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Old 10-29-2010   #1
Dave Frank's Avatar
Boulder, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1995
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 2,727
How I ended up buying a snowmobile

How I ended up buying a snowmobile

I’d been eying up snowmobiles with mixed emotions. On one hand they are loud and obnoxious, destroying an otherwise peaceful outdoor experience, and stinking up the air in the process. On the other hand they can get you to some amazing places that you would never be able to access by human power alone.

We’ve been skinning in to a remote cabin that would take a physically fit skier just a couple of hours to access. When you stick a pack on your 8 year old kid and try to get him to climb uphill for 3 miles, much resistance is encountered. While he did make it to the cabin a few times and have a great time once there, coaxing him up the hill took most of the day and turned a fun vacation into a forced march, with many planned and unplanned breaks.

Days before going in the next time I made the following call: Hey Sean, can I borrow your sled to get to the cabin next weekend? I’ll trade you a weekend with my raft in the spring.

Sean: “I’d probably say no to anyone else, but I trust you and would love to trade for a weekend with your raft.”

Riley was excited beyond words about this development; excited to the point of struggling with sleep for the rest of the week.

That saturday morning as we got to the trailhead, I felt a mix of guilt and excitement as the two stroke kicked to life and thickened the air with blue smoke and the brap brap of the throttle .

A ten minute ride had the family up at the cabin, with a much heavier load than we would have skied in with. We lit a fire in the wood stove and I took the sled for a quick lap to better get the feel of it. Driving a sled on a groomed trail is one thing. Turning a big sled around with little experience in a tight space, quickly resulted in a stuck sled. Stuck to the point of walking back to the cabin to get the BIG shovel, as digging it out with my avy shovel was going to take all day.

I showed up without the sled and quickly explained the dilemma. My wife and son skied back with me and we had it dug out in 15 minutes and back on the trail.

Next, I drove it back down to the truck to get the giant cooler and the dog. Not surprisingly, Eddy was not too interested in getting on the noisy machine. No worries, he was happy to follow along at at good clip for a mile or more. As he started to tire, I stopped and had to engage the parking brake to keep it form sliding backwards on the steep road. Eddy caught up and didn’t complain too much as i loaded him up in my lap and proceeded slowly up the trail with one hand on the throttle and the other around the pup.

Within half a mile there was smoke coming out of the handlebars and flames licking at my ski boot.

I know just enough about sleds to know exactly what was going on. Unlike putting a car in park, the sled is always ready to go, brake or not. The powerful 800 cc motor didn’t complain one bit when we had left the line with the brake fully engaged. Since we were only trying to go 15 or so, none of the power seemed to be missing. In all of their brilliance, the designers placed the 2 stroke oil injection tank directly above the brake pads and rotor, with just a tin can of a heat shield separating the now glowing hot brakes from a plastic tank of combustibles.

I stopped immediately. the dog ran for safety as I threw open the hood and piled arm-fulls of snow to smother the flames. After realizing the danger had past, I dug it out and took stock of what was left. The sled would be going no further under its own power that day, if ever. Melted wires, starter cord and the oil reservoir were obvious. Not so apparent was how close the plastic fuel tank had come to joining the party. Thats right it was probably moments from going up in a ball of flames like a movie stunt.

I donned skis and and skins and returned to the cabin sans sled for the second time in an hour.

Riley: “Dad where’s the sled?”

“a mile down the hill, burned and ruined”

The tears that followed could have helped put the fire out.

After a few moments to regroup, we skied back to the scene of the disaster. My wife and kid loaded up packs with the (heavy) cooler items, while I skied out to the interstate for cell coverage to call friends in to help on the recovery mission.

Boy its good to have friends. Within an hour or two Scott and Jeff showed up ready to help. They rode me back up to the scene of the crime and helped carry the last of the groceries in to the cabin, gave Riley a nice consolation ride and then helped me tow the ruined sled back to my truck. They even offered a loaner sled for the rest of the weekend! I wisely declined, knowing I already owed one friend a new sled.

We enjoyed the rest of the weekend under human power, regretting ever having thought about borrowing a toy we couldn’t afford ourselves.

Me: “Sean, this is that phone call that neither one of us wants to be having.” He was pretty cool about the whole thing, and I ended up buying out the sled for a price we both thought was fair, even if neither one of us was particularly excited about the situation.

