The sights, smells and excitement of snowmobiling come to Bear Brook 

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  • Dan Moore from Ludlow, Vermont drives his Artic Cat vintage snowmobile at Bear Brook State Park on Sunday, February 16, 2020. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Dan Moore from Ludlow, Vermont works on his Sno Traveler vintage snowmobile at Bear Brook State Park on Sunday, February 16, 2020. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Joseph Makowski, 5, from Thompson, Connecticut rides his father’s 1977 Artic Cat ‘Kitty Cat’ around the course as people look over the other vintage snowmobiles at Bear Brook Park in Allenstown on Sunday, February 16, 2020. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Joseph Makowski, 5, from Thompson, Connecticut rides his father’s 1977 Artic Cat ‘Kitty Cat’ around the course as people look over the other vintage snowmobiles at Bear Brook Park in Allenstown on Sunday, February 16, 2020. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Joseph Makowski, 5, from Thompson, Connecticut rides his father’s 1977 Artic Cat ‘Kitty Cat’ around the course as people look over the other vintage snowmobiles at Bear Brook Park in Allenstown on Sunday, February 16, 2020. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • First Ski-Doo sold in New Hampshire then called a ‘Ski-Dog.’ GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • David Stroud calls out to the entrants of the Vintage Rally at Bear Brook Museum in Allenstown on Sunday, February 16, 2020. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 2/16/2020 5:54:30 PM

To Dave Stroud, the ear-splitting roar of the engine and the “sweet smell” of its fuel represented what he called “The Power.”

That’s what snowmobile drivers call this combination. Noise, speed, smell.

The Power.

Meanwhile, Dave’s wife, Leslie Stroud, said the engine sounds like ‘noise’ and the sweet smell mentioned by her husband smells like, well, “fuel.”

She says it’s a guy thing, a common trait in the snowmobile community, which on Sunday hosted its 35th New Hampshire Snowmobile Museum Winter Rally.

Leslie and Dave live in New Hampton and were among hundreds of enthusiasts who flocked to Bear Brook State Park in Allenstown, competing to see who’s the fastest, who’s the noisiest and who has the coolest-looking snowmobile.

Snowmobiles, old and new, classics and antiques, were either buzzing through snow or shining in the sun, on display.

It’s a family affair for many. The Strouds have four children and 14 grandchildren, all reared on the finer points of snowmobiling, all comfortable on controlling this beast.

Dave sponsors his own race team. Two of their children were snowmobiling up north on Sunday, in Pittsburg. He recalled the time his 9-year-old grandson’s feet didn’t reach the running boards.

Actually, dad started his proteges even younger  than that.

“Two-and-a-half years old,” Dave said. “You need a big field, plenty of snow and a small motor.” 

The museum in Allenstown acts as the centerpoint for this community, a meeting place and a source of pride, with its rich display of vintage machines and stories galore inside.

In fact, the museum opened in 1985 and, according to a newspaper account, became the first-in-the-nation snowmobile museum in the country.

In fact, there’s a lot of history, mostly hidden from view, said Bud Gordon of Weare, who’s a member of the association’s board of directors. 

“There’s a lot of people who don’t know about the museum,” said Gordon, who added that private donations are always needed.

Which was why Gordon filled my notebook in a flash. He knows it all, and Googling what he said showed that he had his facts straight, with no embellishment.

He said Virgil White of West Ossipee, a young Ford dealer at the time, invented a kit in 1917, used by customers to build the first snowmobiles ever, the Model-T.

“He coined the term ‘snowmobile’ and copyrighted it,” Gordon said. “There was an argument with several states in Canada over who built the first machine, but I’m confident this is right.”

More history. Paul Crane of Lancaster was the first U.S. citizen to ride and sell the Ski-Doo, in 1959. A collection of these yellow babies stand in the museum, lined up like old soldiers, still proud and ready for duty.

A sign in front labeled them “Ski-Dog,” the original name, called that because it was designed to replace the sled dog.

For a while, the Bear Brook museum strengthened the sport. After a lull in participation, this year’s rally was packed, to the point where Gordon was late getting his paperwork finished.

“Very busy this year,” Gordon said. “We have over 100 sleds right here right now. It’s more than we’ve had in the last 10 years. The hobby died off for a while when the economy wasn’t so great.”

It’s back. Jennifer Tom and her boyfriend, Jim Maurais, came from Windham, Maine, a 100-mile trip. They both grew up with the sounds and speeds and smells that accompany snowmobiling.

Jim was showing four of the 18 machines he owns that run. He’s restoring a few others that sit silently at his home, some close to 50 years old, including the original snowmobiles once owned by his grandparents. 

One runs. The other should be growling soon.

“I call his backyard the snowmobile graveyard,” Tom said. “He’s got parts for all the ones that he’s working on.”

Maurais brought four snowmobiles with him, to ride, to show, to beam with pride. So did Dave and Leslie.

Leslie doesn’t have any technical knowledge, nor does she want to know about hoses, wires, whatever.

Her ears sting a little from the engine noise, especially at an event like Sunday’s. Her nose gets a bit overwhelmed as well. But she knows the real passionate participants in this sport crave the noise and the speed and the smell.

In fact, Leslie went so far as to buy Dave a Klotz Candle for home use. She said many of the wives connected to the scene buy them for their husbands.

Light it while working on your machine. It smells like high-octane racing fuel. You can feel right at home. At home.

“It smells like fuel to me,” Leslie said.

   “A sweet smell,” Dave said. “It’s power.”




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