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2012 Snowmobile Hall of Fame Weekend


(2/20/2012)

2012 Snowmobile Hall of Fame, photo by ArcticInsider.com

I spent last weekend at the Annual Snowmobile Hall of Fame inductions/Ride with the Champs. It's one of my favorite weekends of the season, and was made all the better this year thanks to plenty of snow in the Northwoods of Wisconsin, including periods of snow as we headed to St. Germain.

 

Brian Nelson, photo by arcticinsider.com

I drove up with Arctic Cat cross-country legend Brian Nelson. Nelson was inducted into the SHOF in 2000, and ever since he's made the trek to St. Germain for SHOF weekend. He's also supported the SHOF in other ways, including building a replica of his I-500-winning 1978 Arctic Cat Cross Country El Tigre for a RAFFLE PRIZE at the Upcoming Round-UP (you still have time to win this baby!).

 

2012 Snowmobile Hall of Fame, photo by ArcticInsider.com

In fact, Nelson delivered the sweet Arctic Cat raffle sled to the SHOF on this trip, where it will be on display and tempting everyone to try and win (as well as supporting the SHOF).

 

2012 Snowmobile Hall of Fame, photo by ArcticInsider.com

There are literally dozens-upon-dozens of reasons to support the SHOF, one of which is the display of historic snowmobiles and memorabilia, like this display from the Plaisted Polar Expedition.

 

2012 Snowmobile Hall of Fame, photo by ArcticInsider.com

Ditto for untold numbers of historic race sleds, like this Arctic Cat Wildcat Formula III machine of Brian Sturgeon's.

 

2012 Snowmobile Hall of Fame, photo by ArcticInsider.com

And this 1996 Arctic Cat ZR440 race machine of Brad Pake's.

 

2012 Snowmobile Hall of Fame, photo by ArcticInsider.com

And how about this pairing: Blair Morgan's Ski-Doo and Tucker Hibbert's Arctic Cat mod snocrossers!?! Lots of great battles between these two future Hall of Famers.

 

2012 Snowmobile Hall of Fame, photo by ArcticInsider.com

I love that the SHOF also honors those who have given their life while racing snowmobiles, as this trophy indicates.

 

 

2012 Snowmobile Hall of Fame, photo by ArcticInsider.com

One such racer was Polaris Sno Pro great, Jerry Bunke. Bunke was one of my favorite racers as a kid, in part because he had such a genuine looking smile. Here's Bunke's RXL racer.

 

2012 Snowmobile Hall of Fame, photo by ArcticInsider.com

 The Wall of Fame at the SHOF includes the plaques of all the inductees, including the four being inducted this year: Joey Hallstrom, Toni Haikonen, Marcel Fontaine and Larry Bosacki.

 

2012 Snowmobile Hall of Fame, photo by ArcticInsider.com

While I was checking out the SHOF I ran into Don Amber, one of the most enthusiastic John Deere fans in the world.

I'm a slow learner, and it was only recently that I realized just how crazy-passionate the John Deere fans are. Seriously, it rivals the passion that Arctic Cat fans have, which is especially impressive since the Deere snowmobile division DNF'd in 1984.

Don organized a cool dinner on Friday night, where nearly all the Deere fans (and many others) gathered to share a meal and great stories. Thanks for allowing me to attend, guys!

 

2012 Snowmobile Hall of Fame, photo by ArcticInsider.com

I mention sharing stories. That's a HUGE part of what SHOF weekend is about. Here 2011 inductee (and legendary Ski-Doo oval racer) Wayne Nicholsen (L) chats with SHOF founder Loren Anderson. Two great guys who have brought so much to the sport!

 

2012 Snowmobile Hall of Fame, photo by ArcticInsider.com

Waiting for the Friday poker run to finish, SHOF Board member Tom White (L) shares a laugh with Steve Livingston of Livingston's Arctic Cat in Hillsboro, NH. This was Steve's first visit to the SHOF, and based on what I saw of his passion and enjoyment, it won't be his last.

 

2012 Snowmobile Hall of Fame, photo by ArcticInsider.com

Love this shot, in part because it captures the allure of the SHOF, and also because it shows that indeed winter does exist somewhere other than Alaska during this crummy winter.

 

2012 Snowmobile Hall of Fame, photo by ArcticInsider.com

There's a mix of old and new during SHOF weekend, kind of like this rare 1984 Arctic Cat El Tigre sitting next to a 2012 F1100 Turbo.

 

2012 Snowmobile Hall of Fame, photo by ArcticInsider.com

Saturday began with an early breakfast, then saddling up for one of the several "Ride with the Champs" ride options. Team Arctic great Aaron Scheele has been coming to the Ride with the Champs for a few years and is a fixture on the Vintage Challenge (the roughly 150-mile round-trip to and from Lake Gogebic). Check out the sweet front suspension set up on Aaron's Tiger.

