapman also utilizes the navigation and tracking capabilities of the inReach device when leading backcountry adventures and clinics, and she provides a link to a MapShare page embedded on her website, so others can keep track of a group in the field. “When I take clients out, their loved ones at home can watch them travel through the backcountry via the MapShare link on my website. It’s great!”

She Shreds Mountain Adventures specializes in teaching women how to progress their skills on a snowmobile off-trail and provides snowmobile clinics and guided adventures to both men and women throughout North America. She Shreds also provides avalanche safety courses in conjunction with the Canadian Avalanche Association.


Photo credits: She Shreds Mountain Adventures, Yves Ouellet