How many of you remember the first time you saw a snowmobile? Your first ride on one? Your first sled? I was recently looking at some old family photos and started thinking about my early snowmobile experiences.
My family moved to Goffstown NH in February of 1969. It was shortly after that move that I saw a snowmobile for the first time. I was at a friend’s house on Mountain Road and one of his neighbors was riding around the back yard on this loud, yellow contraption, the likes of which I had never seen.
What’s A Snowmobile?
I asked what it was? “It’s a snowmobile” he told me, “the neighbors ride around the yard all winter.” It turns out that it was a late 60’s Ski-Doo. That was it, I wanted a ride on one but that would have to wait.
It wasn’t until the next winter that I had a chance to ride on one. Another friend’s father had been loaned a Boa Ski by one of his employees that had gone to Florida for the winter. The kids were allowed to ride that sled in the field across the street from their house. It was on that Boa Ski that I had my first ride on a snowmobile but only as a passenger. What a blast, now I wanted one.
1970 Arctic Cat Panther
Later that winter my father’s uncle, Red Hill, bought his first snowmobile, a 1970 Arctic Cat Panther. My parent’s house was at the bottom of a pretty good-sized field in Goffstown, so Uncle Red brought the Panther over to our house to ride in the field.
I’ll never forget the first time he showed up to our house with that sled. He had no truck or trailer, so he’d carry it in the back of his Ford station wagon. What a sight, to see that Panther hanging out of the back of that wagon.
Uncle Red used to bring the Panther over to ride quite often, along with dad’s cousin David, so during that winter, my brother, sister, and I got to ride a lot. Now I was hooked, I really wanted one…Bad. “Dad, when are we going to get one?” went unanswered that winter.
The answer came next winter on December 24th 1970. It had been snowing all day, so my mother sent my brother and I out to shovel the driveway before dad got home. Just before we finished shoveling, Dad pulled into the driveway with the pick-up truck and something in the back.
The Best Christmas Present: 1971 Sno Jet Star Jet Deluxe
It turned out that Dad got out of work early that day so that he could stop on the way home to pick up his Christmas present to the family. In the back of that truck was our first snowmobile, a 1971 Sno Jet Star Jet Deluxe!
We couldn’t wait to get on it but Dad said that we had to finish the driveway first, then he would take each of us for one ride around the field before we had to go in the house. My mother’s family had always celebrated on Christmas Eve, so they were visiting for a few days to celebrate.
Longest Christmas Day in History
My father’s family was coming over on Christmas Day, so Dad said that we had to wait until after they left before we could do any more riding on the 1971 Sno Jet. I think that was the longest Christmas Day in history!
Some of our neighbors got new snowmobiles that winter, as well. They would bring the sleds over to the field to ride. We would take turns riding and sliding down the hill on our sleds and toboggans. We made a lot of new friends that winter.
1972 Sno Jet SST
The next winter my father bought our second snowmobile, a 1972 Sno Jet SST. Others in the neighborhood got second sleds too. During this time period, a trail system was developing in the Goffstown area, so we started to venture out from the field. Uncle Red had also found a trail to ride over to the field from his house, so he and David would ride over to meet us and go out for a ride.
That field turned into the neighborhood meeting place to ride from. We also had sliding and riding parties in the field. That soon started a tradition of a Sunday ride from the field.
Snowmobile Uncanoonuc Mountains
We would all meet in the field on Sunday morning and pick a destination. Up one of the Uncanoonuc Mountains, over to the New Boston Tracking Station, out to Weare, over to Bedford, we even tried to ride over to Baboosic Lake in Amherst one Sunday.
Those early rides were always challenging. There were usually around ten to twelve kids ranging in age from around six to sixteen, so someone running off of the trail, getting stuck, or not making it up a hill was a pretty common occurrence, plus there were many stops to take turns driving.
Sled Breakdowns Were Common
Then there were the mechanical issues – fouled spark plugs, broken drive belts or bogie wheels flipping over. For any of you that never ridden on a sled with a bogie wheel rear suspension, occasionally a bogie set would flip over, reducing traction and making a harsher ride.
When a set flipped, you would have to tip the sled on its side and wrestle with the bogie carrier to flip it back over. There were usually four or five adults on one of these rides, so they were pretty busy trying to keep the group going.
These Sunday rides usually took us almost all day to complete and would generally average around 25-30 miles. On a good day we might get around 35 miles.
After the ride we would gather at one of the neighborhood houses for cocktails and hors d’oeuvres for the adults, and hot chocolate and snacks for the kids, or maybe a buffet dinner. Sometimes the kids would stay in the field after a ride to slide or continue riding the snowmobiles.
This riding tradition led to all of the neighborhood families joining the Uncanoonuc Mountaineers Snowmobile Club.
The Sunday rides continued for many more years, expanding into club events, Easterseals Ride-Ins and yearly family weekend trips up north. Life-long friendships were made from these Sunday rides and it all started with a family Christmas present in 1970. That’s the best present anyone could ask for!