Sledding Traditions

Readers share their snowmobiling heritage and how they keep it alive
Simple questions for our readers, what are your family’s snowmobiling traditions and how do you keep the love of the sport alive? That’s what we asked, and these are their responses that we feel sum up what many of us do, or have done, through the years. The key always seems to be a deep abiding love for snowmobiling itself, and the ways it has drawn and kept our families together.
Owen Titanich Drayton Valley Alberta Canada snowmobile poker rally
Owen Titanich Drayton Valley Alberta Canada snowmobile poker rally
"We are from Drayton Valley, Alberta, and every February is our annual Family and Friends Poker Rally. It’s a 100 km ride, or more. We start from our place’s sled shed where everyone draws a card. We stop three times on the trail for cards, then draw the last one when we get back. The ride runs along a river system for about 38 km, then off into the crown land full of bush trails. I mark about 120 km of trail. Halfway through the ride, we pause for a campfire and hot dog roast! Then the ride continues across grazing land, back to the river and then home. With our group it doesn’t matter what kind of, or age, machine you have. We can usually fix any breakdown as we carry plenty of spark plugs and duct tape! When we get back, there is a huge pot of chili and buns for supper, and we determine the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners. I usually have a few door prizes that we draw for as well. The jug of snowmobile oil is always what everyone wants to win! We all have a lot of fun and share awesome memories. I’m already looking forward to this year’s rally!
Owen Titanich
Drayton Valley, Alberta, Canada
A few years ago, our kids (married with children) were looking for something to do over Christmas. We decided to go “up north,” as we say in Michigan, to stay at a hotel, and spend New Year’s. It was much better than watching the ball drop on TV back home. 
Darius Rudis Lavonia Michigan annual snowmobiling trip up north
We invited the family, and friends, and booked several rooms at the same hotel. During the day we took our grandkids on a short snowmobile ride. We were able to swap babysitting while adults went for a ride, and others tag teamed staying at the pool with the kids.

In the evening, while the kids were sleeping in their rooms, the adults spent time in the lobby (with baby monitors) just sitting around and chatting with family and friends. The hotel even put on a nice spread for the evening. It was an enjoyable time. Not only did we get a nice weekend of snowmobiling, but hung out with friends, and family, and grandkids.

In fact, we all enjoyed it so much, we’ve decided to make it an annual event, which reminds me, I need to make reservations for this year!
Darius Rudis
Lavonia, Michigan
My fondest memory is of riding on a Rupp in Thompsonville, Mich., to go out and cut down a Christmas tree, then pulling it back in all the snow with my Grandpa D. He used his snowmobile as a workhorse, while my Grandpa Art used sleds as toys for fun. I was fortunate to have heavy winter snowfalls and a lot of toys, courtesy of both grandfathers and Vance, my father.

Our family lived for the weekends and lake racing and riding on Lake Orion, Mich.

Grandpa Art was a hard-working family man who worked at the local General Motors plant. He had all the toys: A Ski-Doo, an Arctic Cat, a Yamaha, and a “cutter” Ski-Doo yellow buggy (we still have). He owned a lake house with a huge pole barn he used to store them in. We were in the pole barn wrenching constantly as those old sleds always needed repairs.

When I was 10 he taught me to drive a Yamaha SRX. I would drive, and he would ride behind me without a helmet, just wearing a fur hat and chewing a cigar. He pretty much just let me go as fast as I wanted to and we always ended up watching the snowmobile races on the lake, where there were any spectators telling stories, and checking out each other’s machines.
Amy D’Onofrio Lake Orion Michigan grandfather snowmobiling tradition
Amy D’Onofrio Lake Orion Michigan grandfather snowmobiling tradition
Grandpa Art had one of the coolest lake race sleds ever. In fact, we still have it, a rare 1973 Arctic Cat EXT 650 triple (less than 250 sold). In 1973 it was $2,000 out the door from Dixie Marine.

I love that Cat and have always had an affinity for its cheetah-look seat, that and its loud rumble. This 650 was fast and could take anything at the time. I don’t think anyone in our family could ever part with it and its timeless memories.

While we loved our Cat, we watched sleds of all brands, with all types and ages of people race on the lake. It was a fun time growing up, and something cool to do on the weekends.

My brother and I also enjoyed taking joy rides in that bright yellow “cutter” behind my grandpa’s English setters.

Now that I think about it, I was probably one of the only girls out snowmobiling at a young age. And as a teen, I would race my own 580 EXT Arctic Cat. Along the way I fell in love with trail riding, and the lake race craze fizzled. When my grandfather passed away in 1999, I turned my attention to trail riding with my dad.

I continue to live for my winter weekends trail riding in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula with dad, who is 62. We ride all over, backpack and saddle bag for weeks, going town to town. I will never give this up, so long as it keeps snowing.

I now have 11,000 miles on my 2015 XF Arctic Cat 1100 turbo. It is my freedom, something that clears my head after the busy rat race and stress of nursing work.

I still ride the lake I grew up on, and we still own my grandparents’ home, but these days the lake doesn’t always freeze, and it now seems so small. Yet snowmobiling is everything to me because this seed was planted young, and it was something we just did growing up. It is our family’s legacy.
Amy D’Onofrio
Lake Orion, Michigan
Every family has traditions, but it takes a special family to race together. That tradition started in 2014 and it just gets better every year! Our family snowmobiling started when I was a toddler. We would go to Island Park (Idaho) each year after Christmas, and spend through New Year’s riding and playing together. I have four brothers, so to say Mom and Dad were dealing with a lot of horsepower is an understatement!
Cordell Barnard Idaho Falls snowmobile family racing team
Cordell Barnard Idaho Falls snowmobile family racing team
We started riding in a Ski-Boose behind Dad’s sled, then got the older boys got sleds and the younger ones rode with Mom and Dad. I remember riding in front of Dad on his Polaris XLT when I was four. He would jump off into a powder field or start a climb. He’d stand, so I would stand, he would lean and dangle, so I would lean and dangle. Dad got as much of a kick out of it as I did!

At lunch we would stop to cook a hot dog and brag among the brothers. We frequently stopped at a ridge that named the “Lunch Counter.” We got to be pretty good riders, even Mom would go on the boondocking rides.

Now we race the RMSHA circuit, and it’s a team sport. It takes a lot of teamwork to stay competitive. I’m blessed that I have the support and backup that I do.

Before the season, the family makes goals. Dad always says “Cort, we gotta be smooth ... like Keith smooth.” At races our trailer is filled with sleds, parts, food, and gear! Mom is always there with snacks, food, and drinks. She makes sure she grabs a good book, snuggles up in the zero-gravity chair, and waits for the racing. We each have an important role to play to make the team work well. When the Barnard family does anything, we do it as a team. We succeed as a team, or fail as a team.

This snowmobile family tradition is one I’m so excited to share with my kids! A sport in which we play together, while working together. There’s just not a better feeling in the world than chasing your dreams with the people you love; all while riding a Polaris!
Cordell Barnard
Idaho Falls, Idaho
Want to leave a comment?
Only registered members of are allowed to leave comments. Registration is FREE and only takes a couple minutes.

Login or Register now.
Sign up for our free newsletter
By signing up you may also receive reader surveys and occasional special offers. We do not sell, rent or trade our email lists. View our Privacy Policy.