 

2012 Snowmobile Hall of Fame, photo by ArcticInsider.com

Another fixture of the Vintage Challenge, Tom Rowland was there and ready to ride. Typical of Tom, he's getting ready to ride the ULTRA RARE 1982 prototype Arctic Cat El Tigre (one of the Arctic Cats that never saw production).

I had the great pleasure of riding this machine on Saturday. Once I got over the fear of wadding it up, I enjoyed a truly exceptional ride. A strong 500cc liquid twin that sounded mean... slightly-heavy ski pressure typical of Arctic Cats of that period... VERY narrow handlebars by today's standards... good suspension.

It made me wonder what would have happened had this and the other 1982 Arctic Cats made it to production? I know this isn't an original question, but experiencing such an excellent machine brought a new perspective for me.

 

Arctic Cat legend Jim Dimmerman, photo by arcticinsider.com

Here's 2010 SHOF inductee Jim Dimmerman giving the thumbs-up, and flanked by former Arctic Cat engineer Doug Braswell who now works for John Deere.

Dimmerman's Thunderstruck sled is a machine that I wish everyone could ride. During the 15 miles I logged on this baby, hammering the throttle at every occasion to hear and feel the 900cc triple howl its meaty roar, I found myself laughing out loud and wondering if the 2-stroke triple will ever make a comeback in the snowmobile world.

 

2012 snowmobile Ride with the Champs, photo by arcticinsider.com

Yet another rare 1984 Arctic Cat El Tigre.

 

2012 Snowmobile Hall of Fame, photo by ArcticInsider.com

Many, many Arctic Cat El Tigres participate in the Vintage Challenge. The goal of getting to (and back from) Lake Gogebic is a worthy one.

 

2012 snowmobile Ride with the Champs, photo by arcticinsider.com

Unfortunately for me, this was my view of the ride for the last 25 miles before arriving at Fish Tales on Gogebic.

A broken steering post on my 1979 Cross-Country El Tigre brought great shame to the Team Arctic crew, and lots of laughter from the Enduro Team Deere riders.

I vow to return next year and repair the considerable damage I've caused the Arctic Cat legend!

BTW, thanks for the tow Paul!

 

2012 snowmobile Ride with the Champs, photo by arcticinsider.com

Leaving Fish Tales for the ride back to St. Germain, some of the group contemplates the blast across Gogebic. There were just a couple moments during the ride where throttles were pressed hard to the handlebar. Yep, just a couple.

 

2012 snowmobile Ride with the Champs, photo by arcticinsider.com

There are several occasions during the ride where we stop and chat and joke about whomever is suffering some mechanical breakdown.

 

2012 snowmobile Ride with the Champs, photo by arcticinsider.com

Speaking of which, Adam Stafford had lots of practice replacing B8ES plugs on this 1977 El Tigre. Sadly, Adam made it to within three miles of the finish before running out of gas (and time), and had to suffer the indignity of being towed in by his brother Nick.

 

2012 snowmobile Ride with the Champs, photo by arcticinsider.com

After the Ride with the Champs, it's time for the Hall of Fame inductions, which begins with happy hour and an autograph session with famous sledders. Here 2012 inductee Marcel Fontaine (L), 1996 inductee Doug Hayes (red shirt) and 1988 inductee Stan Hayes (yellow) share a laugh with an autograph seeker.

If you've ever wanted to meet, hang out with and talk to some of the great snowmobile racers from over the decades, SHOF weekend is the time/place to do it.

 

2012 Snowmobile Hall of Fame, photo by ArcticInsider.com

Case in point: Arctic Cat's Ole Tweet (right, 2004 inductee), Roger Skime (middle, 1998 inductee) and Jeff Tweet laugh at my suggestion that the broken steering post on my 1979 El Tigre be covered under warranty.

 

2012 Snowmobile Hall of Fame, photo by ArcticInsider.com

One of many enjoyable conversations I heard during dinner was between Dimmerman (L), Scheele (folded arms), Arctic Cat engineer Greg Spaulding and Jimmy Dimmerman.

Listening to the elder Dimmerman talk with Spaulding about building Sno Pro race engines back in the 1970s, as well as the relative strengths and weaknesses between the various brands, was as fascinating as it was informative.

One choice nugget: In the factory Sno Pro wars of the mid-to-late-1970s, these two agreed that Ski-Doo had the most horsepower, Polaris had the clutching, and Cat had the handling.

 

2012 Snowmobile Hall of Fame, photo by ArcticInsider.com

Old friends and competitors, Scheele (L) and 2012 inductee Toni Haikonen talk about old times and new.

