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HomeFeaturesHappy Birthday C.J. (and thanks again for your amazing writing)!

Happy Birthday C.J. (and thanks again for your amazing writing)!

This coming Saturday, Nov. 14, would have been C.J. Ramstad’s 70th birthday, had he not died in a tragic automobile crash with his son, J.J., in May 2007.

C.J. was an outstanding writer because of his ability to capture the essence of whatever he was writing about.

This column from the Dec. 1983 issue of Snowmobile Magazine is a prime example, as he describes a snowmobile association gathering AND a snowmobiler’s excitement this time of year in rich detail.

I’m leaving now with my son to go deer hunting for the weekend. I’ll be thinking about life, good friends, the approach of winter and snowmobiling, and (of course) C.J.

Happy Birthday C.J.


C.J. Ramstad drawing as it appeared in Snowmobile Magazine circa 1983.


Talkin’ Fresh Powder

It was the cocktail hour before the banquet would begin to celebrate the finish of a very successful annual convention for the snowmobilers of North Dakota. I had arrived an hour before and was standing at the bar waiting for my hosts to arrive. I was about to order a drink when a fellow stepped up and offered to buy a round.

He recognized me from the drawing that appears on this page every issue. He said he wanted to “talk sleds.” I replied that was exactly why I was in North Dakota that Saturday night.

“Y’ know,” he said, as a familiar and faraway look tinkled up in his eyes, “I really look forward to snowmobiling. Heck, I can stand in my fields during the wummer, watching the sun burn my crop, worrying about my yields, my costs, my equipment, wondering if I’ve made the right decisions and just plain worryin’. Then I’ll all of a sudden start thinking about cold weather, snow and riding on the trails with the snow flyiin’ up behind and the drifts over the banks of the river. It sorta makes things seem easier. I guess things are OK as long as I can look forward to a winter of snowmobiling.”

There was a familiar sound in his voice, the sound of a true snowmobiler in late October sensing the approach of his favorite season and loving it.

I wasn’t the only one in the room who noticed. First we were joined by a couple from the same club. Then two or three more joined the circle, followed by three or four more. Soon we had to move away from the bar so the waitresses could put in drink orders.

We moved to a big table as conversations buzzed across and around. The distinct sound of snowmobilers getting charged up for the season lured still more into the mood. The subjects of the day – the new trail mileage, the legislative news, the membership figures – faded as the images of winter and the fun of all-day trail rides, weekend snowmobile trips and flurries filling the air too over.

I had planned a brief presentation for that evening describing the different kinds of snowmobiling I had seen in my years in the sport…in the east, the west and in Europe…but the cocktail party was too much fun and the good ol’ sledder juices were flowiing too strong by the time we sat down to dinner. My little keynote message seemed dull and flat next to the hour’s worth of good conversation just over.

When I was introduced, I stood up and led the group in a cheer to make the grass hurry up and die. Then I told “war stories” about the time we got semi-lost in the northwoods, the big blizzard we rode through that set records in the U.P., the time I went trail riding with a banzai former racing champ, the young Swedish girls who couldn’t wait to meet the “American snowmobile boys.” If 300 like-minded people hoping for something had as much power as these North Dakotans felt like they had that night at the banquet, I’m sure the snow would’ve begun piling up outside the hall’s windows immediately.

October is a little early to begin expecting big snowfalls. But, as I write these words, snow is filling the skies around the Twin Cities as a kind of preamble to the winter of 1984. While it won’t stay on the ground either, two days of white will go a long way toward making the last little bit of waiting easier.

I have my snowmobile gear laid out and I’ve saved my anti-freeze bottles for take-along extra fuel. I’ve serviced the hubs on my trailer and I’ve reviewed all my trail maps…twice. Now we’ll put this issue out and, right about the time you get it, the best season of the year and one of the best winters on record will begin. See you out there!


CLICK HERE to download a PDF of this column for your own safe keeping.

C.J. Ramstad snowmobile column from 1983.



  1. CJ was a hell of a writer who could always capture the true essence of what it is to experience and be passionate about snowmobiling. Supertrax mag died with CJ IMO. There is absolutely no life in that magazine. I wish they put as much effort into the magazine as they do with their TV show. The mag feels like an afterthought to the show. You can literally page through in minutes and not find a need to pick it up again. Its disappointing.

  2. Before I leave tonight I want to thank you for your love for CJ
    He always thought highly of you…as did I
    He was a man of few words on a personal level..
    But he could write a picture with them that touched your soul
    And you’d feel each word as if you were breathing them we were
    Blessed to have known him … He always would say at 40 below…karla you have to press on regardless…my love … I’m still pressing on!!! Xo

  3. Honored that Karla (CJ’s wife) and Marly (his daughter) shared themselves here.

    Very, very few spouses in the snowmobile world were as participatory and supportive as Karla was of CJ. For nearly four decades, she was either alongside CJ at various sledder gatherings, or she’d graciously allowed him to be gone for however long it took for him to “get the story.”

    One reason why CJ was so authentic was because he’d literally experienced everything the sport had to offer. We can also thank Karla for that.

    Thank you Karla and Marly. Peace to both of you.

  4. One of the biggest thrills of my life was getting an email from CJ just as I started writing for the VSCA magazine (Pluedeman’s version) many years ago. That ranks in my mind as above most of the other greats I’ve managed to stumble into during my life. Wish I’d have saved that email. God bless him and his family.

  5. C.J. did a lot for the Antique/Vintage sled people. He was proud of his old Panther and used to tell me of his times when he got a chance to ride it. In all his travels he found a lot of these old machines and would tell me of what he had found. Great guy and a true friend. We all miss him.

  6. I was extremely fortunate to work with CJ starting back in the early 80’s. It was a honor spending time with CJ and Karla. The memories with them on magazine photo shoots, Cat’s Pride events, races, assisting CJ on the Arctic Cat history Legend book, The Jeep I-500, and so many more will always be with me. I can still see CJ with his camera at the races next to a ditch line, hiding behind a tree next to a trail in the woods or at the Eagle River Derby track on his ladder in turn one. When CJ took your photo on the race track it meant something. I never get tired looking at his race pictures. Besides his photography and writing talents he was one of the best ambassadors of snowmobiling, his passion and desire for snowmobiling was unbelievable. CJ taught me many things. I miss him dearly.

  7. Happy Birthday CJ!
    What can you say about a great man that others already know?
    My biggest thrill as a young racer was being at an early 1980’s Quadna snowcross race. At one point of the day, I went into the chalet to use the restroom. As i am standing at the urinal in walks CJ, big smile, camera around his neck, stocking cap tilted just so. He says “Hi Randy”. That made my day and we became friends forever. He flew to Alaska to participate and promote my snowmobile tour business in the early 2000’s. If Edgar Hetteen is the Godfather of snowmobiling, then I vote CJ as Sled Brother #1.


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