I moved to Vermont in 2013 (yeah, flatlander, I know) and we ended up buying a house right on the SnoBees trail system in 2014. I had never ridden a snowmobile before, but it seemed like something I would be in to as I enjoyed the outdoors and was fairly proficient on a jet ski.
So I bought an older sled, riding gear, got insured and went to buy a TMA through VAST online. I had to select a club, and there were a lot to choose from, so I just randomly selected the SnoBees of Barre as that seemed like the closest one.
As I waited for the season to start, magically the trail markers and signs appeared. I thought to myself, “that’s pretty cool, I guess the clubs have a paid staff that goes out to set up the trails”. For the next two seasons I rode ignorant and oblivious on the trails around Barre, Plainfield, Groton, East Montpelier and so on as I got used to riding. I would be ecstatic when the trails were freshly groomed, and when they weren’t and were rough I again ignorantly thought “man, someone is slacking on their job”. In these two seasons I maybe averaged 300-400 miles
I’m being brutally honest here in the interests of full disclosure. Yes, I was “that guy”. Looking back I cringe at how selfish and downright asinine my attitude was, but in my defense I truly didn’t know any better. I just had not stopped to think about, or do any research into, what all went in to providing those trails for me to ride on.
One fine late fall day I walked into Laquerre’s in East Montpelier and saw a black and sunburst orange Switchback Assault sitting on the showroom floor, and knew instantly that I had to have it. With the improvement in comfort and performance, I put in almost 2,500 miles that season and I was completely hooked on the sport. When I wasn’t riding, I was thinking about riding. When I was sleeping, I was dreaming about riding.
Towards the end of that season while having a rest stop and a conversation with other riders at an intersection, one of them suggested that since I loved riding so much I should go to the meetings of my club. I didn’t even know the clubs held meetings. Again, my ignorance was overwhelming. I looked up when the SnoBees met and headed over for the next meeting unsure of what to expect.
When I arrived at my first meeting in March, I was immediately struck by how few people there were under the age of 30. I’d seen thousands of people riding on their trails, but there were maybe 20 people in attendance. As I sat and listened to the club business being discussed, I rapidly identified a theme. It was the same people doing the bulk of the work. Oh, so all these folks volunteer their time to maintain the groomer, make the signs, place the signs and markers, take them down, etc.?
Boy did I feel like an idiot. And at that meeting my awakening began.
I volunteered to adopt the section of trail from my house out to the next intersection. When the season ended I took down all the signs, walked the entire trail section picking up all the trash and beer cans, and generally ensuring we left it in the right shape for the landowner. I took pride in it because now I was personally invested in the sport, my club, and maintaining a relationship of mutual trust with my neighbors who let the trail pass through their land.
In the off season I got involved with trail work projects, and enjoyed giving back to the sport and the club that allows for me to ride. I met great people and felt a sense of community and belonging. I looked forward to our club meetings and hours spent pounding in stakes for trail markers.
Towards the end of the next season it had become apparent through the meetings each month that our club website was a problem. It was many years old and coded in raw HTML and made navigating it, and updating it a big problem for the club. I used to build websites as a hobby, so I sat down one afternoon with a 4 pack of good Vermont IPA and spent two hours building out the website you are reading this on as an example.
At the next club meeting I presented the website as an option and said I would be more than happy to manage it and continue to build it, along with taking over our social media properties as I do social media marketing for a living.
At the end of the season I was nominated and voted in as a Club Officer as the Webmaster, a position I enjoy that allows me to leverage my skills and experience to benefit the club, VAST, and the sport of Snowmobiling in Vermont.
The point of this essay is this. DON’T BE THE OLD ME. If you ride, seek out and get involved with your local club, whichever one that may be. Our sport will live or die based on the contributions of the volunteers that make it happen. All of us have skills, talents, and passions. I guarantee that there is a way YOURS will benefit your club and the sport. But you won’t know unless you take that step and show up to a meeting.
SnoBees Snowmobile Club of Barre