Climbing (literally) behind the wheel of GMC’s All Mountain Concept

There are an unlimited number of ways one can customize a GMC Sierra 2500HD. That’s, of course, without the consideration of cost. Want to turn one into a 10-second dragster? You totally can since, well, anything’s possible with the right amount of money.

But turning one of GMC’s flagship trucks into a tire-roasting track monster isn’t exactly conventional and it doesn’t exactly match the ethos of what the Sierra 2500HD, or Heavy Duty, is purpose-built for. Being a heavy-duty pickup truck, it’s meant to tackle tough, unpaved terrain, or to haul a load that not even a light-duty pickup can handle, let alone a plain passenger car.

So, instead of being unconventional, what happens if you stick to conventionality and run with it? You get an insane visionary concept, like the GMC Sierra All-Mountain.

Upon first glance, the GMC Sierra All Mountain Concept, or SAM, looks like something you’d find on the floor of the world-famous Specialty Equipment Market Association SEMA show in Las Vegas. But it’s not a result of SEMA and is a complete far cry from being your typical show concept. While most of the concepts you see at SEMA are tricked out to the max, they’re typically just for show and display and don’t often function the way they were envisioned, at least without being terribly fragile.

The GMC Sierra All Mountain Concept will climb up a blizzard-stricken mountain with feet of snow everywhere like a Sno-Cat

GMC’s SAM, however, does work as intended. And it will climb up a blizzard-stricken mountain with feet of snow everywhere like a Sno-Cat, as we learned recently when the company invited us out for a unique chance to give it a run up through the last bit of heavy snow left in Park City, Utah. And it shows what happens when you pretty much go all-in on a Sierra 2500HD.

So, what exactly is so special about the GMC Sierra All Mountain Concept?

It originally debuted in November of last year, not as a SEMA concept, but just as a showcase and cooperative marketing exercise between the world-renowned Vail ski resorts deep in the Colorado Rockies. It’s also a case study of what happens when you crank the level up to one-thousand on a heavy-duty Sierra.

It starts life specifically as a Sierra 2500HD Crew Cab in either Denali or All Terrain X trims. GMC did create more than one example – five to be exact – with a couple featuring the massive 6.6-liter Duramax turbodiesel V8. But the specific example we got behind the wheel has GM’s latest 6.0-liter gasoline V8 with 360 horsepower and 380 pound-feet of torque. It also retains the stock Hydra-Matic 6L90 six-speed automatic transmission.

There are a ton of accessories and visual upgrades, such as Thule-branded snowboard and ski racks; unique LED lighting for the underbody, wheel wells, and a massive 30-inch RIGID Industries E-Series light bar; a kick-ass KICKER dual-pod exterior speaker system; and a soft roll-up Advantage tonneau cover; the star of the SAM is its driveline and suspension upgrades. Otherwise, there are no other mods to the truck, which is simply a testament to how versatile the Sierra 2500HD is.

The first and most obvious change is the inclusion of tank-like Mattracks 150 Series tracks, painted in red, as opposed to the stock truck’s 18-inch black aluminum wheels (on the All Terrain X trim) or the Denali’s 20-inch chrome aluminum wheels. To compensate for the fitting of the Mattracks, GMC engineers also raised the SAM with a six-inch lift kit. And the result is something that’s simply out of this world.

The GMC Sierra All Mountain Concept is a case study of what happens when you crank the level up to one-thousand

Because of its added height climbing up into the SAM was no easy feat, especially when feeling under the weather from altitude sickness. But once settled, the SAM’s interior provided a warm and comfortable refuge from the heavy snow pelting us at around 8,000 feet of altitude. And despite all the added crazy gear, one simply has to put the transmission selector into drive and set off.

Yes, it’s that easy to drive. From behind the wheel, it at first seems like your typical, everyday Sierra 2500HD, except with quite a bit of extra height and a much more commanding forward view. Once you set off, the SAM simply stuns with how easy it is to maneuver, even with the extra lift and the awkwardly cumbersome, yet hugely effective Mattracks.

Heavy snow abound and no paved surfaces in sight, setting off in the SAM was a little bit intimidating. Once in motion however, the SAM simply decimated the quick trail loop arranged for it. While yours truly had no problem sinking into the snow as deep as my waist, the SAM equally had no problem gliding over all of it.

GMC Sierra All Mountain Concept
Chris Chin/Digital Trends

Other than the extra ride height, the expectedly larger turning radius, and the added weight of the accessories and tracks, piloting the SAM was not at all difficult and just about as easy as a standard Sierra 2500HD.

Although there was a limited sampling run, driving the SAM proved that you don’t have to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on an actual Sno-Cat if you live and work in a climate where one is the only way to get around safely. And for some, like the operators of a ski resort, or even on a smaller scale, the owner of a mountainside and snow-bound ranch, can simply scoop up a Sierra 2500HD, and apply the same modifications as the SAM, while gaining the functionality of a Sno-Cat, but at a considerably cheaper cost.

GMC said there aren’t any plans to produce the Sierra All-Mountain Concept. But with the Mattracks 150 Series, which bolt right onto the Sierra 2500HD’s standard eight-bolt hub, along with a lift kit which you can get pretty much anywhere, that shouldn’t stop the determined individual from building one just like it.

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