Monthly Archives: November 2015


IMG_4291Christmas is coming and many of you may be scrambling trying to figure out what to get for that hard to buy for person on your list.  Well if that person is a snowmobiler your job just got a lot easier. Here are some great gift ideas for that snowmobiler on your Christmas list, ranging from small things all the way up to the big things.

WOOL SOCKS:  Not only is this a great gift for a snowmobiler, it is also a great gift for just about anyone you know.  You can get a good pair of snowmobile socks just about anywhere, but if you really want to make someone happy just jump right to the Smartwool socks because they are awesome.

BALACLAVA:  No, not baklava, the sweet nutty pastry (although that’s good too), a balaclava or for those who prefer less fancy words- a facemask.  Balaclavas run the gamut from the thin dime a dozen masks all the way up to the super extreme ultimate mask that will do everything but regrow your hair.  Personally I like to have a variety of balaclavas around- the ultra-thin ones for those warmer days and the heavy ones for those colder days.  Personally I like the hunting type facemasks you can get at a sporting goods store primarily because they usually have some decent mouth venting mesh that makes it easier to breathe or they can be easily pulled down around your neck or converted into a makeshift hat.  Any way you slice it no snowmobiler is going to complain about getting anew balaclava.

BASE LAYERS:  Keeping warm is all about layering these days and nothing beats a good pair of long underwear.  With all of the options out there you almost can’t go wrong.  Just remember to avoid cotton- cotton and snowmobiles are not a good combo.  Under Armor is my favorite in this category.

SHIRTS/ SWEATSHIRTS:  When layering there are all kinds of shirt options.  Each manufacturer has a line of riding shirts and then there are all of the apparel manufacturers that make a wide variety of shirts and racing jerseys.  For those times that you are not riding but want to show off your brand there are a number of fleeces and sweatshirts available too. 

VIDEOS:  One of the big things lately are the extreme snowmobiling videos.  You can find them at many apparel shops or order them online.

MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTIONS:  There are lots of snowmobile magazines out there and a subscription to one of them makes a good gift.

VINTAGE SNOWMOBILE GEAR/ MEMORABILIA:  Some of your older riders on your list probably have fond memories of piloting their Ski-Doo Olympique over the power lines behind their childhood home.  Vintage snowmobile items or old magazines are always a treat to look at and own and can often bring back fond memories of snowmobiling’s past.

JACKETS, BIBS, GLOVES, BOOTS & HELMETS: All of these items are great but you have to be really careful here.  Proper fitting gear is essential and I have found that most snowmobilers are extremely picky when it comes to their gear.  If you are buying for your kids you pretty much know what to get but if you are buying for adults it is best to have them be a part of the buying process.  Jackets and snow pants fit everyone differently.  The same can be said for gloves and boots.  Everyone has a certain feel they are going for. Finally a helmet is an extremely personal thing- you need it to fit perfectly to work.

A NEW SNOWMOBILE:  Let’s face it- there is nothing better than opening a box with a key in it and finding a new sled parked outside in the yard.  My wife and I did that for our daughter after she got her snowmobile safety certificate.  She had always liked one of my buddy’s old sleds so when he upgraded I bought the sled and hid it in the garage while she was at school.  When she opened the box to find a key she was really confused and then she realized it was a snowmobile key – best gift ever!


This is the worst time of year for a snowmobiler.  That time when it is cold enough to snow but the ground is still brown.  Every night you flick on the floodlight and look up at the sky hoping to see those white flakes falling.  You scan the weather reports on your lunch break at work, you watch the nightly news or the weather channel hoping and praying that snow is in the forecast and then you see some lucky people in Chicago or New York getting blasted with a freak winter storm that they don’t even want and it makes you that much more depressed.  This is Minnesota, you live here for a reason and if you are a winter sports enthusiast one of those reasons is SNOW!!!  So come on already and get here snow, we’ve been waiting for you for two years now!  In the meantime keep an eye out for the blog that is coming Wednesday night  mark your calendars because if you are snowmobiler or if you have a snowmobiler on your Christmas list Wednesday night’s blog will be one you don’t want to miss!


a Larson Brochure

Whenever I sit down to write a vintage sled article I am always faced with a huge problem: deciding what vintage sled to write about. During the late sixties and early seventies there were over a hundred snowmobile manufacturers and each manufacturer had multiple models to choose from.  Ultimately what I wind up doing is picking a sled that not only has an interesting story or historical significance but also one that I have had personal experience with.  This week’s article is about the 1968 Larson- a rare sled to be sure as I’m guessing most of you have never heard about it, and neither had I until one showed up in my neighbors garage when I was 15 years old.  Since that day I have been wondering where that baby blue and red steel cleated tracked monster came from and the story is as odd as the snowmobile itself.

