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A passion for sledding is not hard to find in this area, and a passion to find the best snow is a necessity for riders. Chris Obbink and his group of friends have found that chasing snow starts out as a hobby, and turns into an addiction.
Obbink grew up in a sledding family. With parents as weekend trail riders and poker run enthusiasts, it was no surprise when Obbink also decided to follow in that path. Obbink purchased a newer snowmobile, a 1994 Artic Cat EXT after high school and met friends in votech who shared a passion for snowmobiling. Obbink remembers, “We would go and ride trails all over the flat lands of the Midwest for many years. We moved away from ‘ditch banging' to trail systems in Northern Minnesota and Upper Peninsula Michigan. I started attending the Hay Days swap meet with friends who had been going for years. It was a way for me and my friends to keep our older equipment and find parts and a way to get rid of the sleds that were unfixable.” Obbink and his friends still attend Hay Days and sell sleds that can’t be revived and see the latest and greatest technology from vendors and dealers.
As much fun as the trail riding in Northern Minnesota and Michigan were, the call of the mountains was getting to be too much to ignore. Obbink and his friends decided to buy the kind of equipment that didn’t require a lot of work in preparation for their future rides in the mountains. “In 2012, I bought my first new snowmobile, a 2011 Crossfire 800 from Track 2 Trail Artic Cat. A new sled is a whole different world. The styling of sleds went through a massive change. Going from an older sit down sled to a stand-up sled was completely amazing. Slowly following my new purchase, my friends followed suit, and we found ourselves backcountry riding in the hills more often than trail riding.” This backcountry riding opened up the need for more adventure and they started heading further west.
As Obbink describes it, chasing snow can be tough to find the perfect conditions, but with such an addiction, any riding is a great time. “We like to watch the snow maps, weather, and snow cameras to find the best possible snow and head in that direction. Catching the perfect powder only makes the addiction worse. “There was one trip where we had to hang out at the lodge for a storm, and went out for a ride after the storm went through on the day we had originally planned to head home. We had to drive through the night to make it to work the next day. It was the most amazing snow I had ever been in.” Packing up the sleds and heading west, Obbink and his buddies head for Wyoming or Colorado towards the areas they have found have the best snowfall. “Riding in places like the Bighorns, Snowy Range and Rabbit Ears are some of our favorites. We originally had no idea where these places were, but we would find them and decided that great powder is hit or miss depending on weather conditions.”
In January 2016, Obbink was preparing for another trip looking for gear and accessories from Track 2 Trail. The opportunity for a career change presented itself, and he soon became a member of the Track 2 Trail staff. “I love helping customers when they come in with sledding questions. I could talk snowmobiling all day. If any customers have questions about what type of riding they should do and what gear they need, Track 2 Trail owner Travis DeJong and myself are always ready to help. When you are out in the mountains you have to assume the worst that could happen. With backcountry riding, avalanche packs and communication systems are a must.” Obbink is ready for any and all rider questions, whether they are veterans or novices and no matter what type of sledding they are doing.
For novices, Obbink doesn’t want to give them the wrong impression. “Whether you are just starting or haven’t ridden for a while, there’s lots of opportunities to ride. There are tons of places in Northern Minnesota, Michigan, Wyoming and Colorado that offer trails for those who aren’t thrill seekers just yet. Whether you want to go out to the mountains trail riding, or try your luck at backcountry riding, there’s something for everyone.” Obbink and his friends’ passion for backcountry riding has only grown since they have been chasing snow. “Someday we may find ourselves heading towards Utah, Canada or maybe even Russia, but at this time we are keeping the addiction fed, for now.”
If you are just starting your backcountry career, or even just beginning your sledding passion, stop into Track 2 Trail and feel free to ask Travis DeJong and Chris Obbink any of the questions you may have concerning gear, accessories or sleds. They are ready to help you no matter where your travels may lead you.