By: Bruce Robinson
This column is for all you 50 and uppers, the baby boomers. Having been born in 1954, I’m a charter member of this crowd.
We’re the generation that set out to change the world: Woodstock, war protests, birth control, recreational drugs, peace, love, rock ‘n’ roll and snowmobiling… snowmobiling???
Yes, our generation made snowmobiling the popular recreational activity it is today. Hundreds of thousands of us took to the snow on those “ski-doo’ thingies.
Like other products whose names became genericized, such as Kleenex and Xerox, “ski-dooing” was what we called our incredible winter pastime… even though we had dozens of makes of sleds to choose from.
My personal favourite was a 1971 Skiroule SS300 that I rode around the back forty; so-called because that’s how often it broke down.
Suddenly, we became experts in changing spark plugs and belts. We acquired the skill of taking a carburetor apart with a screwdriver and pliers in minus 20˚ F (no one had ever heard of Celsius).
Bare handed in the dark, we’d use a Zippo lighter to illuminate the scene (almost everyone smoked back then).
With our nicks, scratches and frozen digits, we were a tough bunch. Work gloves, rubber boots with felt liners, one-piece snowmobile suits (from farm Co-op: black only, so as not to show oil, grease and belt dust stains).
We were so hardheaded that we seldom wore helmets. After all, we were raised inhaling leaded paint on our cribs, standing on the front seat of our parents’ car, or getting our cavities filled without freezing.
No wimps in our generation. We didn’t need smooth trails, signage, GPS, cell phones, or heated handlebars. We thrived on the pure experience… a rider and a snow machine challenging the worst Mother Nature could throw at us. Natural selection at work. Survival of the fittest. Strength through adversity.
Of course, today we need every gadget known to man to survive out there. Only well-marked, well-groomed trails will do, and our modern sleds are a far cry from those primitive buckboards: They have electronic adjustable suspension; adjustable seat, windshield and handlebar height; electric start and reverse… and how about heated seats? I have more suspension on my 2008 snowmobile than NASA’s Mars exploration vehicle!
So what happened as we aged? Sure, we mellowed, but too many of us also become soft! A bunch of us even drifted away from the snowmobiling we used to love. Even with Gore-Tex™ suits and minus 80˚ F boots, “it’s too cold”! Even with today’s high tech machines, ‘it’s too hard on my back’! Even with the huge dollars spent on signs and trail maps, ‘it’s too easy to get lost’!
Fact is, many boomers would rather sit on their behinds watching the boob tube or behind computers surfing the net… a generation of spectators, getting their kicks vicariously.
These folks watch life instead of living it. And what’s worse, they’ve raised a whole new generation that is following by example. Their sedentary children and grandchildren have very little idea how to have fun in the great outdoors…and that’s a real shame.
So here’s my rallying cry for those of us who are still active snowmobilers: Help them rediscover snowmobiling! Don’t let your family or friends hibernate this winter… drag them outdoors and show them how to have some real fun. And remember to take the younger generation with you. Introduce them to our winter wonderland trails that are laid out all across this province.
Let them discover that good tired feeling of collapsing in bed after an exhilarating day of snowmobiling with friends and family. Help them rediscover the child-like excitement of watching a snowfall and anticipating those great smooth trails waiting out there.
Or relive the thrill of coming across a deer or a porcupine on the trail and being quick enough to snap a picture (much easier today with digital).
Yes, make this your winter to share one of the great recreational activities that our generation developed. You can take pride in passing on the legacy you and I built, to a younger generation.
They deserve the thrills and adventures that a day of snowmobiling brings. There’s nothing else in the world like it, so don’t let anyone waste another minute on the couch… get out there and go snowmobiling!
Until next time, remember to keep your skis on the snow.