Ever since I started this job 15 years ago, I’ve known one truth: I’m not a professional athlete. Yeah, that’s pretty obvious if you see a picture of me, but it’s something not everyone in my profession understands. And when they don’t, they get into trouble and tend to crash and then blame it on the machine rather than their own lack of skill. 

But because I know I didn’t start riding as young as my daughter and am open with the fact that I semi-suck, it’s allowed me to worm my way into talking, riding, and driving with actual professionals who often impart stellar knowledge through one-on-one schooling. And, honestly, I jump at the chance whenever I get to do this, as even though I often watch them make everything look beyond easy while I struggle, these are great opportunities to learn, adapt, and better my skills. 

So when Ski-Doo offered to have brand ambassador Steve Martin (not Only Murderers In the Building Steve Martin) take me and go ride some steep, fresh mountain powder, I replied “Hell yeah!” I then texted a few friends after scrolling Steve’s Instagram and said, “I’m gonna die, but it’ll be a fun way to go out.” 

Ski-Doo Summit Steve
Ski-Doo Summit Steve
Ski-Doo Summit Steve

Thankfully, and this is down to Steve’s tutelage, I didn’t. Not only that, but I learned a metric ton getting stuck, unstuck, and carving trails in fresh snow. I do now wish that I could go back in time and start my snowmobiling career far earlier than I had, or at least stuck with it after my first forays a decade-plus ago. But learning and failing and fixing my mistakes with Steve is going to make me a far better snowmobiler than I was before. 

Days riding with a pro always start the same way: An interview. The professional wants to know what they’re getting themselves into and also doesn’t want to kill you, as that’d probably look bad. And Steve was no different, as he asked me about my background and how confident I felt behind a snowmobile’s bars. In this case, Ski-Doo’s new 2025 Summit 850 e-Tec Turbo R Expert. And if you get the chance to do this, here’s where you should be honest with them, as they’re going to mold whatever training and learning to what you say. 

This is where a lot of people get into trouble, though, as they exaggerate their skills. 

My reply to Steve’s questioning was, “Treat me like a novice, as it’s been a minute since I was on a sled.” I may have been more self-deprecating than that, but he nodded, and after tossing me an avalanche beacon and gearing up, we hit the trails to find some fresh snow for our backcountry sleds. 

Ski-Doo Summit Steve
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Steve is a former sno-crosser—X Games medalist, champion, and more—and his skills behind a sled’s bars are wild. Even as we snaked our way up the canyons, Steve immediately aimed his Ski-Doo Freeride at a berm and launched the snowmobile high into the air. I decided not to follow, but the confidence he showed, as well as what he’d later tell me, would get me far more comfortable than I had been. Maybe I wasn’t hitting berms and jumps, but also, maybe after a few days I’d try and follow. 

What I am comfortable with is blazing trails, as the dynamics of a fast snowmobile are similar to those of a motorcycle, and I haven’t stopped riding bikes since I was 17. But in deep snow and fresh powder, I’m less than stellar. 

After our short trail ride, we found a fresh pocket of semi-flat powder. The meadow was speckled with trees, and there was enough room for Steve to teach me finer points of riding deep snow. 


“It’s counterintuitive, but turn left to go right, and turn right to go left, and then just lean,” he told me. But though that sorta conceptually clicked with me, as motorcycles are very similar in their operation and countersteering, what really helped me understand the dynamics was when he actually showed me how it worked.

I’m very much a trial-and-error learner, and after Steve told me the theory, he then switched it up and said “Try and follow me and do what I do.” That proved invaluable. 

Immediately, it all made sense. I could see how he was shifting the weight of the sled, using the skis, momentum, and throttle, and I saw him turning the bars and countersteering. And by mimicking his movements, it all fell into place with me scything my way through his fresh tracks. After a short lead-follow, we stopped and chatted. 

“Holy shit, that makes way more sense,” I exclaimed excitedly. Steve then told me to go play and keep figuring it out. And so I did. 

I started carving the fresh-ish snow, cornering tightly through trees, popping wheelies out of stream beds, and coming up on an edge far easier than I had. Steve, meanwhile, was showcasing his skills and tamping down any sort of grandiose idea of me being awesome after a single lesson. But what I got from that meadow was far more confidence in riding deep snow, something I hadn’t felt as good at when I went to West Yellowstone a few weeks prior. 

Ski-Doo Summit Steve
Ski-Doo Summit Steve
Ski-Doo Summit Steve

And with that initial lesson done, Steve asked if I wanted to go higher up and start really playing, as he thought I could handle it. I said, “Sure!” with my new-found confidence and off we went in search of higher elevation and even fresher, deeper snow. 

What we found were beautiful, high alpine cornices, deep, deep snow, and all the space in the world for me to play, learn, and fail spectacularly. 

I’ve thought about failure a lot lately, as recently I picked up hunting and have failed repeatedly throughout my year-long introduction. I’ve also thought about it as the traditional education system doesn’t prioritize failure in learning. You have a set time limit to learn something and if you don’t, you’re moving on or failing the course, grade level, or test, and that’s that. 

But failure is integral to the process of learning, and we often make failing feel like the end of the world. That’s not right, nor did Steve do that with me. I’m beyond thankful for his grace as when we got to those higher elevations and deeper snows, I failed a helluva lot. 

Ski-Doo Summit Steve
Ski-Doo Summit Steve
Ski-Doo Summit Steve

As I followed Steve’s paths once again and he showed me lines to take, how to side hill, and how to use my weight on a single running board, he did so with a latitude that few education systems offer. Because as we ripped along, I got stuck a lot. I target-fixated on trees and found myself in their wells. I was too chicken with the throttle at times and subsequently dug myself into me-sized holes. I even remember asking Steve whether I just needed to send it and stop being timid. His reply, "I mean, yeah, but you don't want to fly into a tree. There's a balance, but more throttle will keep you on top of the snow."

And even though I felt comfortable ripping lines up angles that felt near-vertical, growing more confident as I succeeded in navigating the terrain, and powering up steep hill climbs, I got stuck over and over again. Steve was there to help me through it all, teaching me the finer points of riding this type of terrain, using the sled’s capabilities to get out, and how to get unstuck. 

Hint, hint: Roll the sled down the hill. 

Ski-Doo Summit Steve

I learned a ton that day thanks to Steve’s teaching and those failures. I also knew when to throw in the towel, as a day riding with Steve, digging out the sled numerous times, rolling it over, eating Uncrustables, and laying in the spring sun, finally caught up with me and no amount of adrenaline will continue forever. Steve could’ve gone the rest of the day, though. 

A day away from my computer and in the mountains running two-stroke turbo sleds is beyond rad and, technically, I was working. But I loved my day because first and foremost Steve rules, and because I was offered the chance to learn more, fail, and improve my skills. I did all of that and feel far more confident on a snowmobile because of it. 

There are schools you can take, too. Maybe not with Steve, but classes and schools around the country that’ll allow you to improve your skills and get better. Again, it’s something I take advantage of every single time I get the opportunity to do. And I highly recommend you do so, as no one is as good as they think they are. 

I know I’m not. But I’m a little better now thanks to Steve Martin. No, not Father of the Bride Steve Martin.

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