Twist your throttle. Mod your ride. Best cowboy-up or step aside. Golden’s rowdiest snow showdown turns ten. Writer Louis Bockner reports from the front lines.

Nostalgia hangs in the air, its scent ushering us like campfire smoke to youthful days of grandeur. Here it is born on a backcountry chinook of snowmobile exhaust mingling with memories of sledding hill glory. Below these fumes of wistful reminiscence racers battle atop the pinnacle of sledding engineering and trustiest of childhood steeds — the GT Snowracer. This, is GT or Die.

For nine years members of Golden, BC’s, snowmobiling community have gathered to celebrate another winter of backcountry horsepower by building a snowcross-style racetrack that would make any child of winter, white with envy. In many ways the men who build it are still those children. Only now they own enough machinery to sculpt the melting April snow into the course they always dreamed of.

Talia Thibodeau — representing the next generation of GT or Die racers — poses on her modified GT Snowracer complete with BMX handlebars and steering column. Louis Bockner photo.

“We’re 40-year-olds acting like kids,” says Kelly Bushman who owns Fastcat Grooming and is responsible for caretaking the snowmobile trails at Quartz Creek where the event is held.

At the top of the track a heat of racers — four of the event’s 82 competitors — prepare to descend into mayhem. Five corners and four jumps await but until the countdown begins it’s all banter and trash talk.

“I’d say for the B rounds it’s no holds barred, anything goes,” says one.

“How about no firearms?” replies another atop the classic Brett Hull Sniper Edition Snowracer.

“Alright, no firearms,” agrees the first. “That sounds good.”

The GTs are as unique as the warriors who ride them. After nine years the art of GT modification — or modding — has become not only an element of ergonomics and handling but also one of pride and creativity. During the week leading up to the competition both Bushman’s and co-organizer Brian Lavoie’s metal shops become hives of quirky creation where standard Snowracers are customized and suped-up.

Big air leads to big bails through the jump section of the GT or Die course. Louis Bockner photo.

“The basic is to replace the steering wheel with bmx bars,” says Lavoie who owns Knight Rider Racks in Golden. “The skis have to be stock to win but rules get broken.”

Since 2014 the event has raised over $4,000 for Golden and District Search and Rescue, an organization that is vital to many involved because, as one volunteer notes, “someday they’ll have to save my ass.”

With next year marking GT or Die’s tenth anniversary the mountains will again become a playground for these aging dreamers. 
“We act like kids and that’s what it’s all about. Being kids again,” says Lavoie. “If you’re not having fun you’re going the fuck overboard.”