In the mornings, walking on to the beach from my family's cabin reveals a postcard-like scene. Out front, Mabel Lake is like glass. In the back, our sleds are lined up, ready to go, and snow-covered mountains hang over the whole scene. One morning during this trip, however, I looked out and noticed Dan Treadway kicking a jerry can of gas across the beach towards the water. The jerry was on fire as were his boots. That's all part of this visit I guess. 

The cabin is out of the way, so to speak. The road isn't plowed. There is no cell service, no Internet, and, of course, no gas station. The crew solved the only real problem as we fashioned our own fuel stash out back. Stacks of jerry cans, a 200-liter barrel of 91-octane gas and a 100-pound propane tank helped us make it through the week with only one trip to town to replensish. The cabin itself is very basic. Propane is used to power the lights, stove, fridge, barbecue and flattop grill, while a wood stove heats the cabin. We were getting back to simpler times, at least with the shelter.  

I have to admit I was a little nervous about bringing everyone out to the cabin. I had only been in the mountains behind the cabin once before, and I knew there was more than the very small part of the area I had seen. With Treadway breaking trail my job was easy, I could point him in the right direction, and he would find a way to make it work. We put a few sleds into tree wells, let out some swear words, and exuded a fair bit of sweat, but we made it to our intended zone. I realized I had nothing to be nervous about anymore. We had found the good stuff, and it was all ours. No opposing crews, no race to the trailhead, just us.

Every corner we went around or valley we dropped into unveiled more surprising terrain. Cliffs, pillows, rocks and more, much of it accessible by ghost riding. A ghost ride means you take your skis off your snowmobile, then push your sled away and let it go down the hill on its own until the pitch flattens out. You can just ski your line, and your sled is patiently waiting at the bottom of your descent. We did have to take turns moving each other’s sleds so that a riderless sled didn’t smash into the other sleds at the bottom.

We had found the good stuff, and
it was all ours. No opposing crews,  
no race to the trailhead, just us.

On a sunny morning we found a particular area that turned out to be one of the more productive spots I’ve ever had the chance to shoot in. Riley and Treadway made it to the area first, so when the rest of us arrived, they were almost to the top of their lines. But it didn’t take long for the rest of us to get set up since these lines required no hiking and minimal doubling on the snowmobiles. I don’t think any of us had to wait for more than about 30 seconds while we skied that face for the entire morning.

After a lunch break, we talked about a line we had all seen earlier. Everyone wanted to ski it—a common problem when filming. Because the late-day light was not quite right for filming, we decided to settle who would ski the line over a poker game that night. In addition to first dibs at the line, the pot was sweetened with a cherry bomb, ammo and some whiskey. Riley won the poker match and some added pressure since we all let him know that he had to do something good on the coveted line. Maybe that extra weight got to him or perhaps it was the conditions because after spinning the cliff perfectly, he came around to discover the snow was not as soft as it had been the day before and he wasn’t able to hold on. After a little heckling from all of us, Riley was able to rebate it and stomp his trick with no problems.

Poker wasn’t the only activity that filled our downtime. One popular pastime was target practice, which took many forms, including flaming bottles, skeet, skis, burgers and gas cans. Unfortunately, Treadway had caught a ski on a tree while sledding, and the ski had broken. He decided to make the best of the situation, so when we got back to the cabin, he planted the ski in the sand and shot it with a 30-06 rifle. Using his sled handlebars as a bipod, we all took a few shots. Then the 12-gauge came out and really did the damage at close range. It was the responsible, humane thing to do at that point. 