            When I was a kid I was lucky enough to live on the fringes of the Duluth city limits at the end of a dead end street.  Our house was surrounded by woods and provided us limitless opportunities to explore the forest on a daily basis.  This also made our street a prime location to own a snowmobile as you could literally walk out your back door, climb on your sled and ride for hours without having to trailer anywhere.  My little brother and I were also lucky enough to have four other kids on our street that were all within a year of us in age.  As mentioned in earlier articles my neighbor Paul had a stable of Ski-Doos, I had one, my brother had one and my neighbor Cy had one. The only kids that didn’t own a sled were my next door neighbors, brothers Matt and Mike but with all of Paul’s Ski-Doos we still had a sled for everybody.  One Saturday afternoon we were all summoned to Mike and Matt’s house.  When we arrived, Mike opened up the door of their attached garage to reveal a 1968 Larson snowmobile!  Their grandfather had recently passed away and his snowmobile had been handed down to them.

            The 1968 Larson was a sight to behold- everyone on our block owned a Ski-Doo and this was an entirely different animal.  The hood was basically a big square with a windshield slapped on top.  The tunnel, belly pan and hood were all painted baby blue- and the seat was bright red all trimmed up in shining chrome bumpers and hand grips. The gas tank (If you could call it that) was not built into the frame like it was on the Ski-Doos, it was simply a gas can strapped to the frame of the sled in the right side foot well.  The track was constructed of two strips of rubber held together by giant metal cleats with a center sprocket drive and bogey wheel suspension.  The whole thing was powered by a 297 JLO engine, which, like most of the late 60’s model sleds, was sitting right in your lap.

            Unfortunately the sled hadn’t been run in years so our first task was to get it back into running order. We pulled and pulled on the JLO engine (Which we immediately renamed the Jell-o engine) but we couldn’t get it to fire so we started off checking all of the things that we knew an engine needed: air, fuel, and spark (all of us were self-proclaimed small engine experts due to our constant tinkering on snowmobiles, lawn mowers and minibikes often times with pretty marginal results).  The carburetor seemed okay so we removed the sparkplug and my brother tried to dump some gas in the cylinder and covered most of the engine in gasoline in the process.  We put the spark plug back in and pulled again- still nothing. “Let’s check for spark,” Matt said and we pulled the plug again, hooked it up and laid it against the engine block- Mike pulled on the cord and we had spark alright- in fact the spark from the plug instantly ignited the gasoline we had spilled on the engine block and the whole front half of the sled burst into flames.  To make matters worse the entire floor of Mike and Matt’s garage was covered in hay that they used for their outdoor dog kennel and that quickly caught on fire as well.  In a furious panic we all ran outside and grabbed handfuls of snow to through on the rapidly spreading flames.  Luckily we got everything out and then cleaned up all of the evidence before Mike and Matt’s mom came home and saw that we nearly burned down the house.  We decided that the problem must be that the gas had been sitting in that gas tank forever so the next day we  got fresh gas, a new fuel filter and some starting fluid and viola, the old Larson came back to life.

            The Larson wasn’t a pretty sled, it wasn’t sporty and it handled like a tank- but, like a tank, nothing stopped it either. The steel cleated track gave it incredible hook up on the snow but there was absolutely no give and zero slide factor so you had to really force it into the turns. We had a few trails that cut their way through stands of small saplings and on one occasion the Larson couldn’t quite make the hairpin turn- it didn’t matter because it simply ran over some of the small trees and made its own new trail, the front bumper acting more as a brush guard. Having the privilege to ride one of these rare off brand snowmobiles from the golden age of snowmobiling, I went on a quest to find out more about the Larson and was surprised to find out that the story behind the Larson snowmobile was as unique as its look.

