Soaring high in the sky is in David England’s blood. When not piloting his bush plane to remote locations in the Arctic, this Yellowknifer takes to the skies upside down on his snowmobile.
England’s throttle pinning and fearless no hold’s barred riding style have earned him an invitation as an alternate rider to the world stage at the X Games this January in Aspen Colorado.
For Yellowknife snowmobiler Dave England, the sky has no limit. Here is an X Games promo England uploaded to Youtube. Arthur C. Green/CKLB Radio
Snowmobiling for England started at a very young age in Yellowknife, he basically grew up on a sled North of 60.
“My mom and dad used to take me sledding all the time,” England said. “When I was able to start the machine by myself I was able to ride it.”
England’s love of two-stroke smoke and speed sparked an interest in snowmobile racing when he was 11 years old.
“I started racing in the local racing circuit in Yellowknife,” England said. “At age 16 I got into freestyle snowmobiling.”
A decision which would thrust England 35 feet in the air jumping 70 feet off a ramp to a snow landing in frigid North weather.
“A few of my buddies and myself built a ramp in a welding class at our high school,” England said. “And that was where it started for me.”
The cold in the North makes riding a snowmobile pretty difficult England says.
“The machines don’t hold up in the cold very well. parts break and shocks don’t work the same,” England said. “The cold makes it hard for me to do my tricks too cause I need to ride in thin gloves to grip the seat and bars properly when doing tricks and my hands get cold fast.”
For England training usually involves a ride for five minutes and a warm-up for 15 and repeat. Pure punishment to his body, but England wouldn’t dream of doing anything else.
“Yea people definitely say I’m nuts,” England said. “But this is what I’ve done for years, so it’s really all muscle memory for me at this point. It doesn’t seem crazy to me cause I’ve gotten to the point where I’m dialed and confident in my ability.”
England says his most dangerous trick to perform would be a KOD backflip.
“It’s a high-risk trick,” England said. “I’m basically hanging underneath the machine while I’m back flipping it. I have levers on my handlebars called ‘flip levers’ that hit my forearms that allow me to get back on the machine.”
It takes a lot of core strength and pressure on your arms, England added.
“When you pull that trick huge you actually stalk the rotation of the back flip until you rotate your body back on the sled,” England said. “While I’m doing that trick the snowmobile is wide open. So the rotating mass of the track helps to keep the sled rotating in the back flip.”
England warns avid riders that his tricks should not be attempted without the proper training and safety precautions.
“I use a foam pit to learned back-flip tricks,” England said. “It minimizes injury and equipment break downs.”
It would be extremely dangerous to learn some of the back-flip tricks without a foam pit, England added.
“With a foam pit, you can make mistakes, so the learning process is way better,” England said. “When you throw these flip tricks to a landing you have to be dialed. You don’t wanna make mistakes. That could result in serious injury or worse.”
CKLB Radio asked England about the various injuries he has sustained while riding.
“I have broken a few bones,” England said. “I fractured my femur when I crashed on a back flip in the back country near Revelstoke. In the past, I’ve broken my wrist, ankle and collarbone. I’ve had a few concussions and torn my rotator cuff.”
England has nerves of steel while performing these death-defying tricks but admits there are times when he is scared on his snowmobile in the back country.
“Am I ever scared? Yea sure there are times,” England said. “I’ll be honest I’ve been way more scared in the back country then I have been hitting ramps.”
According to England, the back country is a different world for snowmobiling.
“You’re dealing with avalanche danger, remote areas, far from cell service or a hospital, England said. “So when you make mistakes out there, for instance, crash and hurt yourself or break your sled you’re a long way from help.”
England says you have to ride smart and you have to be with knowledgeable people when your this far in the back country.
Pinning the throttle is Dave England’s style. He has no plans to slow down. Arthur C. Green/CKLB Radio
“I know the risks and dangers and always have a plan and a way out,” England said. “I try to always be one minute ahead of my machine all the time.”
The key to success is to plan ahead England says.
“I treat sledding like flying airplanes,” England said. “When I’m flying my mind is always ahead of my airplane. I’m always planning ahead and looking for hazards. If you don’t you can get yourself in situations you can’t get out of. Never let an airplane take you somewhere your brain didn’t get to five minutes earlier.”
‘Weapons of choice’
England, 28, who works for De Beers Canada at the Gahcho Kue diamond mine says he will be riding his 2018 and 2019 600rs race sleds.
“The sleds have been sponsored to me by Bailey Motorsports,” England said. “They are factory race sleds.”
England says a lot goes into making these machines run well for Aspen’s elevation level.
“We have to lighten up the weights in the clutch and change the gearing,” England said. “The Computer in the sled makes all the adjustments for fuel. But one thing I might do is run race fuel that has more oxygen in it cause at 7500 in aspen your dealing with lack of oxygen so that causes lack of power so one way to get that oxygen back into the motor is to add it in the fuel.”
Power is so important when you back flipping sleds England says.
“You need the power to get the rotation started,” England said. “Lack of power could result in under rotating a back flip.”
‘Headed to the X Games in Aspen’
All of England’s dedication, cold body parts, death-defying stunts and practice on a snowmobile has led him to an alternate rider spot at the X Games.
“I have been invited as an alternate. Which means I’m not guaranteed to be competing in the main freestyle event that will be on live T.V.,” England said. “I will ride in practice though and be there ready to compete if they need me.”
For England, this means there is still a chance that he will get to preform at the X Games.
“I’m basically a back up rider in case someone was unable to compete due to injury or something,” England said. “I then would take their spot.”
England says the X Games invite eight riders that are competing and they invite two alternates.
“Alternates are usually rookies. It’s a good way to enter X Games if it’s your first time cause there already a lot of pressure around the event and from sponsors and yourself,” England said. “I would love to have a competing spot but I’m more then happy with a alternate spot.”
The X Games will be held on January 23rd to the 26th and will be broadcasted live on ESPN and ABC.
“It’s been a journey to get to this point and it’s just the beginning,” England concluded.