Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Vintage snowmobiles & memories of a snowmobile misadventure December 20, 2018

Staying warm trumps fashion during a Minnesota winter. This vintage parka accented snowmobiles on display at Sleds on Central in historic downtown Faribault.


MY TIME SNOWMOBILING, even though I’m a life-long Minnesotan, is limited to several ride-alongs as a teenager. I never had that much interest in the sport. Either you’re really into snowmobiling or you’re not. That’s my assessment anyway.



Even with that minimal interest, I still wanted to check out Sleds on Central, Vintage Snowmobile Show, this past Saturday as part of Faribault’s second annual Winterfest.



Once there, I focused initially on keeping my 2 ½-year-old granddaughter safe after a pick-up truck unexpectedly drove through what I thought was a closed street. Alright then. I was tempted to move orange safety cones into the traffic lanes of Central Avenue to keep vehicles out.



Instead, I steered Izzy to two pink snowmobiles. She loves anything pink. That distraction worked briefly.



Then Grandpa scooped her up…








so I could take photos without that traffic worry.





I don’t really know much about snowmobiles, just that they can go fast, make lots of noise and break down. An avid snowmobiler would likely emphasize the positives of speed, the outdoors and winter fun.


Polaris snowmobiles are signature Minnesotan. The company opened in the 1950s in Roseau in far northwestern Minnesota.


I recall some fun rides with my cousin Kevin as he raced across the flat farm fields of southwestern Minnesota. But I also recall the not-so-fun time my older brother invited me to hop on his snowmobile for a ride across the field to the gravel pit on our family farm. Doug stopped in the pit and somehow persuaded me to get off. Then he left. Just drove away. I’ll never forget that moment of watching him speed away as I stood there in the deep snow in the cold of winter with no way back to the farm site. He must have picked me up eventually. But that abandonment is seared into my memory. I’d never trust him again on a snowmobile.

TELL ME: Are you a snowmobiler or have you ridden on one?

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


17 Responses to “Vintage snowmobiles & memories of a snowmobile misadventure”

  1. Not a smowmobiler and have never been on one. One experience I guess I am probably not going to have in my lifetime but then I never say never. 🙂 Some of those older vintage snowmobiles don’t look too safe to me. We have come a long way in technology since some of those I suspect.

  2. What a story about your brother! Merry a Christmas, Audrey!

    • Oh, I could tell you more stories about my brother. I was born about 14 months after him and he was none too happy to have a baby sister…

      One other thing he did that made my life more difficult was to “steal” the silage I threw down from the silo to feed the cows on my side of the barn. We each had a side, his east, mine west. He had farther to walk (across two gutters and the barn aisle) thus must have felt entitled. But really, it was just kinda mean.

  3. treadlemusic Says:

    I’ve been on several different models…..my FILs (Tom’s dad) would have definitely been in the “vintage” category! It was huge and safely carried him out on Upper Gull Lake (near Nisswa,MN) for many years. We owned several years ago. Having said all that…..the ONE HUGE NEGATIVE (my opinion) is that the use of such a machine requires COLD WEATHER! Not a fan!! Hmmmmm, maybe Texas is the place for me in the winter months after all………… LOL! That pink model would appeal to our Grt Grands for sure!

  4. Dan Traun Says:

    Awe, that’s terrible. Bad brother.

  5. I had a snowmobile permit before a farmers permit. We would go out on long rides and then winter camp. So not a fan of winter camping, however; enjoyed snowmobiling. I had a bright yellow snowmobile from the early 70’s. What is it with brothers. My brother would take me for a ride and either dump me off of it or leave me behind. Happy Day – Enjoy 🙂

  6. Valerie Says:

    I feel the same about snowmobiles…fast and noisy. I’ve had my share of rides when I was a teenager but I was never left alone.
    I’m sure that was scary to be left behind like that…

  7. Bella Says:

    My first vote for cuteness is the pink one followed second one the small Santa on a snowmobile. Lack of snow proves to challenging for those who love to ride snowmobiles. l

  8. Brenda R Says:

    I have some good memories of snowmobiling with my family. Most Sunday afternoons after the Vikings season was over, we would go with a small group trail riding on Swan Lake near our home. It was fun and thankfully my dad or one of my brothers usually let me ride along with them. It brought out numerous questions to our dad about the history of the area around the lake- like why are there old barbed wire fences sticking out of the lake? Because at one time the lake was so low they had cattle grazing there!! The picture of the Scorpion Stingerette, the darker magenta snowmobile in your picture, brought back memories of one of the sleds we had back then- do you think that one was ours?!?! It was so pretty! I can’t believe your brother dumped you off!! You really should try to pay him back with a practical joke sometime!! 😬

    • Brenda, thanks for sharing your snowmobile memories. I didn’t know that about Swan Lake, the barbed wire fences sticking out. Are they gone now?

      • Brenda R Says:

        No I don’t believe they’re gone but it’s been years since I was out there. My best friend in high school lived on the opposite side of the lake and we used to laugh that we needed a bridge so it wouldn’t take so long to get to each other’s house! Her family still has a landing on the NE side- I will have to ask her- they still go out 4 wheeling on the lake in the winter.

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