Vintage Snowmobile Tour

By Scott Wheeler

Tim Powers (behind). Cookie and Wayde Tyler (foreground). Photo courtesy of Wayde and Cookie Tyler.

A 230 -mile snowmobile ride from Coventry, Vermont, to Newry, Maine, a town just west of Rumford, is no big deal with a modern high performance snowmobile.

Riding an antique snowmobile that same distance is a different story, but that's just what Newport, Vermont residents Wayde and Cookie Tyler and their fiiend Tim Powers of Newry did earlier this winter.

Faced with sub-zero temperatures and gusty winds, the group departed early Thursday morning of February 13 from Al's Snowmobile Parts and Services in Coventry, which is owned by Al Briere, who sponsored the trip.

The Tylers were riding a 30-year-old 1966 Arctic Cat 460D. Only 31 of them were ever built. Mr. Powers was driving a 1963 Arctic Cat 450. Only about 60 of these were built. Unlike modern snowmobiles that have the motor in the front, the motor on these machines is on the back, and top speed is about 30 miles an hour.

The trip wasn't a spur of the moment thing, Mr. Tyler said. They'd been planning it for almost a year and had repeatedly fine-tuned their snowmobiles.

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Because of the excitement of the trip they didn't realize quite how cold it was when they set off on their first leg. Once they got into open fields the cold air hit them, but they didn't let that stop them.

As the day went on, they said, it got much warmer. Seventy-five miles later they arrived at their first stopover point in Canaan, Vermont. Tired, yet still excited, they were amazed when Mr. Briere and his wife, Elaine, showed up and invited them out for supper.

"They drove an hour and a half to buy us supper," Ms. Tyler said. "That was pretty dam nice of them."

On the second day of their trip they traveled 80 to 90 miles to Errol, New Hampshire, not an easy task in whiteout conditions that kept visibility to about ten feet. But that's what snowmobiling is about, Mr. Tyler said. "The stormier the weather the better."

Not only did they have to contend with extreme weather conditions, they also had to pass through rugged country. "We went up hills you don't see around here," Mr. Tyler said. "I'm talking about mountains."

On one extremely steep section of trail, Mr. Powers, who was also pulling a 400-pound sled with tools and other supplies, jackknifed in the middle of the path. They had to take everything out of the sled and pull it up the hill, then push Mr. Powers' snowmobile up the hill.

When they got to their motel in Errol, the woman who owned it was so excited about their old snowmobiles that she didn't charge them for their long-distance phone calls, Mr. Powers said.

All through the trip they had similar experiences. People would stop them and ask questions and take pictures. They said most people had never seen snowmobiles like theirs, and some people thought they were plain nuts to travel such a long distance on such old machines, Mr. Powers said.

They had sunny skies for the last leg of the journey. As they got closer to their destination, the excitement began to increase. They realized that they were on the verge of accomplishing something that few people had ever done.

Under a moonlit sky, the group arrived in Newry at 7:30 Saturday evening. It had taken three days to make the journey. They traveled about 70 miles that day, and had traveled a total of about 250 miles, Mr. Tyler said they spent 34 hours on their snowmobiles.

They all agreed that the trip was well worth it. They'd seen beautiful scenery, met nice people and had the opportunity to show off their snowmobiles.

Mr. Tyler found it amazing that the snowmobiles hadn't experienced even one mechanical problem. "The biggest accomplishment is that we didn't take a wrench out the whole time," he said. He attributed that to the four-stroke Kohler engines the snowmobiles are equipped with.

Mr. Powers, an avid Arctic Cat collector who owns about 50 antique Arctic Cats, decided the snowmobiles didn't break down because they were made by Arctic Cat. "The bottom line is they're Arctic Cats; that means dependability," he said.

Mr. Tyler said he's driven to Maine on a modern snowmobile easily in a day, but it wasn't half as fun as this trip, As far as he knows, nobody else has made a similar trip since the early 7O's when a person from Maine traveled 200 miles in five days on an old snowmobile.

Mr. Tyler said he likes old snowmobiles so much that he sold his new ones and now owns about 20 old ones.

It's more than just going for a ride, Mr. Powers said. It's about proving what old snowmobiles can do. Too many snowmobile collectors just bring their snowmobiles to shows and don't ride them.

"There's no sense in owning them if you're not going to ride them," he said. "You've got to prove what they can do."

Written by Scott Wheeler

Mr. Wheeler is a life-long resident of the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. Besides being an avid outdoorsman, he is a freelance writer and also write's for "the Chronicle", which is based in Barton Vermont. He can be reached at either P.O. Box 537, Derby, Vermont 05829 or

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