Published January 20, 2008, 12:00 AM

Snowmobilers say they ‘live for winter’

Snowmobilers gathered near here Saturday, the weather frigid in the sunshine, for the sheer revelry of their winter pursuit.

By: Lee Morris,

ARTHUR, N.D. – Snowmobilers gathered near here Saturday, the weather frigid in the sunshine, for the sheer revelry of their winter pursuit.

The Rural Cass Snowmobile Club hosted the third annual SnowJam, in which the willing could travel as far as Casselton, Mapleton or even Walcott – and return – on more than 200 miles of powdery trails.

There were farmhouses, enveloped by the bare branches of trees, without which the landscape would have looked very much like a desert of snow.

“We ride anywhere,” said Char Gust, a club member, who started snowmobiling with friends in the ’80s.

Others said they’ve traversed from North Dakota to Michigan and halfway back, and some have gone to Idaho or Montana for a mountainous jaunt.

“There’s some of us that love winter,” said Ryan Mayer, who trekked across the terrain Saturday. “We live here because of the winter.”

To the snowmobiler, the ride was bumpy and exciting, leaving a cloud of snow and exhaust. An observer in the distance would have seen an anomaly in the sea of white, sleds and riders in a row, gliding.

By 2:30 p.m., about 120 people had paid $10 to register to use the trails, the club’s chief fundraiser of the year.

The weather likely hurt attendance, though, said Audie Brorsom of Gardner. Two years ago, about 600 showed.

“This year, with this 22 below,” Brorsom said and shook his head. The forecast high for Saturday was 8 degrees below zero.

At the Armenia Bar and Grill, one of about 15 stops riders could make, Paul Gutknecht’s friends noticed that he had a patch of frostbite on his right cheek. They pointed out that he was still smiling, however, happy to ride – and then discussed the practice of duct-taping facemasks to combat the skin injury.

At the stops, the establishments of sponsors, those who made the trip would pick up an orange ticket. When they returned to the day’s headquarters at Johnson’s Barn, two miles north of Arthur, they could put the ticket into one of seven buckets designated for prizes.

A drawing would yield awards including $300, $150 and $50, and Polaris, Ski-Doo, Yamaha and Arctic Cat jackets.

“I’d take the coat,” said David Dullum, part of the club, whose brand of choice is Polaris.

But the snowmobiling spectacle, sponsored by Snowmobile North Dakota affiliate East Central Valley Trail Association, was about more than just the hobby itself – it also was about family fun and snowmobile history.

“That Larson is just nice,” said Cory Ohnstad, a 23-year-old from Harwood, about a 1968 turquoise sled. He and friends were viewing the 20 or so entrees in the vintage snowmobile show.

His roommate, Curt Tvedt, owns Arctic Cats from 1973 and 1976.

“The nostalgia of old snowmobiles is half the fun of these snowmobile runs,” Tvedt said.

Club member Joanne Seifert was running games in Johnson’s Barn, to the sounds of Johnny Cash and others.

The games were for “anyone who thinks 26 below is too cold to be outside,” she half-joked, including bingo and a large-scale version of rock-paper-scissors.

Seifert snowmobiles with her husband, Jeff, and two sons, 19 and 17. She said her sons have snowmobiled pretty much as long as they’ve been able to hang on.

“Since they could walk, basically,” she said.

Brorsom, of Gardner, said when you live in North Dakota, you can’t go to the beach.

Snowmobiling, he said, is a “chance to get together with friends and take the family with.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Lee Morris at (701) 235-7311 Snowmobilers say they ‘live for winter’ Lee Morris 20080120