Haikonen was the first snocrosser to be inducted into the SHOF, opening the door for another generation of racers much the same way that he ushered in the era of high-flying double-jumping with his historic performance at the 1995 Canterbury snocross.

These days Haikonen lives in his native Finland and works in IT. He still loves snowmobiles.

It was great to see you again, Toni. You were an awesome competitor and a joy to know.

 

Joey Hallstrom, Arctic Cat, SHOF 2012 Inductee

I was especially happy for my friend Joey Hallstrom to get inducted this year. Shown here with his wife Tracy, daughter Gabby and son Jesse, Joey was of course quite happy all evening. His speech was gracious and enjoyable, as he acknowledged the people who made his career as Team Arctic Race Manager possible; thanked the many racers (both Cat and competitors) and race organizers; tipped his hat to those who have passed away, and expressed his utter appreciation for being involved in the great sport of snowmobiling.

Nice job on your speech, and especially your career Joey!

By the way, are you sponsored by Bud Light, or was Tracy really thirsty?

 

2012 Snowmobile Hall of Fame, photo by ArcticInsider.com

L-to-R: Larry Bosacki, Marcel Fontaine, Toni Haikonen and Joey Hallstrom. The 2012 Snowmobile Hall of Fame inductees.

Congratulations to all of you!

Thanks for reading.



Comments (23):

Dave says:
2/20/2012 8:17:00 PM

Thanks for the great write-up, JS!

Been looking for one for the last couple of days to see what I missed - thanks!

Dave
Allen Teach says:
2/20/2012 8:25:00 PM

Great story and pictures from a wonderful day, John! As true Cat guys my son and I felt like we were cheating on our wives by riding a pair of TXL's on the challenge. (Found out my TXL was no match for Aaron Scheele's 5000 on the lake!) Anyway it was great to tell Roger Skime in person how much I have enjoyed my new XF800.
Ryan Teach says:
2/20/2012 9:40:00 PM

Great recap. I will second the above and say it was a bitter sweet day with the TXLs. Even more bitter when I lost my right side piston to unknown causes shortly after leaving Fish Tales... I will note that I did park next to Joe Rainville prior to the detonation! As always, great seeing old friends, meeting new ones... and actually getting to see Brian Nelsons fleet of Perrrrrrfect Cats. Thank you to the Hall, tow sleds/vechiels, and other vintage sled enthusiasts! See you in 2013.
Greg Hallstrom says:
2/21/2012 1:45:00 AM

Yay Joey!

Interesting to see Doug Braswell's picture and learn he is still with John Deere. While working for Cat, Doug owned the house that I built while farming. Greg Spaulding now owns the house.
Greg Spaulding says:
2/21/2012 10:08:00 AM

Great job as always John.
But you never cease to amaze me John, I believe you and only you could take an ordinary camera and use your amazing magic to transform the appearance of a regular Arctic guy like Joel into a somewhat handsome middle aged man who dresses reasonably well. Amazing job John.

Greg
Auggie says:
2/21/2012 12:00:00 PM

Hey John, if my memory serves me right when I was at Arctic there was a Safty Recall Bulletin on them handle bars. Recalls are forever so that repair should be covered under warranty.

Auggie
nick stafford says:
2/21/2012 12:38:00 PM

Great recap John and great pictures. Had a good time riding with you this weekend.
Tom Rowland says:
2/21/2012 1:09:00 PM

As others have stated above, thanks for the great coverage of that event John...was great to ride with you and swap some stories. I can't even really explain why the energy around the entire Hall of Fame inductions and the Ride With the Champs event is so darn electric. For those that have never attended this before, you owe it to yourselves to do so. It is a great mixture of celebrating the past, enjoying the present, and looking forward to the future I guess.
John Sandberg says:
2/21/2012 6:12:00 PM

Greg: Thanks for noticing the photoshop skills I applied to the Joey pix... it took several hours of work, but I made him look pretty decent.

Nick: great to ride with you as well, looking forward to doing a story on your collection of Arctic Cats.

