Deal me in.
Written by Steve Pierce   
Monday, 16 April 2012 14:35

While millions of snowmobiles were produced by hundreds of companies in the 1960s and '70s, early manufacturers struggled to peddle their wares.

Regarded as folly, curious stares and ridicule often greeted entrepreneurs as they traveled to promote their merchandise.

Glen Gustzman of Trail-A-Sled headed cross country in the mid-1960s with a Scorpion snowmobile strapped to the back of a Volkswagen Beetle exemplifying the initiative required to create a market where none existed. His efforts secured a contract with mail order giant Sears and Roebuck.

By the end of the 1960s, this emerging winter sport was erupting into a lucrative industry, and bandwagon manufacturers were begging for outlets to market then-products.


A drive down main street in any snowbelt community fast revealed that the variety of businesses selling snowmobiles equaled the diversity of the brands being sold.

Unlike present day convenience stores, gas stations of the era sold service, not groceries. An attendant would pump your fuel, wash your windshield and check your oil. Most employed a full-time mechanic and many had a line of snowmobiles for extra income during winter months.

Sinclair, Skelly, or Standard stations may have a SnoJet, Ski Doo, or Polaris dealership. At Texaco, you could "Trust your car to the man who wears the star" and purchase a Ski Daddler or Sno Prince. Major oil companies pushed their own brand of oil.

The hometown marina selling Johnson, Evinrude, or Mercury outboards also sold their snowmobiles.

The local farm implement dealer had perhaps a John Deere or Massey Ferguson franchise.

Welding, motorcycles and chainsaw shops provided sales and service for Arctic Cat, Suzuki or Homelite.

Hardware stores and Fleet supply centers dealt Bolens or Wheel Horse to complement their established line of power equipment.

With a basic set of tools, individuals could set up shop in the garage and sell sleds right out of their home!

Auto parts stores began to stock common bearings, drive belts and spark plugs.

There were few mega dealerships featuring large showrooms for machines, clothing, and accessories. More likely, the showroom was a warehouse out back, or a row of crated machines along the side of a building.

The sheer number of snowmobiles viewed on a weekend outing was astounding, a cornucopia of different designs and makes.

Brand loyalty was associated with color. Arctic Cat was black. Ski Doo yellow, Moto Ski orange, Rupp red, and Polaris red, white and blue. Color was the only standard on early machines.

Stocking parts became a nightmare with the many engine choices and changes made each model year. Parts availability depended on the size of the dealer and was limited to stock on hand. There were few aftermarket companies and no same day shipping.

Chaparral, Scorpion, and Polaris offered an abundance of engines and models.

Arctic Cat alone in 1970 had six engine suppliers and a staggering 29 model and horsepower options.


Clutch and performance parts became essentials as racing grew in popularity.

A trip to a larger dealer, distributor, or factory was often the only alternative to a long wait for parts.

Some dealers tried renting snowmobiles, hoping to increase profits. Breakdowns and inexperienced riders combined for expensive repairs and high retrieval costs.

As the industry began to decline, small dealers were strangled out by factories imposing standards for shop, showroom, and inventory.

Dealers of today have diversified to survive in a fast-paced, competitive market.

Meeting environmental standards with increasing production costs has nearly priced the industry beyond the reach of the common man.

In 1969, you could have purchased a snowmobile and trailer for the cost of a helmet and riding leathers today.

It's no help that rampant and unregulated fuel pricing by the American oil cartel is rewarded with tax breaks and record profits, amounting to legal extortion at the point of a gas nozzle.

We can never return to the way things were, but we can at least escape to the past on occasion by attending an antique or vintage snowmobile event. Even in these times of economic challenge, we can still enjoy an affordable family sport.

So, fire up the old sled and load the kids in the cutter. Shove a spare belt and a six-pack under the seat, grab a handful of spark plugs and head out on the trail.

I'll be waiting for you.

Reprinted with permission. More of Steve's work can be found in Iron Dogs Tracks the official newsletter of the Antique Snowmobile Club Of America.

3rd Annual Vintagesledders RatRod contest
Tuesday, 27 March 2012 14:28


In spite of the lack of winter over much of snowmobiling country, it was another fun season for the Ratrod contest. There were numerous new names and face vying for the title of Best Rat in their respective category.


The classes this year were as follows:


Pure Rat: Minimal cash expenditure and maximum patina. Up to $200. Mixing and matching between brands and throwing in non-sled parts is preferred. Garbage bag seat covers are approved. Non-sled power plants are approved. Must run 20 miles on an organized run. We want pictures of the rat at the organized run.