            In the mid 1960’s the Larson boat company in Little Falls, MN were minority owners in Polaris Industries.  Looking to capitalize on the new booming snowmobile market they began purchasing chassis from Polaris and then adding their own hood configurations to create the Larson snowmobile.  For the 1968 Larson Model year, all of the Larson Chassis were simply left over 1967 Polaris models.  If you look at the ’68 Larson and the ’67 Polaris everything is identical on the tunnel, from the red seat to the chrome handles to the light blue paint job, Larson simply fabricated their own hood for the ’67 Polaris frame and the ’68 Larson was born.  It came in three models- the 292cc Falcon, the 297cc Hawk and the 372cc Eagle. 
The 1968 Larson

The 1968 Larson
The 1967 Polaris Colt

The 1967 Polaris Colt


Unfortunately for the Larson, the snowmobile industry was too competitive of a market to continue in and after 1968 the Larson Boat Company abandoned its snowmobile business and went back to concentrating solely on building boats.  Luckily before that happened one of their sleds landed in my friends grandpa’s garage and ultimately on the trails around our neighborhood.


CIMG0959 (2)Relatives.  We all have them.  Like most families you probably have some relatives you love and others that you avoid.  I come from a huge family.  My grandmother had six children, her mother had twelve, her father was one of twelve kids, and his father was one of twelve kids, you get the picture.  Since my ancestors were so good at making babies, I now have hundreds of cousins and more aunts and uncles than I can count.  When there are that many people you are related to you are bound to have some relatives that are “different.”  I have an uncle that some would put into this category, he is one of those doomsday prepper types who lives out in the middle of nowhere and is prepared for everything from a nuclear attack to an alien invasion.  Some people may think he’s crazy but I think he is a genius, in a crazy sort of way. 

When you live out in the wilderness and get everything you need to survive from the land, you spend a lot of time by yourself cutting wood, growing crops, or building secret bunkers and when you spend that much time alone all you have to entertain yourself are the thoughts bouncing around in your own brain.  Most people have too many distractions to give themselves any real time to think, but in the wilderness your mind wanders and you wind up either concocting an elaborate conspiracy theory or having a moment of clarity that creates a little nugget of wisdom that warrants being recorded by pen and paper like Thoreau on Walden.  My uncle has emerged from the wilderness on many occasions with these little gems of brilliance that I quickly record in my computer in hopes that someday I may get them all into a book of some sort.  On one occasion I happened to be with the staff at when we bumped into my uncle and during the course of one of his philosophical discussions he told us something that has become the motto:  “Life is about making memories.” The theory behind this simple statement is that no one ever remembers the routine stuff that they do every day: going to work, watching TV, doing chores around your house etc., it is the unusual events in your life that you remember, the times that you break from your daily routine to do something unusual or special.  Therefore, my uncle decided to try to do as many things as possible that are out of the ordinary and fill his life with memorable moments, and it’s easier to do than you think: catching baseball game after work, exploring an unknown area of woods, or hoping on the sled or four wheeler.  This is the reason we adopted his motto at, because snowmobiling is never routine, you have no idea what is going to happen or what you are going to see when you turn onto the trail.  You have a unique opportunity to create a great memory every time you ride.

            My daughter is in typical modern day teenage mode now- she lives on her smart phone- always playing games, watching videos, or talking with her friends.  If it isn’t the phone it’s a video game, her PC, the TV or whatever other electronic gadget she can get her hands on.  As a father it’s my job to somehow break through the electronic jungle of clutter and I do that by getting her out on the trail.  She is always reluctant because she is cut off from her friends and her electronic world out on the trail and forced to spend time with me, which, at this point, is no longer cool.  When I laid this whole memory theory on her two winters ago she dismissed it, but I could tell that it hit a chord with her and that she just didn’t want to admit it.  Ironically my theory was proved correct just two weeks later when we took our weekly Sunday ride out to the lake to our favorite trailside bar/ restaurant.  As we sat there eating our burgers it started snowing and by the time we left for home we were caught in a full blown winter storm. The journey back quickly turned from what is normally a casual ride to blasting through thirteen miles of huge snow drifts and deep powder, a true adventure indeed.  To this very day it is at the top of her list of favorite snowmobiling stories to tell to her friends, and I always use it to coax her out onto the trail whenever I see her getting mired in the electronic abyss. You can spend hours sitting in your room watching You Tube videos and chatting with friends and all of that time will come and go like water under a bridge and it will amount to nothing- but a ride like that you will remember forever.  The key here is that we never know when that ride will come, when we will see something so amazing on the side of the trail that we will never forget it.  That is the opportunity that snowmobiling affords you and your family and your friends- an opportunity to create memories that will last a lifetime, rides you will remember forever.  That is why snowmobiling is one of the greatest winter recreation activities there is- a chance to see things that you have never before seen, an opportunity to go places that are inaccessible at any other time of the year by any other means of transportation.  As the old Bombardier marketing slogan used to say- “To trod on that which was heretofore untrodden.” Indeed.