When people asked Chris Burandt what he wanted to be when he grew up, he told them, “I want to be a snowmobiler.” They would laugh and say, “That isn’t even a job, kid.”
Chris’ passion for riding and unrelenting drive to be the best helped him carve out a successful career as professional snowmobile rider, proving those people wrong. After reaching the top of his game in the competitive field, he turned his attention to pioneering the sport of backcountry riding and guiding snowmobile tours. Maintaining a tour-friendly property in the backcountry takes a considerable amount of work, and a Bobcat® skid-steer helps Chris get it all done so he can spend more time riding.
Conquering the competitive world
A city kid from Denver, Chris frequently visited his grandparents’ cabin in northern Colorado where he was exposed to backcountry mountains and caught the snowmobiling fever. He began riding at the young age of 6, and his parents did everything they could to help support his passion for the sport. When Chris was 15 – the age most kids are excited to get a car – he got a snowmobile instead.
As a teenager, Chris started racing snocross, and it was while attempting a freestyle jump at a competition in West Yellowstone that he caught the attention of a crew member from the popular snow sports organization Slednecks. Chris didn’t win that event, but his high-flying antics earned him a spot on the Slednecks team. During his time with the group, he showcased his talents in multiple Slednecks films and earned the nickname “Big Air Burandt” for his ability to catch massive air with his daring tricks and jumps. With his career on the rise, Chris kept the momentum going. He competed in the first ever snowmobile freestyle event at the 2007 Winter X Games, where he successfully landed a 100-foot backflip, sealing the deal for him to bring home the gold medal.
From riding to guiding
Starting a family played a big part in Chris’ decision to transition from riding freestyle competitively to leading backcountry rides and coaching others. Chris says kids and family made him “hungrier to be better.” So he used his X Games winnings to start Burandt’s Backcountry Adventure (BBA) and really become a pioneer in the sport of backcountry riding.
Based out of his property in Buena Vista, Colorado, BBA leads mountain snowmobile tours for experienced riders from all over the world. At first, people spent a lot of time just watching Chris ride and trying to keep up, but over time, the focus shifted to guiding customers and teaching them how to become better backcountry riders. At BBA they ride six days a week for four months, and despite the crazy schedule, Chris says he never gets sick of it.
“It sounds cliché, but I was born to ride a snowmobile,” he says. “I truly have a passion for it and that’s not something you can fake.”
After 13 years of operation, business at BBA is booming. Hosting about 300 riders each year, the company has expanded beyond just snowmobiling to include an online parts store and custom builds. “A customer will bring us their snowmobile and we’ll put a bunch of goodies on it and make it custom to them,” Chris says.
Not only are those who come to BBA customers, but many of them have become friends. After a long day of riding, Chris and his team join customers at their custom-built mountain lodge where they eat dinner and break down the day’s events. He also enjoys learning more about them during the drive to and from the trail heads where they unload their snowmobiles. “We get a lot of time in the truck to talk, and I love hearing what they do and getting to know them as people.”
Chris says they had a customer return rate of 65% in 2020, which he attributes to the value he and his crew add to the experience. While people could go anywhere to snowmobile, he believes they choose to come back to BBA because of the comradery and the bonds they form.
Getting it done with a Bobcat skid-steer loader
BBA sits on 40 acres of land that includes Chris’ house, personal shop and business workshop. As his business grew, Chris needed a piece of equipment to help with the heavy lifting around the property. Coincidentally, his friend Toby Shepherd not only owns a piece of Bobcat equipment himself, but is the owner of Shepherd’s Garage and Bobcat of Helena. Toby recommended the Bobcat brand to Chris, who wasted no time purchasing a Bobcat skid-steer loader.
“The versatility of the machine is pretty awesome,” he says. “I love it.”
With a remote mountain property in an area that sees snow each year, he counts on the machine to push and clear snow during the winter months. Whether customers bring their own or choose to rent from BBA, their sleds can weigh close to 500 lbs. The skid-steer loader makes light work of loading and unloading the machines around the shop. Combine that with summer landscaping projects and moving dirt to build and level a dirt bike track for his kids, and Chris says it seems like there is a never-ending workload for his Bobcat skid-steer loader to tackle.
The future of Burandt’s Backcountry Adventure
Chris has become a legend in the snowmobile industry with his competitive technique and pushed backcountry riding to a whole new level. He hopes to continue to share his passion with others while helping them experience the beauty of the backcountry. “I’m so blessed and honored to have the opportunity to show people my world of backcountry riding. I get to show people why I love it so much,” he says. “I want them to feel like I feel on the mountain.”