I wholeheartedly agree with the comments here about how people owe it to themselves to attend SHOF weekend. Truly an awesome weekend.
Scott Schuster says:
2/21/2012 6:37:00 PM

Another great story John!!! Wish I could have been there to support my good friend Joey Hallstrom and all that he has done for snowmobile racing & the snowmobile industry. I hope that some day Pat Mach is inducted into the SHOF !
Kevin Hooper says:
2/21/2012 7:16:00 PM

Great write-up...thanks!
Richard Buresh says:
2/21/2012 8:31:00 PM

Excellent article. I look forward to all the articles. There is something about your stories and pitures on the vintage sleds that are just extra enjoyable. Thanks again. Keep them coming.
Eric Bergstrom says:
2/21/2012 8:42:00 PM

Thanks for such great coverage of this event John! Looking back over the pictures only reinforces how fortunate I feel to have been able to participate and catch up with so many familiar faces again this year. I'm also struck by how much help I had to prepare my sled for the journey from St. Germain to Gogebic and back (thank you Aaron, Jim, and Tom!)... as I finally finished all 160 miles on my El Tigre. The SHOF definitely knows how to put on an awesome event, and you captured it perfectly.
Chad Colby says:
2/21/2012 10:21:00 PM

GREAT article thanks for sharing, looks like a great event I'll join you next year.... might have to find a good ol' john deere :)
Tom White says:
2/22/2012 8:38:00 AM

Great job John! You have a gift of being in the right place at the right time with your camera and then arranging your photos in a way that would make feel you were there even if you hadn't attended. By the way the autograph seeker with Doug and Stan Hayes and Marcel Fontaine is Jon Bauer. Jon was most likely telling The guys, in french, how he was able to secure victory and take home the vintage lake race trophy from the poker run on his single cylinder Ski Doo Citation. In His words "Thee Ski Doo, she's very, very fast"
Don Amber says:
2/22/2012 3:45:00 PM

John, it was great to see you again. Thanks for the kind words. Also, thanks for attending our "John Deere" Friday Night Fish Fry. It's wonderful to see that it's no longer a John Deere only event, it's an event for "snowmobilers"!!!

DA
Brad Maus says:
2/23/2012 1:28:00 PM

Great write up, John!!
Boy I missed a good one. Great to see Spaudo, Roger and Ole. Would have loved to say hi to my buddy Steve Livingston and Joey looks good because he's next to his beautiful wife, Tracy. The kids are getting so big! Angie and I miss everyone.
Hey Doug, is that a Yamaha?
Dan Larson says:
2/23/2012 2:40:00 PM

Nice write up & pics's John. I wish I would have thought to take a picture of you being towed while I followed you those 20 - 25 miles up to Fishtales!!

This is an awesome event & for those who have never attended clear your calendar for next year.

This was the first year I brought my boys and the oldest (12 yrs old on the day of the event) hasn't stopped talking about it. So I think from this one forward the boys will also be coming. For those who weren't there, he too ran a Vintage sled to Lake Gogebic & back, 1979 Jag.

See you all again next year...

Dan
Dan Larson says:
2/23/2012 2:47:00 PM

One more thing...

With all the excitement when we got back to the Whitetail I forgot to have it announced that I found someones tool bag along the trail shortly after we left Fishtails. It may or may not be from someone in our RWTC group.

So if you or someone you know lost theirs please contact me thru Joe Rainville via the Hall of Fame or Tom Rowland (ThomasSnoSports) who have my phone number.
Jim Dimmerman says:
2/25/2012 7:06:00 AM

Nice Job John!
First of all, Congratulations Larry,Marcel,Toni and Joey. I am always astounded at how far these riders are willing to travel from there homes to be a part of this, NY.Maine.New Hampshire,CO. PA.OH. virtually across the US & Canada...They bring home a few scraps of memorabilia but they shared an experience of a lifetime.They get to mingle with some chumps,(excuse me) Champs, but most of all, they brought a piece of there passion with them to ride side by side with Champs of the sport. The best part of the ride is when we stop and the helmets come off and we start talkin sleds...That's the price of admission. Guys,girls,kids, any color sled... Its all for a GREAT cause to preserve the memories of this sport.. Rest in Peace CJ, you had a great idea. Jim Dimmerman
Joe Rainville says:
2/25/2012 9:48:00 AM

Another great write up John!

It was great to have you join us this year, hope to see you back next year. And I would personally like to thank you for some of the good photo-ops on the ride.

Lots of nice Cat's on the ride this year too. But I really like Aaron's 83 Liquifire, that sled was sweet. Always great to ride with the Rowland Gang, not to mention the celberties of course.
And Jim, they are still talking about your wild Thunderstruck Cat. You really set the bar pretty high with that sled!

Thank you all for coming on the Vintage Challenge, and look forward to sharing the trail with you again next year.

-Joe Rainville
Bob says:
3/2/2012 8:23:00 PM

This article is almost like the "winter edition" of the 50th party!!! As I attended the 50th this summer, and to see all of those classics from the 60's, 70's and 80's while I was there, only to see some of these same sleds in the snow in this article, is waaaayyyyyy coool!!!! John, we can't get enough of this site!!!! Keep it up!!!!
Dan Larson says:
3/30/2012 4:11:00 PM

We have a winner to claim the tool bag I found on the trail. It was non other than our good friend and 2-time I-500 winner, Brian Nelson.

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