How snowmobiling began in Ticonderoga

By, Patrick Hendrix of The Adirondack Trail Riders

The first snowmobile was built in 1913 by a New Hampshire man named Virgil D. White, he built a caterpillar track unit to be adapted for the Model T Ford. In 1925 Carl Eliason built the motor toboggan and was granted a patent on the design. In the late 1940's companies began to build over the snow vehicles called “Iron Dogs”. The major breakthrough for recreational snowmobiles came in 1958. J. Armand Bombardier developed what people commonly refer to as the first consumer snowmobile and was initially called the “Ski-Dog”. The company quickly changed the name to Ski-Doo and production units hit the snow in 1959. Ski-Doo is celebrating 50 years as a snowmobile manufacturer and is one of four remaining manufacturers of snowmobiles.

The first snowmobile club in Ticonderoga(Adirondack Snowmobile Club) was formed in 1969 and Doug Spring was elected president. The first meeting was held at Roxies Restaurant on street road which approximately 65 people attended. Doug accepted the nomination to be president of the club, but only for the first year to help the club get established. Harry Geiser would become the next president and be involved through the mid 70's. The local club would organize group rides to Miller Mountain (Midnight Runs) and would enjoy each others company while sipping on coffee and cooking hot dogs. Bob Burris built a cabin on Miller Mountain for all the local snowmobilers to enjoy, the cabin was always stocked with packets of cocoa and coffee. Larry Huestis recalled how they would melt some snow to make their coffee. Putt's Pond was a common destination used as a proving ground for their sleds. In 1970 there was a blizzard that dumped over three feet of snow and the Ticonderoga Paper Mill was still being operated at the Island mill in downtown Ti. Doug Spring and others would ride their snowmobiles to work. The following year Ti was hit with another blizzard producing over three feet of snow and Doug and his co-workers rode their sleds to the mill's new location/current location on the shore airport road. Gordon Abare and Charlie Henry were known as the go to guys for sled repair or lending a helping hand to a fellow sledder broken down on the trail. Charlie was known to practically carry his whole toolbox with him at all times. With the surge of snowmobile sales and a growing interest in snowmobiling as a means for economic development for the Northeast, Midwest, and Canada. Many companies began building their version of the Skidoo. Due to the high demand for these relatively new machines to hit the snow, many local entrepreneurs began selling them. During the late 60's through the 70's snowmobiles were sold by: M&R Woods(Skidoo), Tony's Sports(Scorpion), Stan's Auto body (chaparral), Smith's (Boa-ski), Thatcher's (Arctic Cat), Johnson's Orchard Moto-ski/Polaris) Dave Whitty (Skiroule) and Desmond Allen (Sno-Jet) Wicker Ford (Polaris). In the early 70's there were literally hundreds of manufacturers and at least nine area snowmobile dealers. However soaring gas prices and a weakening economy sent all but four manufacturers out of business, and only one local dealer remains Tony's (Skidoo).

To promote and enjoy the sleds that were being sold, some local folks began racing. Doug Spring the president of the first area club began building modified sleds with Gordon Abare. Gordon's son Doug Abare would race these heavily modified sleds throughout the area following the E.S.R.A. circuit . They continued racing with much success through the 80's, however the manufacturers were putting pressure on E.S.R.A. to force the racers's to use current model year sleds to promote their product, but Doug Abare continued to dominate the circuit on an older sled. While the Abare's were enjoying their success in drag racing, Larry Huestis and Terry Trepanier were racing oval track. Larry would race skidoo while Terry would race the Moto-ski and often race each other . The E.S.R.A. circuit would have races nearly every weekend throughout the Northeast at various locations such as: Eagle Lake, Schroon Lake, and Lake Champlain. The racing was a two day event, ice drags on Saturday, followed by oval racing on Sunday. Larry primarily raced oval, however would drag race occasionally. Larry's first race was in Lake Placid in 1963 and his last race was on Lake Champlain in 2006 at an event sponsored by The Adirondack Trail Riders. Others who were influential in racing sleds are as follows: Leonard Charboneau(Polaris), Bill Rafferty, Brad Rafferty,, Tom Carr. Clay Rafferty, Doug Spring, John Burke, and Gary Joiner all raced Ski-Doo. Harry Treadway, Steve Yaw and Tom Cunningham all raced Arctic Cat. Doug Abare raced sno-jets and chaparral.. Kevin Mero also raced Chaparral.

