After about 45 years of snowmobiling, I’m over it. Done. Outta here. Sorry, but that’s where it’s come to after the pure misery of the past four months.
Here’s how it went down:
“I quit!” were the exact words I said to my wife Kate a few weeks ago when it was evident that winter would not show up in central Minnesota for third year in a row.
“What are you quitting honey?” she asked without raising an eye from the iPad she was using to scroll through the lovely vacation photos and political rants of her friends on Facebag.
“Snowmobiling,” I replied.
“Why would you quit something that you hardly do anymore,” she quizzed while simultaneously shoving the dagger a little further into my soul, then giving it a little extra twist?
“That’s the problem,” I shot back! “That’s three crap winters in a row; three years in which our club hasn’t groomed trails and countless plans and rides ruined by that bitch Mother Nature.
“I’m done. Over it,” I added.
She let out a little laugh and shook her head for a moment. I’m not sure if it was directed at me, or the video of a dog licking a cat’s ass that was making the rounds on Facebag that day. Either way, I felt like I was the butt of the joke for believing that 2017 was going to be an epic winter of snowmobiling in the Midwest.
I blame myself.
I should have seen the signs way back in October, when I naively anticipated a cold and snowy winter like the one we had in 2014. The television meteorologists were unanimous in proclaiming that this would be a La Nina year rather than El Nino, which usually means snowier than normal. The annual migration of waterfowl from Canada to the Gulf states began a couple weeks earlier than normal, with the assumption being that winter would arrive sooner and harsher (read: colder) than normal. And then there was that crap from the rag Farmer’s Almanac saying that we’d experience 600 inches of snow, or something like that.
I admit my own behavior helped sabotaged any chance for a good winter. First, I put new bearings and grease in my trailer hubs for the first time since I bought the thing in 1992. Next, with the help of some friends and neighbors, I installed signs on about six miles worth of trail for the Prior Lake Snowmobile Association. That by itself doesn’t qualify as sabotage, but the fact that I did it early, while the ground was still soft, rather than at 2am during the first snowstorm, meant that I was tempting fate. Of course I pretty much assured my part of Minnesota would be snow-free much of the winter by taking delivery of a new 2017 Arctic Cat XF 6000 Cross Country.
I didn’t just screw up Minnesota. Nope, I wrecked it for my neighbors to the east when I bought a non-resident trail pass for Wisconsin.
In hindsight I should have seen what was coming. But as a former snowmobiler, I was hopelessly optimistic.
It doesn’t help that Mother Nature is a devilish prankster. She tossed a few early, teaser snowfalls in early December so that I could get a few photos and fully commit my faith that BIG WINTER was just around the corner.
Christmas came and went. There were a few day’s worth of riding, especially if one was willing to trailer to greater Minnesota. But winter is still young in by the time New Years hits, so my hope was still high.
January showed flashes of greatness, although the best riding in required a few hours in the truck before unloading. Somehow I managed to ride every single day that month (yes, a story is coming on that), but there were A LOT of days that looked more like dirt biking than snowmobiling.
Even still, I never panicked: thinking back to our winter of 2013, when it was brown until Jan. 30 and then we got dumped on, followed by two-plus months of cold temps and great riding. Surely this would happen again, right?
My son and I had one great trip to northern Minnesota in early February, as there was good snow there (and in neighboring northern Wisconsin). A week later, while in St. Germain, Wis., for the Snowmobile Hall of Fame weekend, Mother Nature revealed her true cruel self, in the form of three consecutive days of 60-plus degrees and bright sunshine. What beautiful snow had been on the ground soon turned to brown $#!t.
Again in hindsight, getting a Early Release ZR 8000 Sno Pro with the new C-TEC2 engine midway through February was horrible, ridiculous mistake.
What little faith remained was duly kicked in the crotch when the “High School Hockey Tournament” snowstorms those Minnesota weather historians always reference when talking about early March weather, failed to materialize.
There was a tiny last flicker of hope that resided deep in my soul, but it was unceremoniously and slowly extinguished when the typical mid-March blizzard that NORMALLY dumps a half-foot or more on the state’s North Shore was MIA.
Fool me once, shame on you Mother Nature. Fool me December, January, February and March for the past three years, shame on me and the rest of the idiot snowmobilers.
I am, as they say, a broken man. Sort of like Old Man Winter himself.
And so I’ve decided the best way to navigate future winters is by being an “indoor” person. I’m quitting snowmobiling.
I don’t know exactly what I’ll do beginning next December. Maybe binge-watch every episode of Downton Abbey. Probably do a lot shopping for clothes at the mall. I’ve started to price homes in Phoenix and Orlando, so we’ll see what comes of it. I’ll remember the great times of riding with friends and sharing the stories here.
I’m not sure what will become of ArcticInsider. Maybe some young fool who still believes in winter will step in and make a go of it? Or maybe it will fold into TextronInsider.com?
Dunno, don’t care. All I can say is adios, suckers. There isn’t going to be any winter now. It’s April, and I’m nobody’s fool.