Seeley Swan Pathfinder -

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By Andi Bourne
Pathfinder 

Sharing the Resource and Serving the People

 

Andi Bourne, Pathfinder

Snowmobilers leaving the Rich Ranch and heading towards Ovando for their on-snow avalanche training led by Brian Lundstedt.

SEELEY LAKE – This past week, Rich Ranch partnered with Driven, LLC for the second year in a row to offer a three-day snowmobile riding school. Driven Elite Snowmobile School contracts with professional riders to work with snowmobilers to be more prepared and better riders in the backcountry. Rich Ranch appreciates the school's willingness to work with riders of all skill sets and the educational components.

Driven, LLC is a consulting service for non-profits, businesses and athletes looking to develop policies and procedures, host and manage events and develop marketing campaigns to meet goals and objectives for the future.

"My husband and I started Driven because we want people to be driven to be outside, to be better riders but we also want them to be driven to stay safe when they are out in the backcountry," said Driven Owner Keri Wanner.

Wanner has ridden snowmobiles and off-highway vehicles for more than 30 years and worked for 12 years managing motorized recreation in North Dakota. She has watched riders from the Dakotas go riding in Montana but because they are not familiar with mountain riding, they aren't prepared when they go out.

"A lot of times we see situations where people don't come home to their families," said Wanner. "We felt really strongly that we wanted to do whatever we could to stop that from happening."

Driven contracts with professional riders that are fun and exciting to ride with for two days of rider training. Instructors teach techniques to get sleds on their edge for a more enjoyable and adventurous backcountry riding experience while incorporating and educating attendees about avalanche awareness and safety. Their classes are open to all skill levels.

Each attendee gets to work one-on-one with Bret Rasmussen, a professional rider and backcountry expert for Ski-Doo and owner of Ride Rasmussen Style. Rasmussen carries an Avalanche 2 certificate and is an instructor out of West Yellowstone. He holds numerous King of the Hill and World Championship snowmobile hill climb titles and successfully competed in the 2009 Iron Dog, a 1,900 mile race across Alaskan terrain.

The other main instructor Cameron Chimenti is the owner and head guide for 3C Guiding, LLC, a licensed guiding service on three different mountain ranges based out of Laramie, Wyo. He assists Rasmussen with riding instruction and getting riders unstuck.

Three other instructors work with the riders and have their Avalanche 1 certification, first aid/CPR and/or wilderness first responder.

"We really want our riders to know that they are getting an elite experience with our group based on the fact that we hold all those certificates," said Wanner. "The thing I love the most [about the diversity of the instructors] is if they get in a situation that they deem unsafe, they can work together to make sure our riders are in and out of there as quick as possible or [the preferred situation is] don't even enter."

The third day of the school includes on-snow and classroom avalanche awareness training. Brian Lundstedt of Tyler's Backcountry Awareness led the training at the Rich Ranch. Lundstedt lost his brother Tyler in an avalanche in 2012 in Colorado.

"[Lundstedt] really tries to get riders to notice their surroundings before anything happens. The number one thing is he trains riders on is what to look for. The rescue part of his training is very important but he's hoping to teach you well enough to pay attention to your surroundings that you don't need to use the rescue skills," said Wanner.

One of Driven's instructors Aaron Roesler who is based out of Deer Lodge met Belinda Rich, owner of the Rich Ranch, at a land access and snowmobiling meeting. Roesler connected Wanner with the Rich Ranch as a possible base for a school in Seeley Lake. They held the first Driven School at the Rich Ranch in 2016.

Rich Ranch offers an inclusive lodging and meals package. Snowmobilers can leave right from the ranch or trailer their sleds to a nearby trailhead.

Also, by partnering with the Rich Ranch, Driven does not have to obtain their own commercial guiding permit for federal lands. Using the Rich Ranch's guiding permit for snowmobilers and with an auxiliary service agreement, the school can legally operate.

"It's been a great scenario," said Wanner. "I love being able to bring all of our participants in and have a secluded area where they feel like they are getting catered to above and beyond."

"We look for partnerships like this," said Rich Ranch Owner Jack Rich. "They fit into our business model, sharing the resource and serving the people."

This year riders came from Idaho, Washington and Seeley Lake. Last year they had riders attend the school from Canada, Wyoming and Colorado.

Andi Bourne, Pathfinder

Professional rider Bret Rasmussen giving the morning safety briefing Feb. 23 before taking snowmobilers in the Driven Elite Snowmobile School out for the day.

"It is one of those things that has appeal locally, regionally and internationally. It's nice to have a program that has that kind of reach to it," said Rich. "We have been pleasantly surprised at their desire to be inclusive of all ability of riders. That's what we try to do with our business. We try to open our doors with all sets and abilities to try to enjoy the outdoors."

The Riches also appreciate the educational component of the school.

"Whether you are here to hunt, fish, ride, hike, we want education and interpretation of our landscape to be a part of everything we do," said Rich. "That's a cornerstone of our whole business."

Both the Rich Ranch and Driven look forward to continuing their partnership and offering an experience for snowmobilers to become better riders and more aware of their surroundings so they can go out again the next day and ride again.

For more information about Driven visit sledchatter.com

 

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