Snow machines


Snow machines, yes. And by that I do not (as you might have thought) mean snowblowers – though today’s exercise in shovelling Friday’s impressive snowfall out of the Manse’s driveway has made me realize that if Raymond and I are going to spend significant time here in the winter we are probably going to have to get one of those.

No, “snow machines” is what a lot of people around Queensborough used to call snowmobiles back in the 1960s and ’70s when I was growing up here, when the “snow machines” looked like the vintage model in this photo that I found at a site called Sledder Al’s Vintage Snowmobile Web Site. (I will add a link when I am back in the Land of Better Internet Connectivity, but you can Google it.)

Why did they call them “snow machines” instead of snowmobiles? I really don’t know, except that as I recall it was by and large males who used the turn of phrase; maybe “snow machine” sounded more manly to their ears than “snowmobile.”

Anyway, driving to the Manse this morning through a very snowy landscape under a bright sunny sky made me realize that it was a perfect day for snowmobiling (snow machining?), and I was surprised that I only saw one of them out and about. When my family lived at the Manse snowmobiles were pretty new, and they were the rage. Ours was pretty much the only household not to own one (or two, or three, or four) that I knew. Families that did have them often invited the minister’s kids (us) to come over for a ride, and out we would go in the back seat, into some snow-covered field that we would go around and around and around…and around. I never quite got the point, to tell you the truth. And an awfully large amount of fossil fuels were burned for no particularly good reason.

If it were then instead of now, forty or so years later, I would hear a cacophony of snowmobile engines if I were to open the front door of the Manse. People would be riding them up and down the streets in the village, and off in the fields in the distance. It would be a kind of musical background to a clear winter’s night in Queensborough.

Instead, I open the door (as I did just now) and hear – utter silence. (Well, not quite. There was a dog barking.)

Which in many ways is good. And very environmentally friendly.

But you know, I think I’d kind of like to hear a bit of far-off snow-machine buzzing. For old times’ sake.

Postscript: Now that I am back in the Land of Better Internet Connectivity, here is the link for Sledder Al’s Vintage Snowmobile Web Site. And here is a link I happened on for another site, a place that does restorations of old snowmobiles; there are some pretty cool before-and-after photos of “antique” (that is, from my era) snow machines.

8 thoughts on “Snow machines

  1. LOL – we had the same snow machine growing up. My dad made a super trailer to tow the four girls behind. This was created after using a toboggan and I fell off and ran behind yelling until they were no longer in sight. They quickly realized one kid was gone and I was super happy to hear the sound of that machine coming back to get me. And then the super kid trailer was created. When we lived outside of Kingston, every winter weekend we did adventures in the forest just a few houses away. There was always lots of snow and lots of trails. Then we moved to Mississauga and the snow machine was sold off as snow and trails were not in abundance. In fact, the day we moved to Mississauga, we left snow drifts as high as me (I was seven) and came to a city with no snow. It was such a strange experience. But to really enjoy the winter, you need snow and cold weather to skate. Seems like Queensborough is enjoying a bounty of snow.

    Enjoy the snow Catherine..

    • Thanks, Jo-Ann! Yes, the deep fresh snow that covered Queensborough this weekend was truly beautiful, was it not?

      I liked your story about the “super trailer” and enjoying snowmobile rides through the forest. I have a very nice memory of doing a ride like that once when we visited one of the families from the United Church at Cooper, and how beautiful it was riding amongst the snow-covered trees. Much better than going around and around in a field! I bet you four girls had more fun than anything out there on your custom-built snow-machine trailer.

  2. Hmmmm…maybe you called them “snow machines” but I seem to recall that “skiddoo” was also a very common referent, especially among Ski-Doo owners [we had a 1971 Ski-Doo Olympique 335]. The term was a modification of the brand name “Ski-Doo” with an accent on the second syllable instead. Thus, we would go out “skiddooing”…

    Today, “snowmobile” is the most common term in the industry and recreation sector and we go out “snowmobiling” or “sledding”.

    Today’s snowmobiles have come a long way from the late-60s & early-70s models. Emissions have been cut dramatically and accompanied by far improved fuel mileage. Computerization, fuel injection, and with some manufacturers, 4-stroke engines are the main factors in the improved efficiency. Today’s machines [or even those from the late 1980s onwards] are quite capable to running all day for many hundreds of kilometres. For example, a few years ago, I ran my ’91 Yamaha Exciter II continuously for 500 km over 12 hour period. Accordingly, most snowmobiles will be found on the network of OFSC trails rather than in local environs. As well, awareness of private property has increased since the late 1970.

    • Indeed, Graham, I remember the common verb for “going out on the snow machines” was “skiddooing.” And yes, Ski-Doo was a common generic name for all snowmobiles, since as I recall Ski-Doo had captured a vast portion of the market. But then there were the “snowmobile wars,” in which proponents of the kind of machine their own family owned would argue vehemently about its superiority to all the others (the subject of my next blog post, in fact) – and no one who owned, say, a Polaris or Arctic Cat would refer to the machine as a “Ski-Doo.” No, “snow machine” it generally was, when the generic term was called for.

      I have to say that I think the improvements in snowmobiles’ impact on the environment, not to mention the tendency that you note for users to stick to trails rather than wander off on private property, is an awesome thing. And I imagine that Queensborough could, if it developed a little bit of commercial activity (a bed and breakfast? a small store? a café?), benefit mightily from snowmobile tourism, which would be absolutely splendid.

      • “…Queensborough could, if it developed a little bit of commercial activity (a bed and breakfast? a small store? a café?), benefit mightily from snowmobile tourism…”

        Another key factor would be a groomed link to the nearest OFSC trail [which runs through Duane Foley’s property just east of the Township School].

      • No, this avenue has not been explored by the Centre Hastings Snowmobile Club.

        Trails, especially those crossing private lands, are difficult to obtain and expensive to maintain Obtaining land-owner consent is a time-consuming legal process. The alternative, the use of road surfaces is not popular amongst snowmobilers as their machines require snow for cooling and the road surface is hard on skis. Use of the ditches can be problematic due to terrain [ie, rocky cliffs] and relative shrubbery clearance by the municipality. Snow grooming of trails during the winter costs around $75-100 per kilometre per season. In the off-season, trails require bush and surface management as well as protection from unauthorized usage [ie, 4X4 trucks & ATVs]. Accordingly, new trails are considered only if a destination can be part of a loop or thoroughfare, &/or if it is a significant hub of activity in of itself. Alas, Queensborough fits neither of these criteria [ditto for Cooper].

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