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February 10. 2013 7:52PM

Weekend's snow was right on time for snowmobile rally


Berlin resident Steve Dickinson shows off his 1966 Arctic Cat, just one in his collection of about a dozen antique snowmobiles. (BARBARA TAORMINA PHOTO)

ALLENSTOWN -- The blizzard's timing was impeccable for a couple of hundred winter warriors who spent the sunny Sunday morning aftermath of the storm at the 28th annual Snowmobile Museum Winter Rally at Bear Brook State Park in Allenstown.

"We came last year, and there was all grass," said Steve Dickinson who brought his vintage 1966 Arctic Cat down from Berlin for the rally. "This is much better weather. If you don't think you're going to be seeing some snow then maybe you shouldn't be living here."

Although there were some powerful new Polaris snowmobiles and Ski-doos lined up next to the museum, the rally is an opportunity for collectors such as Dickinson to display older sleds that have been meticulously preserved and refurbished. "It's a hobby," said Dickinson who maintains a dozen different older sleds when he's not busy running his convenience store, Bob's Variety. "It's a full-time spare time hobby," said Belmont resident Jake Marsh who said hundreds of hours can go into caring for older snowmobiles. "A lot of people take pride on the restoration."

Marsh's bright orange 1970 All Sports Tracker, which looks a little like a miniature Mustang on skis, was drawing plenty of attention and compliments. Vintage snowmobiles require a love of serious mechanical tinkering and an appreciation of technology, but the biggest draw is a shared admiration for how the sleds gave people a win in the endless battle between man and nature. "I like that we can share the past and the early years of snow travel," said Danbury resident Allan Houle, a member of the Snowmobile Museum's board of directors. Candia resident Dan Lewis, the current president of the Snowmobile Museum Association, the only state-sponsored snowmobile museum in the country, said the sleds played an important role in New Hampshire's history and the histories of all people who have lived in remote areas with relentless winters. One of the museum's prized machines is a Model T Ford converted into a snow Lizzie by Virgil White who owned a Ford dealership in Ossipee during the 1920s.

According to snowmobile historian Paul Doherty, White's Model T snowmobiles were used by doctors, mailmen, milkmen, loggers, trappers, undertakers and one was built especially for Admiral Richard Byrd to use while exploring Antarctica.

"They were originally work vehicles," said Lewis who added the museum was launched to preserve that part of the story. But Lewis and other snowmobilers also enjoy the sport and the speed of racing, and the winter touring that's difficult or impossible on skis.

Like many at the rally, Michelle Lessner of Pembroke grew up around snowmobiles, her dad was a snowmobile dealer.

"You can go places in the woods that you can't get to otherwise," said Lessner. "And you see a lot of nature and wildlife." Lessner also said snowmobile riders have created a wintertime community of people always ready to help one another with a tool or a tow.

"We're all the same type of people," said Marsh. "We like the same things." And they all understand what Deerfield resident Lori Archer, the treasurer of the Snowmobile Museum Association means when she says snowmobiling is amazing."Getting out there are seeing everything, it's just a lot of fun," said Archer. "And I love the vintage snowmobiles for the pioneers that started snow traveling and the people who are now breathing new life into the old sleds."


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