Harnessing the energy in our sport

Oct. 01, 1999 By Greg Lonero

If we could harness the energy from all of the snowmobiler's egos, we could power a whole city. After owning sleds for the past 26 years, I find myself in an era of snowmobiling that I never knew could exist. When I first started riding, it wasn't a matter of how fast you could go, it was a matter of whether your sled would stay together for the next snowfall. It was a time when 440's were king and anything over 48 hp was the envy of everyone. It was also a time when there were no predominate aftermarket companies offering "monster" horsepower like they do now.

Time passed and I moved to Colorado. With it I brought my mid-western soybean field riding style of hanging low in the running boards on the turns. That style lasted about one hour in the Colorado powder. I quickly learned the tricks of mountain riding. It also took a handful of hillclimb races to show me the light. With my newly acquired knowledge I soon found out that not only was I competitive in hillclimb racing, I was winning. This moment of glory lasted as long as my racing budget, which dwindled quickly down to nothing. And when all the dust settled, I was back with my friends, boondocking.

What I learned was, although I feel confident in my athletic abilities to be competitive in pro-hillclimb races, I still don't have what it takes to be on top. To be a winner it takes more than athletic abilities. It takes lots of money, (whether from your personal wealth or sponsors), and the ever popular "racers luck factor". But in my world, it always comes back to money.

Everyone I ride with has a late model sled and every year someone shows up with something new; either a whole new sled, or a major modification. So just when I think I'm king, someone out-does me. This is no doubt the most challenging aspect about this sport for me; "keeping up with the Jones." In this sport, I've been able to realize what it takes to be competitive, on and off the track. Our sleds are not only the snow-machines that empty our stress buckets on the weekends, they are our icons of wealth and our ingenuity.

And back to our racers, are they better riders? Maybe, maybe not, but they are at the track week after week. And though we may have more talent on a given day, they are devoted to racing. They work on their sleds constantly, they travel the long distances between races each week, and they experiment with different set-ups. They network among other racers, they devote endless hours to fine-tuning, and when you add all these factors up over a racing career, they end up on the front page - a Winner.

What does the weekend warrior like myself, and the racer have in common? Huge egos and the drive to win, either among our peer group or at the race track. And it is this devotion to the sport of snowmobiling, and the pride goes with it, that affects all aspects of a sledheads life. For me, it effects my personal career, forcing me to improve my professional skills to ensure financial success. My bosses should drop to their knees at the alter of my sled and kiss its mud flap, because if it wasn't for my passion for snowmobiling, that drive to push myself may not be as strong.

I brought this commentary to this point so you can identify with your own passions for this sport. Now you need to realize that we have a large number of adversaries out there stewing with their own passion; shutting down our off-road/backcountry use. Their passions are every bit as strong as ours, but are aimed directly against us. Now you have an assessment of what we are up against.

If you don't think this is serious, you are wrong. As I mentioned in my last editorial, we can't rely on the manufacturers and dealers. I haven't seen one ad campaign from them on Land Use issues. And just like when you're at the starting line or sitting at the bottom of a hill highmarking, you make an assessment of your competitors and friends, rev the engine, and use them as traction the rest of the day. We can do the same.

Let's harness some of the energy we expend on our snowmobiling passion and direct it to saving this sport. Join your state snowmobile association and write those letters needed to support our sport. We need to lobby to hold our ground, (literally!) This way we'll all be Winners.

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