Race Rat: Make a rat for racing. Up to $400 because sometimes money has to be spent to comply with rules and/or be competitive. Must complete 1 or more sanctioned or well known regional fun race (Eagle Swamp and CCVSC first snow for example of regional fun races). Trail riding miles can count towards the requirement of 20 miles, but the sled must be raced at least once to qualify for this class. Grass drags, oval/lemans and cross country races are all approved. Racing the rat in more than one type of race is approved. We want pics of the rat at the race W9n

Touring Rat: Build a budget long distance cruiser. Up to $400 because reliability often requires some new parts and items like bearings, hyfax and ski runners will likely need to be replaced to make the sled worthy of 50+ mile days. Patina optional. Must complete 200 or more miles at well known vintage rides. We want pictures of the rat on the rides.


Well the entries are all in and now it's your turn to pick your favorite Rat Sled, Please help out and vote at these links:


RaceRat poll


TourRat poll


PureRat poll




Thanks for voting, and for being a Vintagesledder!



Rear Engine Panther becomes a reality...
Written by Paul Shearer   
Wednesday, 14 March 2012 14:37

It started several years ago when I bought a 67 p8 panther for parts, the engine was put on a shelf, and the rest of the sled was sold to a friend. I'd had a project in mind for that engine since the day I got it, I wanted to build a rear engine Arctic Cat panther.


Arctic Cat stopped production of rear engine machines in 1966, and being a rear engine sled enthusiaist, I figured I would carry on what Arctic had quit. I scoured my personal junkyard to find just the right pieces for the build, and this past fall, with no snow to ride on, my boys and I built my dream.


Here's a Utube video about the build, I hope you enjoy it.

Dim lights Embed Embed this video on your site



The Yellow and the Black.
Wednesday, 29 February 2012 20:46

Remember those old yellow Ski-Doo snowmobiles from the 1960s with the black stripe around the hood? You know -like the one Ralph Plaisted rode to the North Pole and Steve Ave won the Eagle River World Championships with? The kind that Grandpa had, or the one you took your very first ride on?

In 2009, the little yellow machine that made winter fun will celebrate an historic milestone. The light and maneuverable snowmobile invented by Joseph Armand Bombardier turns 50 years old.josephbombardier_snowmobile

His patented rubber sprocket, coupled with an endless rubber belt, provided the essential components in an amazing story of success, and became the enduring logo of L'Auto-Neige Bombardier, maker of tracked transport vehicles.

Bombardier's dream of producing a sin­gle person vehicle was held in check by motor size. He built a prototype in 1949. utilizing his own engine design. It was too expensive to produce.

The power problem was solved in the late 1950s with the availability of the Kohler four-stroke single-cylinder engine. More prototypes were constructed, and in 1959 the yellow, tin cab Ski Dog was intro­duced to the world.


The little machines became immensely popular, and production numbers soared to 5,000-plus by 1963, a year of transition.

Tin cabs were replaced by Fiberglass. The twin track, single Ski RD8, forerunner to the Alpine, was introduced. Rotax two-cycle engines became exclusive, and the tiny, 148cc lost Rotax appeared and disap­peared. Kohler engine options remained available by dealer or distributor.

Model names were first used in 1965.

The 165cc chalet had a short run, but the Alpine and Olympic would become stan­dards for years. The Canadian Postal Service even issued a commemorative stamp when the Olympic name was retired in 1979!

The largest selling brand in North America, Ski-Doo became synonymous with snowmobile. Whatever brand you rode, you were "Ski Dooing."

This popularity did not occur by acci­dent. It was the result of an excellent mar­keting scheme. An advertising budget of $32.000 in 1964 expanded to $5 million by 1970. Eighteen North American distribu­tors and 2,000 dealers provided sales and service.

Yellow was the trademark color. The first departure was the Nordic in 1972, with a black hood and yellow side panels. Imagine the chagrin of purists as the 1973 TNT Silver Bullet was introduced, having only a tiny strip of yellow on the side of the hood!

Much was done to keep Bombardier in the public eye. Plaisted's North Pole expe­ditions were sponsored by Ski-Doo. Dollars were pumped into a highly suc­cessful racing campaign, developing TNT, Blizzard, and other performance machines. Ave, Ferland, Duhamel and Karpik were winners on the race track as well as in advertising.

Joseph Armand Bombardier died in 1964, leaving the company to son Germain. While reluctant to remove funds from the industrial side of the corporation to finance the recreational side, his 1966 successor and brother-in-law, Laurent Beaudoin, was not.

