My name is Kyle Hofland. I’m 19 and hail from Lefroy, Ontario, Canada.
I’d like to share a story with you, about my great uncle, Doug Hofland (above), who raced Arctic Cat snowmobiles in the 1970s, owned an Arctic Cat dealership and helped ignite my own passion for the sport.
Uncle Doug’s snowmobiling story began with his friend Wally who owned Wally’s Winter Sports, originally a Ski-Doo dealer in Bradford, Ontario. Doug started racing with Wally’s sponsorship in 1960’s and early 1970’s. One of his biggest wins was the World Series in Rhinelander, Wisconsin.
In 1971, Wally switched from selling Ski-Doo’s to Arctic Cat’s, but he could not keep up with the pace of business. That year, he “gave” the dealership to Doug. Doug relocated the dealership to his hometown of Belle Ewart, Ontario, changed the name to Sno Runner Sales & Service, and began racing Cat’s in OSRF oval competition.
There was a lot of attention to the OSRF in those days. There were many cases where Team Arctic legends such as Larry Coltom, Charlie Lofton, and Jim Dimmerman competed in Peterborough, Ontario, for the Kawartha Cup.
Doug was good friends with fellow racer and legend Gilles Villeneuve (above, with brother Jacques), competing with him at select OSRF events.
In that era, Doug’s prize winning sled was his 1976 Arctic Cat Z 440, which he’d modified with his “infamous” full-mod 650 Kawasaki Triple that he’d pulled from his former 1972 EXT race sled.
Doug’s riding style was also very unique. Being a very tall man, he had to stand & lean into corners rather than sitting on the seat. I don’t recall him winning any Championships, although he was very close in the 1976 season.
Uncle Doug retired from racing at the end of the 1977-78 racing season. The time required to run the dealership, as well as being a Volunteer Firefighter, demanded that he quit racing. So at the end of the season, Doug and my Uncle Craig (who raced for Mercury with Sandy Cove Marine) restored Doug’s 1976 Z 440 from top to bottom.
November 1978 came around and it was a busy time at the dealership. Many customers were ordering snowmobiles and others were waiting on the arrival of their sleds. Uncle Doug sold 21 brand new Jag 3000’s to different customers.
One night, two of his friends were welding a trailer inside the shop when they decided to shut down for the night. Around 10pm, Uncle Doug, along with my Grandfather and 20 additional firefighters were paged to the shop for the report of a fire. They showed up to find the fire smoldering inside, but when one of the Firefighters opened up the main door, the whole shop went up in flames.
The only sleds that were saved were two Alouette Jr. Brutes out the front door, and two customer sleds out the back. Twenty-one brand-new Jags, Uncle Doug’s Z 440 and everything else inside the shop were lost.
To make matters worse, he had no insurance.
The next day was stressful. Having lost everything in the fire, customers needed their sleds fixed for the season. With the help of the community, Doug found a shop to use, with many people donating tools, compressors, and other means to help him out. Sno Runner was re-opened less than 24 hours after the fire took out the original building.
Doug kept himself busy during the Arctic Enterprises “Gone Fishing” bankruptcy period of 1982-83 by simply servicing & repairing snowmobiles. When the Arctic Cat returned to business they approached Doug about being a dealer once again. He didn’t hesitate for even a moment to say, “Yes!”
Soon after, he re-located the dealership to his home in Belle Ewart. It soon became one of the “smallest of the biggest” dealers in Canada. He won Dealer of the Year honors for all of Canada three years in a row. Unique was his setup was the fact that he used zero advertising, he only hired family and close friends, and his showroom was literally outside.
It really boomed all the way from the late 1980’s until the mid 1990’s. That was when the year came when tragedy struck our family.
In May of 1996, Uncle Doug was up at his cabin in Haliburton Forest in Haliburton, Ontario for a weekend away. In the middle of the night, the trailer caught fire. Uncle Doug died in the fire along with his dog.
The next winter was very tough on the family, including how to handle the dealership. The family decided to split ownership between my Great Aunt, my dad and his three brothers. In the fall of 1998, my Great Aunt cancelled the 1999 order and decided to sell off everything. After nearly 30 years, the Sno Runner legacy was over.
It should not be known that the end of Sno Runner was necessarily sad. My dad purchased one of the “early build” 1998 ZR 500’s and still owns it to this day. He always says, “This was the very last sled I bought out of our shop, and I would sell everything I own before I part with this sled.”
My dad and I started our own sled repair shop about five years ago, called Sno Runner 2. We’re continuing the legacy of Uncle Doug. Our goal in the next ten years is to reopen Sno Runner 2 as an Authorized Arctic Cat dealer.
Kyle Hofland, above, with three favorite Arctic Cats.
It’s still very sad that Uncle Doug is gone. Having been only 2-years old at the time, I never really got to know him, but the stories and memories I have are vivid and colorful. No matter what, I am more than proud to say I was the Great-Nephew of Doug Hofland.
Thanks for taking the time to read about my Uncle Doug.