In 1976 Larry Huestis organized and promoted a racing circuit called E.S.A , however at the age of 21 Larry was more interested in racing than having to organize and promote the various events. Subsequently the E.S.A. dissolved the following year and Larry continued his racing endeavors with the E.S.R.A circuit. Oval racing continued to flourish through the 1980's, however declined in popularity and gave way to modern day Sno-Cross. The primary reason Sno-cross has taken over the racing scene is due in large part by corporate sponsorship. Many of the modified sleds that were being raced on the oval circuit would look nothing like a factory sled. Which did very little to help a manufacturer promote their product, because the average guy couldn't tell you whether it was a Ski-doo or a Polaris. Today the factory race sleds competing in the sno-cross circuit look very much like the sled you would purchase off the showroom floor. Several local residents began racing Sno-cross on the Rock Maple Racing venue: Derrick Fleury and his son Gavin, F.P. Tierney and his son Conall as well.

Various communities throughout the Northeast began to tap into the economic benefit of snowmobiling. The Town of Webb, Town of Inlet and Old Forge began to develop an interconnected snowmobile trail system. In order to ride the trails in Old Forge you must purchase a trail permit. The Town Of Webb began to require a trail permit in 1968 and is celebrating forty years with the annual Shootout in Woodgate, N.Y. followed by snodeo weekend, which is a celebration that kicks off the snowmobile season. The shootout is drag races set up to test the manufacturers new products right out of the crate in which they were shipped. People from all over the Northeast flock to the area to see the new sleds. Snodeo is a community wide celebration, vendors come from all over to sell the latest and greatest things to hit the snow, Saturday evening is concluded with a giant fireworks display and Sunday ends the event with a vintage snowmobile show. Town of Webb sells approximately 10-12,000 permits annually at a rate of $65- $80. A study was done several years ago about the economic impact of snowmobiling in the United States and it was determined that approximately $22 billion is generated annually, the Western Adirondack region receives a conservative estimate of $15 million annually from snowmobiling. The average snowmobiler spends $4,000 each year on snowmobile related recreation and spends an average of seven nights per snowmobile season in a motel or resort while snowmobiling. In 1998 the New York State Snowmobile Association, in cooperation with SUNY Potsdam, performed an economic impact analysis and concluded that New York State's snowmobile related revenue to be an estimated $476.2 million annually. In 2003 the state surveyed snowmobilers and calculated the impact of snowmobiling had increased to $875 million annually, an increase of 84% in 5 years. Snow conditions greatly effect the revenue that is generated. Several years ago snow conditions were poor and the Stillwater Restaurant which is only accessible via snowmobile reportedly only did 5 % of the business that it had done the previous year.

As the sport evolved so did the trail system. New York State did not initially require that sleds be registered. In the early 70's the state began an initiative to collect money to establish and maintain a snowmobile trail system via a registration fee. The town of Ticonderoga and the state assisted the Adirondack snowmobile club with the purchase of an Alpine groomer sometime in the mid 70's. Steve Yaw, Larry Huestis, Brad Rafferty and others would operate the first groomer to maintain the local trails. Unlike Old Forge, Ticonderoga did not embrace snowmobiling as a source of revenue and would eventually terminate it's trail grooming efforts.

. The Ticonderoga snowmobile club dissolved sometime in the early 80's through the mid 90's. The next club established sometime in the early 90's, called the Adirondack sno-goers elected Gary Olcott as president .The club that currently maintains the local trail system is The Adirondack Trail Riders who became incorporated June 28th 2001.Several years ago the state went to a two tier snowmobile registration and offered a discount to those who belong to a snowmobile club. The state distributes funds from the snowmobile trail fund to the clubs, to aid with the purchase of grooming equipment and trail maintenance. You can join the Trail Riders at www.adirondacktrailriders.com or you can contact Karla Vigliotti at 518-585-7110. The current club officers are as follows: Tracy Smith (President), Michael Vigliotti (vice-pres.), Karla Vigliotti(sec/treas.) . The Adirondack Trail Riders signed a usage agreement with the Fish and Game club October 1st 2005 and currently maintain the buildings and grounds of the clubhouse. We recently purchased a new Skandic W/T and will now be operating 2 groomers to smooth out the local trails. The club also installed a new bridge at the roger street flow and bear pond road. The Adirondack Trail Riders will be sponsoring a Youth Snowmobile Safety Course at a date to be determined later, those interested must contact Patrick Hendrix at 518-585-7539 to reserve a spot as class size is limited. Youths age 10-13 may operate a snowmobile on lands which snowmobiling is allowed, upon successful completion of the safety course and must be accompanied by someone at least 18 years of age within 500 ft. Youths age 14-17 may operate a snowmobile upon lands which snowmobiling is allowed upon successful completion of the safety course without adult supervision. The safety course is an 8 hour course followed by a multiple choice test. The course is free of charge and the trail riders will provide a lunch. Tony's Sports, Walmart, Jay's Sunoco and Treadway's Service center have also donated prizes to be given to kids upon completion of the course
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