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If you have any interest in snowmobiling and haven’t been hiding under a rock, chances are you have heard of Chris Burandt. He’s been a Sledneck, he’s won multiple medals at the X Games, and he’s pioneered the way for the Freestyle category of snowmobiling. Burandt has a true passion for this winter activity and his talent is abundantly clear. In fact, it seems he does things better on accident than most people would do on purpose; and that’s a true testament to the experience level and confidence Burandt holds for all things snowmobile.
Burandt’s love of the snowmobile started when he was six years old. And even at a young age he knew right away that this was what he wanted to do for a living. “The hard part was figuring out how to make money at it. I was a city kid that grew up in Denver and then being exposed to mountain life, out in the woods, in the snow and having all this freedom, that’s what intrigued me the most.Throughout my adolescent years I was obsessed with the sport of snowmobiling and I bought my first snowmobile when I was 15.” To put his love in true perspective, “I took a loan out on a snowmobile, before I took a loan out on a car. That’s what my priorities were.” But as anyone who rides knows, this is an expensive sport. Burandt found himself working two jobs to keep up with the habit and constantly wondering how he was going to make a living doing the thing he loved most.
The industry then was much different. “The sport mainly consisted of snocross racing. I actually moved to Minnesota when I was 19 and got into the snocross racing circuit to hopefully get my name out there” This move also helped Burandt to hone in on his skills as a trick rider. “I found out I wasn’t that great at racing but I really liked jumping. So jumping led into something that was starting to become quite popular - snowmobile freestyle, it opened up this whole new world to me! I ended up traveling all over the world doing freestyle shows and contests!” The year 2007 was definitely a highlight of Burandt’s entire career. It was the first year that snowmobile freestyle was an event at the X Games, and this is what really got his name on the map. Burandt took the gold home, which really got his career moving. “Although backcountry riding was still my passion, there was no profession for it at this point.” So Burandt made it a profession. Taking his winnings from his gold medal, he started his own business, “Burandt’s Backcountry Adventure” which gave fans a chance to learn how to ride the backcountry with guides that could teach them how to do things correctly and safely and still have one hell of a ride.
As mentioned, the year 2007 was a bit crazy for Burandt. While working a very respectable job in the industry, trying to get out and snowmobile, still competing in freestyle, everything changed when an unexpected phone call from Hollywood landed him a stunt job in a Vin Diesel movie in Sweden. “I went all in. I left my well-paying corporate job and went and lived in Sweden for a month on a movie set doing back flips and various other stunts on my snowmobile. That is what kind of catapulted me in my career and helped with the backcountry business that’s still going strong today.”
Chris’s association with the Slednecks organization also helped to bring Burandt to fan’s homes for the past fifteen years. “The Slednecks crew is one that I looked up to big time. It was just a bunch of guys who were very passionate about snowmobiling who wanted to document the craziness of pushing the sport of snowmobiling. I wanted to be a part of Slednecks so bad! I got my chance while doing a snocross race in West Yellowstone in 2000. It was here where I signed up for my very first freestyle exhibition. I really only had two tricks, and in this event there were three jumps, so I wasn’t sure what I was going to do on the last jump. This is when I got the nickname ‘Big Air Burandt’. On the third jump, I just hit the jump basically as fast as I could go, missing the landing completely and destroying my sled…But the crowd went wild! This trick had nothing to do with skill, but that’s what people wanted to see! The Slednecks crew was there filming the event, so after it was over, they came up to me and said, ‘Hey, we are going to be out filming, you should come and join us’ and that’s how it all got started and I’m proud to be known as a Sledneck.”
Burandt has found himself more than once doing something on accident that has made the crowd go crazy. During a freestyle competition he intended to do one thing, and ended up doing something completely different, but still rocking it out. “’The Holy Grab’ is a trick that when you come off the ramp you let go of your machine and you are kind of floating above your machine and then you grab the seat and get back on your sled. Apparently, I was the first one to do it during competition, but the funny part about that is, that I didn’t mean to. I meant to do another trick and freaked out, and everyone said I did a ‘Holy Grab’. So then I started doing it on purpose. I’ll never forget when I was in Russia doing one of the craziest contests in Red Square with over 50,000 crazy Russians cheering and the “Holy Grab” trick went wrong. During the contest I went to do the trick and instead of letting go of the machine and then grabbing back on to it, I completely missed the sled and started flying through the air! I landed on the landing on my chest and some how luckily didn’t get hurt and was able to get back on my sled and keep riding. All the other riders thought I was dead, but it was just another moment where luck, confidence and being young and fearless somehow worked out.” “The sport of freestyle was one crazy ride and I’m sure glad I survived that part of my life.” Chris’s main focus has now shifted to owning and operating his backcountry adventure riding business and staying connected with the snowmobile industry with events like his recent appearance at the Vern Eide Motoplex Annual Snowmobile Open House.
With Burandt’s Backcountry Adventure, Burandt gets to meet people from all over the world that come to Colorado to ride with him and his crew. “We also branched out the business so we now do rides in Colorado, Canada and South America. All three places we operate from are truly spectacular with South America being a definite once in a lifetime opportunity. Someone once described it to me as ‘riding on the moon’ and it’s pretty much what it feels like!”
Even though Burandt is this amazing big time rider, he still holds true to his local roots and knows the impact local clubs have on the sport. “It’s so important, especially these days, to be a part of a local snowmobile club. I’m a proud member of the Mile High Snowmobile Club in Colorado, and unfortunately there are so many people who want to close our riding areas down. It’s all of ours land. The problem is there is no sharing, and it’s a very frustrating part of the sport. I try to help out as much as I can, even with giving items to raffles for other clubs because we need help everywhere.”
Burandt’s career as a competitor, stunt rider and now business owner has been something straight from a dream. “It’s been a crazy ride, a crazy story, and it’s just amazing that I’m here in this position.”
You can check out Chris’s online store, adventures, videos, tips, product reviews and more on his website at www.burandtsbackcountryadventure.com