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Evolution of an NL Snowmobiler

Evolution of an NL Snowmobiler

Growing up in the little town of Jackson’s Arm in White Bay meant that snowmobiles were part of my life even before I can remember. My parents often tell stories of me falling asleep sitting in front of my dad on the “Sixteen” when I was a toddler. I do have a couple memories of that old Elan but they consist mostly of me being scared because the thing would backfire, and as I mentioned, I was sitting in front of my dad, so it was extremely loud to me. I guess when the backfiring began my nap time was over.

When the Sixteen was no longer usable, my dad bought a “new” snowmobile from a guy in Jackson’s Arm. It was another Elan but this time it was a “Twelve”. A couple of years later when I was about 8 years old, this was to become the first snowmobile I could call my very own.  My dad bought his very first brand-new snowmobile, which was a 1986 Skidoo Tundra (we’ll hear more about this machine later), and handed down the Twelve to me. I don’t remember much about this happening but I imagine I was pretty excited.

I had a love/hate relationship with my Twelve. I remember throwing tantrums when it wouldn’t start on cold mornings or when I flooded it by priming it one too many times. As small as that thing was, I was nothing more than a mite, probably weighing about 45 pounds at the time. Whenever I got it stuck I would have to get help to get it out because I didn’t have the strength to do it on my own. I remember one time I got stuck “in on the bog” behind our house and had to go get my mom to walk in with me to get it out. Needless to say, she wasn’t too impressed, but she helped me anyway and off I went to find another snowbank to get stranded in.

The Twelve only lasted a couple more years before it met the same fate as the Sixteen and was sold for parts. I was reduced to having to ask my dad if I could “go for a ride on the Skidoo” whenever I felt the urge to be on the snow. Then in 1991 my dad bought another new snowmobile. This time he upgraded to a Polaris Indy Lite GT. A 340 cc engine at the time wasn’t the biggest on the market but to us it seemed huge. That thing was actually a workhorse. It hauled more logs and firewood than you could ever imagine. Dad even hauled the arse-end right off one time when his sled was over-loaded! Anyway, to get back on topic, once my dad bought the Polaris I inherited the Tundra. I do remember how excited I was about that.

That poor Tundra went through hell with me riding it. I rode that thing like I stole it. Breaking springs in the rear suspension was common for me, even back in the days of the Twelve. I’ve always loved getting air on a snowmobile, even if it only lasted half a second, and I have never been afraid of speed. I would push the Tundra to its limits just about every time I put my feet on its running boards. My dad clocked me doing over 90 km/hr on the harbour one day. Not bad for an old beater! Not even the Bravo’s could keep up with me.

I had that Tundra for 10 years or more, although in the end there was barely anything left that was original. My grandfather gave me his 1984 Tundra one year for Christmas and I ended up putting the engine from that one in the ’86 after I melted the piston. Then I proceeded to melt the piston in that engine as well. I swapped parts from the ’84 to the ’86 more times than I can remember so by the time I sold it for $200 it was a mash-up between the two.

After selling the Tundra I went a few years without a snowmobile. I would borrow my Dad’s whenever I went home from St. John’s to Jackson’s Arm. I didn’t get another of my own until 2010 when I was living in Alberta. I bought yet another second-hand machine. This one was much bigger than anything I had ever owned before – a 2005 Ski-doo Summit 600 H.O. with a 144” track. It had a wrap on the hood that consisted of orange and yellow flames. All my friends seemed impressed so I was happy and proud, even more so when I started riding it. I had never ridden anything that handled so easily and was so good in deep snow. I absolutely loved that Summit and it really got me into wanting to do more extreme riding. Wheelies, jumps, and drops were now becoming normal activities for me. Then I got hungry for something bigger. Something with more power. Something that would bring my riding skills to a level I never dreamed of….the 2013 Polaris Pro RMK 800 155.

I was no longer living in Alberta when I bought my new Polaris. I was working overseas and had moved back to Newfoundland. After a lot of reading, research, and debate, I finally chose the Pro over the 2013 Summit. I went online and Snowchecked the Pro RMK in April of 2012. I picked it up from the dealer in Grand Falls-Windsor in November and as soon as I got it home I started taking it apart. People thought I was nuts but I had a vision of what I wanted. I had bought a killer-looking wrap, a beefier front bumper, skid plate, chrome windshield, and a few other accessories that would make this the sexiest machine on the snow. I may be biased, but I believe I succeeded. I’ve gotten hundreds of compliments on the appearance of my sled (yes, I say “sled” sometimes these days), including one from a mechanic at the dealership who said it was the nicest machine they’ve ever had in their shop.

Once we got enough snow to start riding, I stepped on that machine and it instantly changed everything I thought I ever knew about snowmobiling. It was so different from anything I had ever ridden before that I practically had to learn to ride all over again. It was a bit daunting at first but once I started to get a feel for how to handle it in different snow conditions my love for sledding grew exponentially and it has become my biggest passion. I can’t claim the Pro RMK is the best machine on the snow since I haven’t ridden them all, but it is most definitely the best machine I myself have ever ridden. I’ve since put a HPS exhaust and a PAR high compression head on it and it has more than enough power to satisfy my riding needs. I feel like my skills and my fears are the only limitations on this sled. It has taken me places and allowed me to do things I never dreamed I could. The people closest to me often worry about my safety because of the way I ride but if I do get hurt, at least I’ll be doing something I’m passionate about, and I could never regret that.

Sometimes while I’m riding my thoughts go back to my childhood days of riding those small sleds. I’m always amazed by how far snowmobiles have come in terms of technology and popularity. It’s not just a sport, but a way of life for a lot of people. We were nearly isolated during the winter months in Jackson’s Arm when I was a kid, so snowmobiles were a necessary part of our lives, but these days I ride for the pure love of being on the snow (or in the air!). No matter what’s going on in my life I can always count on the feeling of being free and content when my feet are on the running boards. Most of us are afraid of change, especially when it comes to technology, but the evolution in technology for snowmobiles has fuelled the love and passion for riding for so many people. That can’t be a bad thing, can it?

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I'm an avid snowmobiler who grew up on Nfld's west coast and I currently live in Dildo. I have written one article for SW mag (so far) about how snowmobiling was a big part of growing up in Nfld and how my riding has evolved with time. I'm by no means an expert rider but I strive to get better each and every winter. I'm hoping to take part in the Sledcore riding clinics this coming winter to help me push my abilities further than ever. What I love most about snowmobiling is the sense of freedom I get when I'm surfing fresh pow, the beauty of our province under a blanket of snow, and the people I meet while out exploring. I currently own a 2013 Pro RMK 800 155 and it's my pride and joy! I've started wrenching to get ready for the upcoming season and now I'm itching for Mother Nature to bring on the snow! Hope to see you out there!

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