20-year-old Local Turns Passion for Sleds into Profit
Jeffrey Shanor loves the Bighorns. His summers are filled with fly fishing, hiking, and ATV riding. But nothing feeds his wanderlust quite like winter’s deep, bottomless powder.
Luckily, few places are as accommodating to snowmobiles as Wyoming.
Since winter is the longest season in our state, snowmobiling and other winter activities play an important role in people’s lives. For Shanor, however, sledding is more than just a hobby. It’s a way of life.
In fact, life’s hard for him to imagine without snowmobiles.
He tried it once and packed his bags to play baseball at a college in Montana. He only lasted a year before he realized how much the mountain sport meant to him.
“I guess you have to be away from the thing you love to realize that’s what you’re passionate about,” Shanor said.
When he came home, he decided to turn his hobby into a business. He worked as a backcountry guide before and decided to take it a step further.
“I figured, I’m going to be out there every weekend anyway,” Shanor said. “I might as well bring other people along.”
In September, Shanor started SledWyo, which provides snowmobiling tours. He now spends his days guiding people through the mountains and teaching them to do tricks on the sled.
Shanor enlisted one of his friends, Sean Williams, to be his co-guide. Williams has been riding with Shanor for two years in a variety of locations throughout the Bighorns. To Williams, the prospect of helping to build Shanor’s new company was exciting.
“I think it’s pretty cool that he’s able to do it at his age,” Williams said. “Most guides are mid-thirties, mid-forties. We’re over here doing it at 20, 25 years old.”
Williams said that Shanor has something that he often describes as “flow.”
“When you watch him ride, he just looks like a natural on the sled,” Williams said. “He doesn’t ever fight it.”
Finding Shanor in the mountains is like finding a fish in water. It’s hard to imagine him living without them, and almost every vacation he takes involves craggy peaks and steep slopes. Earlier this year, he was on vacation in Arizona, staring at yet another set of mountains. Despite their beauty he couldn’t help feeling a bit unfulfilled. The mountains were amazing, but without snow, they still left a small portion of him wanting.
“If only they had snow on them,” he’d thought. “That would make for some good sledding.”
When Williams and Shanor ride in the Bighorns together, they do so in the same way that most people walk or breathe. The ride is smooth—effortless, even.
“When you’re working with other riders that are at a higher caliber, you have a different sense of fun with them because they’re riders that can do things that others can’t,” Williams said.
Shanor’s talents have earned him the attention of Ski-Doo, as well. He was one of 17 sponsored riders in the country and given the title of “local influencer.”
“We’ve got an incredible mix of scenery and really wide open trails. We’ve got a couple hundred miles of trails, and it’s not crowded.”
His skill level has been built over many years. He’s been riding snowmobiles for so long that, if he had been riding any earlier in life, he probably would have driven one home from the hospital the day he was born.
“There’s a picture of me on a sled when I’m less than a year old,” Shanor said. “My dad bought me a sled, and I went out with him and my grandfather when I was a kid, and, by the time I was 10, I was out in the backcountry sledding on my own.”
Watching Shanor ride the Bighorns is much like watching Michael Phelps in his hometown swimming pool. Beyond his skill level, however, Shanor is also a good teacher, Williams said.
“Every time we go out, he’s got tips for somebody, so, it’s pretty cool to watch,” Williams said. “He’s definitely not a secretive guy; he’ll let you know what he’s doing and how he’s doing it.”
Shanor said that he enjoys seeing other people explore the Bighorns and loves teaching novices tricks to improve their riding. When he’s not sledding, he’s sharing the secrets of the Bighorns through other means. He currently serves as an intern for Sheridan Travel and Tourism, where he teaches people about the mountains every day.
“He’s energetic; he’s got an entrepreneurial spirit,” Shawn Parker, the executive director of Sheridan Travel and Tourism, said. “He’s just a gentleman, and that’s one of the things that we always value because we’re so community-facing; we always want people that accentuate core values of Sheridan as a community.”
Parker said that, in addition to being a valuable intern, Shanor’s business helps the department’s goals for tourism.
“We’re always excited about anybody who’s willing to take up a guiding or outfitting service here,” Parker said. “It’s a real opportunity for people to be really successful. We’re trying to push winter season and shoulder season recreation, so that fills that need, and I think Jeff’s going to find some real success if he keeps his nose down and really works to push this and make it happen.”
Parker said that Sheridan has numerous perks that make it a great snowmobile destination.
“It’s one of the best mountains in the entire country for snowmobiling, full stop.” Parker said. “We’ve got an incredible mix of scenery and really wide open trails. We’ve got a couple hundred miles of trails, and it’s not crowded like you’re going to get in a lot of other really famous snowmobile regions. So, it’s kind of a perfect storm for people interested in snowmobiling.”
Snowmobiling as a tourist attraction is a relatively new phenomenon. Shanor’s great-grandfather was one of the pioneers of snowmobiling in Wyoming.
“My grandpa talks about the time that my great-grandfather got a sled,” Shanor said. “Back then, sleds were utility vehicles. They were used by ranchers. Nobody had taken them up a mountain before.”
Shanor’s great-grandfather was among a handful of individuals across the country, who saw its potential as a sport.
“They used to modify the sleds, so they could go up the mountains better,” Shanor said. “Now you can buy snowmobiles made for the mountains. It’s amazing the technology they have now.”
Today, companies like BPR, which manufacture Ski-Doo snowmobiles, are making extreme performance models trimmer and more powerful than ever, allowing them to reach more places. Each new development makes the hobby even more enjoyable for Shanor, who happens to have a pioneer spirit of his own.
The wonder of undiscovered places is part of what pulls him (and his Ski-Doos) to the mountains after temperatures drop below freezing.
“There’s always a chance you’ll get to see something new, be somewhere that no one’s ever been before,” Shanor said. “And to conquer mountains—to literally get to the top of these mountains, some of which you can’t hike up because they’re too steep.”
Now that he’s operating Sled Wyoming, Shanor has more mountains to climb—both literal and figurative—but he doesn’t seem to mind. Being to places he’s never been before is part of the fun.
By: T.J. Parks
Photos courtesy of Jeffrey Shanor