Rob Alford and Jeremy Hanke are accomlished snowmobilers. They’re sponsored, they do product testing and they’ve appeared in ads and movies. Hanke is a trained avalanche professional while Alford is a talented photographer. Alford owns a lodge at the base of Mount Mackenzie while Hanke owns Soul Rides, an avalanche education company.
Now they’ve started up Mountain Stash Adventures together, a new business that aims to combine their talents to create a new riding experience in Revelstoke.
“I feel like we bring a lot to the table as far as the skills training goes and the marketability that we have to try to lead the industry out into a safe culture,” Hanke told me when I met him and Alford for a beer at the River City Pub following a day of riding. “I’m solely focused on that.”
MSA has several components right now. The big one is the Avalanche Skill Training course being offered out of Alford’s Mt. Mackenzie Log Chalet, with Hanke doing the teaching.
Beyond that, they’ve started up a website featuring Alford’s photography, videos, and avalanche education tips. One video shows a rider getting caught in a slide, only to be dug out by his companions. Another is about the gear to bring with you in the backcountry.
“I’m blogging about avalanche conditions and Rob is blogging about riding conditions and weather,” said Hanke.
Both Alford and Hanke started snowmobiling as a way of accessing the backcountry to ski and snowboard, respectively. Their stories are similar: they started out as pro riders, took up snowmobiling as a way of reaching more terrain and eventually started snowmobiling full-time. They’ve been riding together for about 10 years.
“It’s hard to find people you trust to ride with in the backcountry and me and Rob and the groups we ride with get along well and have good skills so we keep that tight knit group,” said Hanke.
MSA is in its infancy but the duo has big plans for it. Its website has five sections at the bottom right now but only two – the lodge and the avalanche education – are active. The other three are filming, riding clinics and big mountain riding adventure.
For the first, the duo plan on helping film crews who are coming to Revelstoke obtain permits and provide guiding work (they helped Brain Farm Cinema with The Art of Flight). For the second, they are looking to partner up with the Revelstoke Snowmobile Club to offer riding clinics.
It’s the last link, the riding adventures, where MSA perhaps holds its greatest promise.
“Historically snowmobiling doesn’t have a real strong snowmobile operators’ association or guiding standard,” said Hanke. “As I go through the program I’m on right now with the CAA taking my avalanche Level 2, we look forward to developing our business and working with the commercial operators association and developing a guiding standard that works in the backcountry.”
“There’s no ACMG (Association of Canadian Mountain Guides) for snowmobiling,” I remarked.
Hanke replied that he and Alford were working with Eagle Pass Heli-Skiing to develop a guiding program under its curriculum and that reaches its standards.
“It can be a real industry leading thing,” Hanke said. “Big mountain snowmobiling is really in its infancy. The guiding that was there before was a fine standard but I think its time to move forward at this point and create a structured guiding association.”
Even with recent gains being made by the snowmobiling community with regards to avalanche education, Alford and Hanke still feel there’s a lot to be learned.
Hanke started working with the CAA after getting caught in a class three avalanche and has helped develop snowmobiling-specific programs.
With Mountain Stash Adventures, he and Alford are hoping to take it to another level and take the snowmobiling community another step towards safe mountain riding.
“It’s time to start leading by example and showing what we do to protect ourselves,” said Hanke. “I really thing the snowmobile community is on board and headed in the right direction.”
For more, visit Mountain Stash Adventure’s website at www.msadventures.ca.