Rainville finding a sneaky transfer in the Ghost Ride Area. 
Then riding out switch because... why wouldn't a guy? 
Back on the sleds, there always seemed to be some distracting terrain that was better for snowmobiles than skis. And Treadway made very good use of the time we spent looking for more cliffs and lines by hitting airs and ripping around. After one big air, he thought it would be better to land a little closer to the trees. As we discussed the best spot to land, he told Riley that he should give it a try on his sled. Eventually, Riley fired it up and headed uphill with no announcement about taking flight off any bump. He turned towards where Treadway had launched and headed closer to the trees. He didn’t quite get the correct angle, but was past the point of no return and pinned his throttle into the cockeyed takeoff. 
That night, back at the cabin, we decided we would build a sweat lodge on the beach and try swimming in the lake. We used the base camp axe, named “The Titanis,” to take down a few small birch trees in just a few swings. With Treadway’s experienced guidance, we had a satisfactory structure of birch, rope and tarps in no time. We piled up a few good rocks and built a robust fire to engulf them. Once the rocks were red hot, we threw them inside the lodge and poured water over them to make our own steam room. 
The door was very small, which proved to be a challenge for our lanky filmer, Darren. While attempting to get out of the lodge, he sat on a sizzling rock and roasted his behind. He made it from the lodge to the lake, but gained a mark that was more permanent than Riley’s from the previous rump incident. The lodge stood for most of the trip, but it did require a few repairs because of poor layout planning. The fire, lodge, gas-filled beer cans and shotgun blasts all added up to a few tarps being burned and replaced.   
Now, Riley was headed straight for a couple of 8- to 10-foot tall trees we’d talked about landing near. Riley, on his sled a little sideways, could have jumped off, but he decided to hold on and with a bit of luck, faith and determination, his track hit both trees and straightened him out. The pines bent almost to their breaking point, and he rode out mostly unscathed, except for one skid mark left in his undergarments. He landed a little sideways on the seat and so hard that his body couldn’t keep the gas from the morning’s side of beans sheltered in his intestines any longer. Luckily he was wearing long johns in addition to boxers and was able to cut off his “backup pair.”  
Many things are shared around a fire. Since we had a strong, large and constant one going most nights, there was a good amount of advice being given out. One particular piece of advice that stands out was given to Rainville—apparently he was asking for it. While sitting at the fire, he talked about a double line he was planning to ski, and Treadway didn’t think he should touch the ground between cliffs. “You’re not going to get 50 f*ckin’ covers hitting that as a double,” said Treadway. True words from someone who knows what he’s talking about. 
Riley also brought out his guitar for a while, and I teamed up with him, singing the blues about Arctic Cats, getting your sled stuck, turning the wrong way and getting your hamburger shot off your roasting stick. Whether it’s stunts, things to shoot at, lyrics, bad ideas or jokes, a fire really brings out people’s creativeness, and that is always entertaining. Some serious planning took place around the fire as well; after all, we had to plan our routes and destinations for the last few days in the mountains of my backyard. 
With the plethora of trails we’d built over the beginning of the week, our final few days were mostly well thought out. We had a hit list to take care of, and we got pretty lucky with the weather in the final days. Snow conditions had changed, so a couple of lines were left unskied, but with so many options we didn’t have a problem keeping busy. We hit waterfalls, pillows, spines and cliffs to finish out our backyard outing, and the only new sled trails we had to make were in spots where we planned to double to the top to avoid hiking. 

Riley continued to have rough luck with the trees. On one of the last days, an incident occurred with another tall, stubborn, green-needled piece of nature. He built a takeoff to put him in the air between a couple of trees. He didn’t have a lot of room, but, as he figured it, there was just enough space to execute a flatspin. It didn’t exactly turn out that way, and Riley took the classic tip catch to a new and exciting level. His tip caught on a leaning tree, which caused him to spin the opposite way and break free of his equipment. With all the soft snow, Riley was OK, which made it that much easier for the rest of us to laugh at his failure—another semi-friendly reminder that things don’t always go according to plan.

This trip was made possible by three generations: Grandpa set the location, and Dad taught me to ski. Now my friends have joined me in realizing the possibilities of our backyard. I’m sure the rest of the Bibbys never planned on seeing the family cabin in a magazine though. Among this mess of sledding, burnt tarps, ammo, gasoline, poker chips, snow, and, of course, amazing skiing, we had found ourselves quite an adventure. I’m sure when my grandpa erected this building so many years ago, he had no idea how perfectly situated it would be for skiing. Until this year, neither did I. But having brought out the best possible crew for exploring it, I’m now confident of it. 
Thanks to my parents, grandparents and the rest of the Bibbys, along with everyone who came on the trip. Also, thanks to anyone who actually read the entire article and didn’t just look at the pictures. 

- Josh Bibby