I spent many hours that spring finding used parts on e-bay and learning how to fix it. I am now the (not so proud) owner of a rebuilt sled that ended up costing me close to twice what it is worth.

While the sled is for sale for significantly less than I have in it, right now I have an 800 cc snowmobile and I am going to take Riley for a ride. I rolled the raft up today and put the sled on the trailer. Winter is almost here.


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Old 10-29-2010   #2
Longmont, Colorado
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Old 10-29-2010   #3
FoCo,NoCo, Colorado
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 280
A story well told.
Congratulations on the sled!
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Old 10-29-2010   #4
El Flaco's Avatar
Golden, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1984
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Posts: 1,879
Oh Man.
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Old 10-29-2010   #5
grandyoso's Avatar
Icebox, Colorado
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Great Story...Lets see some pics... Before and after?
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Old 10-31-2010   #6
jeroland's Avatar
Carbondale, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1994
Join Date: May 2009
Posts: 22
As a fellow snowmobiler/rafter/skier I can relate to your story pretty well. I don't have any kids but I know that growing up in a single-mother household I never had access to any snowmobiles, but know how your son must have felt about getting on a sled for the first time... and the disappointment both you and he must have felt when it all went south. As a kid, I was also the type that had to be coaxed endlessly to do anything under my own power... but I always ended up appreciating it in the end with a proud feeling of accomplishment.

When I finally got old enough and saved up enough to get my own sled things changed for me. It's funny though, because I can also totally relate to how you feel about sleds being noisy, dirty, and obnoxious, but I always get over it because I feel like I have a good balance of activities under my belt. I believe that this is the most important part... Not getting sucked into just one activity, but having a whole range of activities that I can take part in keeps my life more interesting... I can appreciate the solace in a backcountry ski trip, a relaxing day on the river, or a balls to the wall rip on my sled across powder covered distances in the wild, which as you said, you could never access on a pair of skis and skins alone...

So, although your circumstances were definitely not ideal for getting a snowmobile, I hope that you and your family can continue to enjoy what it can bring you, and I hope that this experience doesn't totally leave a bad taste in your mouth. I hope you'll reconsider the sale of your machine, and keep it instead. I'm sure your son will thank you for it, and as long as both you and he can learn to operate it responsibly, this sort of thing should never happen to you again. My advice would be that you get to know the ins and outs, or dos and don'ts of snowmobiling with one of your snowmobiling friends. Good luck, and I hope to catch you out on the trails, rivers and slopes... just remember to disengage that E-brake before you set off!
All you got to do is do it.
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Old 10-31-2010   #7
Dave Frank's Avatar
Boulder, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1995
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 2,727
I'm not as opposed to owning it as my essay may have implied. Finances may dictate that it goes, so maybe I just want to act like i don't want to keep it...Expensive habit vs. selling it and regaining (some) cash.

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Old 11-01-2010   #8
The next zone, .
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 1,200
I have said it before and will say it again.. Most of you dont want a sled and pry cant handle what it will throw at you in the BC ....

It is way better to do the rat race hiking thing close to the roads (ck out berthod pass I hear it is very nice) and leave the rest of it to us - who are not afraid of gettin a bit dirty and stinky. I mean never crossing lines, gettin laps in at 3 laps a hr, 20 or more miles back, and with only your crew around is highly overrated. Not fun at all - move on nothing to see here!

Ha ha! Dave if you keep it bring her up to BV I would be more than happy to take you out and anwser any questions that you may have.. Questions like what that little plastic piece does on the brake lever ..

Great story and I hope you decide to keep it!
"I feel better than any other time when I am in the mountains and uh I cant explain it ya know...." - Shawn Farmer..........
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Old 11-01-2010   #9
Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 200
Good story, but one question...

So did your raft come back in one piece when he used it this summer or did he wrap and sink it somewhere!?

A good lesson there for all of who borrow gear!
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Old 11-01-2010   #10
Dave Frank's Avatar
Boulder, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1995
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 2,727
Sean may have learned from my experience. While i made it clear that the offer still stood 9 and still does) he did not take advantage of it this year.

RD, thanks for the offer; I'd love to come ride it with you soon. I'd really love to keep it, stink, noise and all, it may have to go for financial reasons- we'll see. I do plan to register it this week and take it out soon.


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