This story has been published before but many people still ask the same questions so thought I would share one more time!!
I remember my first sled, a 1968 Polaris Mustang – a red, white and blue monster that would go just about anywhere. It was the late ‘60s early ‘70s and Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom provided the landscape. There weren’t many trails in those days. Excursions were limited to winter roads and a few side trails made by those who dared to stray off into the woods to seek a new destination.
Friday and Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons found locals and visitors alike enjoying the great outdoors. My most vivid memories are those of a full moon casting the shadows of tall slender maples on a backdrop of white, large groups of sledders parked in a circle in a field with a giant bonfire, and the aroma of freshly roasted hot dogs filling the clean crisp air.
Over forty years have slipped by, the old Mustang has gone to its final resting place, and technology has transformed the world of snowmobiling. The old ‘refridgewear’ suit has been replaced by state of the art clothing, which is color coordinated with the various models of snowmobiles. The boxy old Mustang has been replaced by sleeker models with all types of creature comforts: handwarmers, bun warmers, two-up seating, electronic fuel injection, electric start, independent front suspension, and probably the best thing ever…………reverse! The winding rabbit paths that were followed years ago have been replaced by thousands of miles of well groomed, marked and mapped trails making even the first experience for a novice a sure success.
Despite changes in technology, one thing has remained constant: the sociability of the sport. No matter where you go, through the pine forests of central and southern Maine or the vast expanses of northern Maine, you’ll always experience the ‘front porch connection’. For those unfamiliar with the concept………..let me explain.
The arrival of winter forces many Mainers to retreat into the recesses of their warm, cozy homes. There they wile away the days, weeks and months reading, exhausting their home movie libraries and lamenting about the snow and cold. As the days grow longer and the crocus push up through thawing ground, the hibernators open the doors and windows and take their first steps outside. Realizing their neighbors have also survived the winter, they can renew acquaintances. We now have re-established the front porch connection.
Snowmobilers never experience a break in the front porch connection. It may not happen in their neighborhood , but I guarantee it happens at every stop sign, every trail intersection, every gas station and neighborhood store accessible to a trail and just about everywhere else you find a snowmobile—–including any rest area along I 95 or the Maine Turnpike.
Conversations are not limited either; the weather, the equipment, trail conditions, social issues, and of course food, are often the topics. Even in sub-zero temperatures, conversation ensues.
Snowmobiling transcends age barriers. If you pay attention you’ll see groups of families, young people, old people, and mixed ages, most times always smiling and laughing and headed to their favorite culinary stop.
The best way to experience snowmobiling for the first time is with members of a local club. These groups usually have monthly meetings and monthly outings scheduled throughout the year. You can find the club nearest to you, or in an area you’d like to visit, by contacting the Maine Snowmobile Association or local chambers of commerce.
For the novice who wishes to test the water before taking the plunge, snowmobile rentals are available in most areas at a reasonable price. Private tour companies provide all the necessities for those who wish to take a more organized approach.
I hear Maine’s climate described as having nine months of winter and three months of darn poor sledding; not quite accurate perhaps, although there are those that would argue that point after the winter of 07-08, but don’t let those nine months of winter interrupt your front porch connection !