1969_ski_doo_olympique_12_3_77_6aIn 1969, Bombardier purchased plastic parts manufacturer Les Plastiques La Salle, and Roski Ltee., a fiberglass compa­ny. Soon was added a foam seat facility, a chrome plating enterprise, and even a tex­tile manufacturer to produce their own clothing!

In 1970, they purchased Lohnerwerke Gmb H of Vienna, Austria, to obtain their subsidiary, Rotax. Another plant was secured by buying Moto Ski in 1971.

Producing 210,000 units and owning nearly 40 percent of the market, 90 percent of the corporation's profits came from Ski-Doo snowmobiles by the early 1970s.

Low snow winters and the 1973 OPEC oil embargo put a death grip on the indus­try. Bombardier, also in financial straits, survived by entering other markets. Diversifying enabled the struggling com­pany to become a global giant in aerospace and rail manufacture.

Bombardier produced their one mil­lionth snowmobile in 1974, a TNT Everest.

They very nearly acquired Polaris Industries in 1980, the sale blocked by U.S. Anti-trust authorities.

A 1994 Summit was then" two millionth snowmobile.

Many years after Outboard Marine Corporation attempted to buy out Bombardier in the 1960s, their Johnson and Evinrude engine division was obtained in 2001.

Elan, 12/3, Alpine, Olympic, TNT and Blizzard are names belonging to a glorious past, and will long be remembered and revered by the Ski-Doo faithful.

The little yellow machine that could become the little yellow machine that did, and in a resounding manner.

Happy 50th birthday, Ski-Doo!


Reprinted with permission. More of Steve's work can be found in Iron Dogs Tracks the official newsletter of the Antique Snowmobile Club Of America.

Braapfest 2012...the legacy grows.
Wednesday, 15 February 2012 15:17

It's been a pretty crappy winter across the Midwest, the snowfalls have been sparse and quickly melted away by a obviously misguided Mother Nature. Waconia managed to be help albeit with many lack of snow/ thin ice conditions. With all the subpar weather and conditions made it hard to enjoy this otherwise joyful season we know as winter. Well, luckily there's one bright spot left before spring gets here: Braapfest!


What is Braapfest? Braapfest is the brainchild of long time vintage snowmobile enthusiast Craig Crowl from Springstead Wis. Craig started this event back in 2008, the first years turnout was a good indication of things to come. Each and every year since 08, this event keeps getting bigger and better. Held at the Springstead Lake Lodge, the setting is nearly perfect. Sled races, games, and bonfires are held on the ice right outside the lodge so there's not a bad seat in the house. Several other lodges are within easy riding distance when you are looking for a change of atmosphere too.


When is Braapfest? Braapfest starts Thursday the 23 and ends Sunday the 26th of Feb 2012.


Where is Braapfest? As mentioned earlier, it's located on Springstead Lake. Address: 1065 North Springstead Road  Park Falls, WI 54552


What can I expect? Here's the schedule:

Weekend Schedule  2012

Thursday February 23th:

Ride to Lake Superior: 150 mile Braap to Lake Superior. We will leave at 10AM. Expect to be gone for 10 hours and we will be riding newer machines.

Friday February 24th:

11AM      Ride to Price County (vintage): Expect a 25 mile round trip with

lots of pit stops.

6PM       Dinner @ Chicos: Mexican food and great cocktails. Across the lake

from the Lodge.

9PM      PARTY : @ The Lodge   huge bonfire on the lake

Saturday February 25th:

7-10AM:     Breakfast : In the dining room of the Lodge.

10AM:  VINTAGE RIDE: Come ride with all the sleds. Expect a 30 mile ride

With a lunch stop of all you can eat pizza 2 The Birches Resort.

2PM:  We Ride Anything: On the lake in front of the Lodge. Drag strip, ovals,

games, and lots of fun. Food & beer served on the ice in our huge

heated tent. Loud Pipes Contest.


6PM: Dinner @ The Lodge:   Prime Rib, Shrimp, Ribs.

3PM- ?: Huge Fire on the Lake:

Outlaw Ditchrunners   LIVE 9PM-1AM

Sunday February 26th:

7am – 11am: Breakfast at the Lodge.


Here's the official flyer:



You want more info about this "can't miss" event? Check out the official thread in the Vintagesledders Forum.


Contact info for Craig Crowl, Springstead Lake Lodge: (715) 583-4403

And be sure to check out the Springstead Lake Lodge website too:


See you there!!!!!!!!!!



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