My grandparents owned Blue Bonnet Resort on Clam Lake in Siren, Wis. when I was growing up, and some of my favorite childhood memories revolve around spending time there.
In the summer the appeal was obvious (seven cabins, lakefront access, hours of fun with my brother and cousins), but in the winter the highlight for me (other than Christmas) was the annual water skipping event, when I watched in awe as snowmobilers “skipped” their giant machines across sections of open water. I only remember one unlucky guy sinking his sled into the lake, but I’m sure it happened on a regular basis. (Brrr!) I think the winter water skipping has since been retired, and replaced with the World Championship Snowmobile Watercross Race, a race that was invented in Burnett County, and held in nearby Grantsburg each July. It’s basically the same idea—get a bunch of people on snowmobiles to race/”skip” across the open water—only this race happens in summer rather than winter. (Maybe in order to avoid the possibility of hypothermia?)
To this day I’m still in awe of snowmobiles… The noise! The power! The adrenaline rush!
Photo courtesy of Traxxas
The first time I tried snowmobiling, I went with my then-boyfriend, now-husband Aaron and his dad for a snowmobiling weekend in Cable, Wis. We met up with his uncle and two cousins at Lakewoods Resort on Lake Namekagon.
I knew the focus would be on snowmobiling (more or less), and I just assumed I was going to ride with either Aaron or his dad. As it turned out—lucky for me!—one of Aaron’s cousins had to leave a day early, so—if I wanted—I was more than welcome to take her snowmobile out the next day.
I tried to get out of it at first (don’t I need to take some type of safety class?), but Aaron’s dad talked me into it.
“Come on, it’ll be fun,” he said. “I promise we won’t go too fast.”
Not wanting to be a chicken little, I gave in. At first I was terrified, overly cautious, awkward, slow. I was always dead last, no matter where we went (at least I never had to worry about snowmobiling hand signals while we were riding along the groomed trails), the helmet felt like it was insulated with a 10-pound brick, my delicate typing hands ached from twisting the throttle, and it took awhile to figure out how to shift my weight, but after I got the hang of it, I realized why so many people are fans of this sport. It was fun. Actually, it was really fun. It was a great way to get outside and enjoy the beauty of the Midwest (love that crisp, fresh Northwoods Wisconsin winter air!), it was an adrenaline rush, and it was definitely a family bonding experience.
If you want to get excited about snowmobiling—it’s been kind of a dismal winter here in Minnesota as far as snow sports go, and local companies like Polaris need our support!—you should check out the Traxxas National Jan. 6-7 at Shakopee’s Canterbury Park, a snocross competition presented by the International Series of Champions (ISOC), a local snowmobile racing organization. Snocross is basically a cross between motocross and snowmobiles, with plenty of tight turns, whups, and jumps. Winter X Games superstars Levi Lavallee, Ross Martin, and Tucker Hibbert won’t be skipping over any open water this weekend, but the excitement (and noise levels) will be the same.
And maybe it will be just the inspiration I need to get out and ride again.
General admission tickets start at $15. Indoor seating is available. Kids five and under are free.