Opportunity Of A Lifetime

By Lacey Healy, photos by Alex Hendy

We all know the type. The snowmobile ‘superstars’ who are splashed all over the cover of magazines, with a trail of snowflakes between their sled and the ground, flying through the air. Dave Norona is not one of those ‘superstars’. Not that he isn’t amazing at what he does, he just takes a different path than you might expect. And you will come to respect and appreciate what he does, because it’s something completely different.

After being a professional athlete in the world of adventure racing and mountain biking for almost 20 years, Norona was looking for a change. He purchased his first sled with his buddy, both of them having absolutely no idea what they were getting themselves into. Soon, his usual ride known around the world, a mountain bike, was now a snowmobile, cruising through the mountains of British Columbia, Canada. “I knew what snowmobiles were, but I had no idea what they were used for here in the mountains. So I looked around for one to purchase, and I found a 2003 Ski-Doo Summit ZX 800 HO 151 outside Vancouver. Knowing nothing about sleds I looked online to a forum group and researched or asked questions, and the community of riders were really nice and helpful. The first time out, I got stuck everywhere. We were riding up this causeway, in an area I ride all the time now, and we both became massively stuck. And as we did, these new Ski-Doo Revs came riding by. These guys were from the local dealership so they were riding the newest sleds and I thought to myself, ‘I gotta get one of those.’ But I ended up keeping the Zen X and I rode it every day, putting on 1,800 miles before Christmas that year.”

With his experience in earning and keeping sponsorships, Norona knew exactly what he had to do to become a major part of this new world. “One of the biggest things you have to learn as an athlete is how to market yourself for sponsors. Some of the companies that I previously worked with in the racing world, like Oakley and Power Bar, I was able to keep sponsorships for, and am still with them today, but I learned what these companies wanted. I realized there is nobody sort of showing people what to do or how to do it. If you go out and buy a sled and all these things and break stuff because you don’t know what you’re doing, you’re wasting a lot of money. So I started making fun videos of riding in the deep snow. Usually riders wait for the storm to pass before going out, but I like to ride when it’s still storming because that’s when it’s the deepest, lightest and the hardest. And I was making films of all that. After going through multiple sleds and purchasing most of my necessities through a local dealer, I built up a rapport with them and I would tag them in my videos. I wasn’t the best rider, but I was doing something that others weren’t doing.” In 2010, one of the guys from the dealership sent Norona’s content to Ski-Doo, and they suggested Norona enter a contest called the Freeride Drop Contest where the prize was to ride with Dan Treadway and ride these new sleds with a E-Tech motor. After the contest, Ski-Doo called Norona with an opportunity of a lifetime. “They said they were starting this team and they wanted me to be a part of it. I nearly dropped the phone. From there it’s kind of taken off.”

Norona’s riding style may not be the usual type with jumping off cliffs and doing crazy stunts, but he relates more to the usual rider, and enjoys helping them as much as he can. “I love talking to the rider who enjoys sledding, but works full time. He needs to know how to look after things or change his chain; things that aren’t going to cost him money that will allow him to have more fun. I didn’t change to represent that person, but I do represent those riders. A lot of the riders who come out West to ride want to know what they should be buying, what they should be wearing, and all these things that they don’t know, and I enjoy helping them with those decisions. My videos aren’t really there for an ego standpoint, they are mainly there to show other riders how to do stuff, make it easier for them, so they can have more fun. With such a small timeframe for riding, and if riders only go out once a week, to be down because something broke on your sled is a big deal, and I want to help riders avoid that.”

Norona recently visited with other riders at Vern Eide Motoplex for their Snowmobile Expo on October 27, 2016. Norona gave riders an inside look at the new Ski-Doo Gen 4 that has been released, and answered questions they had. They did a walk around of the new features and differences and what those new inputs will give the rider. Norona works with BCA (Backcountry Access) and ABS Airbags to ensure his safety while riding. He is fully equipped with a BCA transceiver, probe, and shovel, and an ABS avy pack. “I work with ABS Airbags, so we also wanted to visit with consumers about avalanches and the new technology that can help save their lives on dangerous rides. People always have questions, especially on layering and what products work best for each type of rider and which type of product is the best buy for them and I’m here to answer those questions.”

Getting to know this motivated, laid-back superstar sledder is something you’ll never forget. Watching his videos can not only be entertaining but also informative for all types of riders; especially those who are just starting and have a ton of questions. Norona notes, “The ‘funnest’ part of my job is that I get to hang out with the engineers who design my sled, and I’m a consumer as well, so I get to see both sides of the picture. I’m so lucky, and I never take this opportunity for granted.”

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