The snowmobile wars, on the school bus

This is what I'm talking about: a 1972 Moto-Ski Capri 292, and the photo comes from rws on the site SledMI.com.

This is what I’m talking about: a 1972 Moto-Ski Capri 292, and the photo comes from rws on the site SledMI.com. Let’s just say that the Moto-Ski was the underdog in the school-bus snowmobile wars of my Queensborough childhood.

Yesterday I posted about the glory days of “snow machines” (the common generic term for snowmobiles in the circles in which I moved, as a little kid in Queensborough), when they were new and almost everybody had them and a lot of fossil fuels were burned and noise made as people discovered a new activity to while away the long cold days of winter out in the country.

I saved for today my recollections of what I like to think of as the snowmobile (or, if you like, snow-machine) wars.

As I mentioned yesterday, ours was practically the only family in the area that didn’t own one or more snowmobiles. So when the snowmobile wars broke out on the school bus as we rode to and from school every single day of winter (and often in spring and fall too) I was a disinterested listener. But I certainly can’t forget the passion that the kids – okay, the boys; this was not a debate that the girls got into – brought to their arguments as to why Ski-Doos were infinitely superior to Arctic Cats, Polaris (Polarii?) and Moto-Skis; or why (if the lad came from an Arctic Cat family), Arctic Cats were infinitely superior to Ski-Doos and Polaris (Polarae?) and Moto-Skis; or why, if it was the child of a Polaris family, Polaris was clearly the best; and – well, you get the picture. These discussions made for very spirited rides on the big yellow bus to and from school, but I have to admit that the finer points of the various snow machines’ qualities were lost on me, primarily because I couldn’t have cared less.

What wasn’t lost on me was the plight of one boy whose family was, as far as I could tell, the only one for miles around that had opted to go with the Moto-Ski amid a sea of Ski-Doos and Arctic Cats. Man, that kid put up with a lot of abuse over his parents’ (I’m guessing his father’s) choice of the orange machine over the yellow one (the Ski-Doo) or the black one (the Arctic Cat). But to his eternal credit (in my mind) he gave as good as he got; never was a more passionate defence of the Moto-Ski mounted by anyone, under any circumstances.

It feels like ancient history, and it is. But I bet I’m not the only one who remembers the school-bus snowmobile wars. It was a simpler time, one before kids on the bus were (as I imagine them to be now) glued to the screens of their phones or iPods. The snowmobile wars may not have made for a particularly enlightening or enlightened debate, but they were interactive and up-close and personal, and they required verbal dexterity and passion.

And in honour of the most spirited debater of them all: go Moto-Ski!

4 thoughts on “The snowmobile wars, on the school bus

  1. And then there were the vociferous Rupp [red], Skiroule [green & black] and Scorpion Stinger [black & red] fanatics…and I suspect many farmers bought Massey-Ferguson [red & black] snowmobiles from their local MF tractor dealer. Ditto for John Deere [green & yellow] snowmobiles. And what exactly was the marketing angle of Boa-Ski? A snake in the snow?

    As for Moto-Ski, they became known as orange Ski-Doos soon after Bombardier purchased the company in 1971 — badge engineering at its finest. The badge disappeared in 1985.

    There were more than 40 brands of snowmobiles by the mid-70s. The big shake-out started in the late 70s with John Deere and Kawasaki being among the last ones to go by the early 1980s…Even Arctic Cat went under, declaring bankruptcy in 1981 but was revived in 1983 to survive to the present day as part of the Big Four along with Ski-Doo [Bombardier], Yamaha & Polaris.

    Many of these old sleds still survive. I “own” and moderate a vintage snowmobile e-mail list at Yahoo Groups…discussions focus upon repairs and sourcing increasingly scarce parts. Local snowmobile clubs such as the Centre Hastings SC have vintage shows while the big event is the annual Sled-a-Rama in Peterborough in late November

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