As I flip through the outrageous early season snowmobile photos posted by nearly every other sledder on the continent, I sit and wonder how we Newfoundlanders can remain so passionate about the sport. On this island there are more sleds per person than any other place on the planet and yet we may have to wait till late January for a decent run and in certain years – may never see a single blade of snow. An island state located off the east coast of Canada, Newfoundland sticks her nose into two very different ocean currents which creates schizophrenic weather patterns that might bring us unfathomable depths of the white stuff or leave us swinging golf clubs through an entire winter season. Which is a little misleading since good common sense would suggest that you’re far more likely to find us hanging in our stores (sheds, stages, garages, etc) where we gather with friends to talk about the upcoming season or stories from years past?
Which is probably the very best part of the sport and the real reason we remain so terribly dedicated. After all, there is no other environment that embraces such an eclectic group of individuals. From the wealthiest businessman to the average Joe, senior citizen and junior racer, the seasoned expert to the novice rider – snowmobiling welcomes one and all with a sense of camaraderie that is cherished and often embellished as we revel in our feats of bravado, the joys, frustrations and humour that ensues. Of course there are few who can compare to a Newfoundlander when it comes to relaying a story and so I thought this might be a great opportunity to share one of my favorite ‘yarns’.
Several years ago when we were running Strawberry Hill Resort our head guide, Dave Crewe, invited a buddy of his to lend a hand with a rather large group of beginner riders who were joining us on a very snowy weekend. His friend proved to be an excellent asset to the team and we were more than appreciative of the strength and endurance he exhibited as we pulled nearly 100 sleds free on our first day. Stuck? You’ve never seen the like and while all hands maintained their good cheer – it was largely due to the fact that Fred was always on the ready. More amazingly, we were nearly half way through the second day of our trip when we discovered that Fred had an artificial leg. Unbelievable actually, especially when you consider the fact that he never left the dance floor the first night he arrived and despite the amount he drank at the ball, the only reason he didn’t take the wheel that evening was – “No man, I can’t drive. I’ve got no gum or nothing!” Needless to say, Fred was quite the character; dismissing our awe and the ensuing inquisition by explaining that he lost his lower leg in an industrial accident nearly 20 years ago and the insurance company kept him in the latest and greatest technology – “I allow this one is so real I’ll have to cut the toenails on it by the end of the month!”
While nearly every Newfoundlander exhibits qualities that are both endearing and entertaining, Fred had won a very special place in all our hearts and there was no way we were letting him duck our farewell dinner that Sunday evening. Despite his protests about his dress and experience with fancy restaurants – “bet they don’t even have canned milk for your tea down there” – we persisted and at last he agreed to join us. We all cheered as he entered the dining room and the leader of the tour group stood immediately, bringing forth a glass of wine so that Fred might be included in our toast. Waxing on for some length, he finished with an explanation of the wine he had chosen to compliment the occasion, the meal and the company. We cheered, tipped our glasses and as all eyes swung to Fred he threw the glass on top of his head, downed its contents in a single gulp and with a grimace exclaimed – “Whoa man! Now that’s powerful stuff! What’s the proof on that?”
Eh boy! I suppose all snowmobilers can experience a certain handicap when it comes to our riding environment but as Fred proved so many times that weekend – It’s especially hard to keep a good man down around these parts!
Sweat your brains out!