the rugged southern San Juan Mountains in the background from Treasure Pass
"It was the coolest riding experience I have ever had. I have been riding for a long time. Riding with Matt was the most educational and beneficial to me because I love to ride the back country. Matt taught me that just because it looks safe it’s not always safe. Matt showed me what to look for in the back country and in my opinion a good rider always knows what to look for. I would recommend mountain skillz to anyone who wants to ride in the back country. I would like to thank Matt and Jesse for one of the best weekends of my life. I’ll be back!!”
“Getting out to learn new skillz with a small group of riders on appropriate terrain with alot of individual attention was so much fun. The Snow Conditions were epic! Some of the deepest fluff I’ve ever ridden! The terrain was perfect for the conditions. Wide open glades, with a variety of terrain and features. The most important thing I learned while riding with Mountain Skillz was setting up for downhill entries, in order to do a controlled descent. I wanted to learn jumpover turnarounds, but the conditions were not right. Too much snow!!! I will definitely ride with Mountain Skillz again and recommend to others. I wasn’t expecting a riding clinic when I came down. I thought it was an avalanche clinic with a little riding. I AM glad it was more geared towards riding, given the snow conditions though! The avalanche practice we did was the perfect amount, refreshed my memory on all of it without getting boring. You are providing equipment, and showing people how to use it. Thanks Again Matt!!!”
“The entire experience was a blast. Snow conditions were great, we were able to find everything we were looking for. The terrain wad good in all locations. I learned many things being a new rider. Avalanche safety was very interesting! Matt thank you for the experience. I feel you are very good at what you do!! Due to the fact that I was a first time rider, I was a little intimidated when my friends signed me up to ride with your class. I very quickly realized all skill levels were accepted and began to learn the basics. I had a great time and hope to ride with you many times this winter.”
"OK, so here is the best part, the ride. Sunday morning, Matt met us again for breakfast in South Fork. This time, our group was only two (plus Matt). Unlike other riding instruction, I was impressed to see such a small riding group. This day, instead of avalanche instructor, he was to be our guide and riding instructor. It was exciting to see him shift roles. Over breakfast, we discussed what kind of riding we wanted to do, and what sort of things we wanted to work on. Full of confidence, we intently described that we wanted to 'tree ride' and to be pushed. Matt was very excited to take us out. Just sitting there, you could tell that he is genuinely excited both to show you a great ride, but to help you learn.
Leaving South Fork, it was about a 15 minute drive up the mountain to where we unloaded. Matt had us sign a standard indemnification release, and again we discussed the day's avalanche bulletin. We went over gear, an emergency plan, and exchanged emergency contacts. We then individually spent a couple minutes going over our sleds, looking for any potential problems, adjusting last minute stuff, verifying fuel, oil, belt, coolant, etc. It was nice to see Matt practice what he had preached the day before.
From the trailer, we drove about a half-mile before we headed into the trees. Matt immediately looked at home. We ducked and dodged through the trees for about 45 seconds before I had the first of several lapses in judgment and was stuck. Before I could even get my sled shut off, Matt was back at my side helping me drag the front end around. Matt took the time to explain to me why I ended up where I was and what I could have done different. His instruction was very calm and informative. He seemed to take special care to not even let you think that you were not as good of a rider as him, despite the fact that I've never ridden with someone that is as smooth and effortless as he.
We spent about 90% of the rest of our day on steeper hillsides, in the trees. The terrain was forgiving in that while there were trees, they allowed you several outs, and it made the ride both challenging and very rewarding while boosting confidence. Matt checked with us often about the terrain and difficulty. He went out of his way to make sure we were comfortable with what we were riding. I laugh to myself a little bit here.... at one point, about half-way through the day, Matt looked at me as we were rolling over a steep hill with a side-hill, and asked "now are you OK with going downhill across this hill". The humor to me was that after a half day of riding similar terrain, both his instruction and intent to make sure you were having fun had somewhat automated him 'checking with us' to see if we were comfortable with where we were. It just reinforced that he really cares that you are having fun and riding what you expected. Additionally, we practiced getting into and out of ravines and creek beds. Matt took care, here, to find ravines that had an easy ‘ride-OUT’, but we worked on banking across them. I feel pretty confident that I would have a lot less trouble getting myself out of a situation like that, now. We touched on several other skills, but by this time, I was getting pretty exhausted. One thing we definitely practiced was getting unstuck. I’m thinking of going pro in that, now.
At breakfast, I told Matt that I wanted to be 'pushed' and that I really wanted to end the day tired. Matt more than exceeded at both. All in, I think we put about 25 miles on. I burnt about 1/2 tank of fuel. I was stuck probably a dozen times, maybe more. Matt helped me dig out EVERY time. Matt's ability to both recognize and adjust the ride for what you are expecting is very uncanny. As a guide, I don't think I could have done half as good of a job.
So what did I learn on this trip? Most importantly, I got a chance to refresh my avalanche awareness. I feel more than confident that I can perform a timely rescue and possibly save someone’s life. I feel capable of using the avalanche advisory and snow conditions to help me make decisions to ride safer. Next, I learned that I still have a LONG way to go, both in regard to my avalanche awareness and with my riding ability. Going into the Sunday ride, I admit that I felt overconfident in my ability. Riding with someone as talented as Matt is a both a good learning tool, and a great motivator. It's only Monday, I'm sore as all heck, but I only want to get back out and work on my riding again. Finally, I feel that I did pick up a lot of tricks from Mr. Entz. There were a few things, albeit small, that I was doing wrong that were really causing me to over-fatigue. Matt did an excellent job helping me work through them (or at least understanding some of them).
Would I go again? One word, YES! Both the class and the ride were worth every penny. Matt’s ability to guide is unparalleled. He had done his homework with the terrain prior to our arrival, and ‘saved’ us enough playing areas to go the entire day without crossing tracks. This is especially tough, considering the snow conditions state-wide. Matt’s ability to relate real-world experience into his avalanche training is incredibly helpful. And finally, Matt’s patience made the trip so much more fun. I spent a lot of time stuck, trying to push my riding limits, and Matt only offered help and encouragement; a true professional."