Snowmoboating falls into a legal gray area. Snowmobile drivers, unlike water skiers and jetski pilots, are not required to wear life jackets. And laws prohibiting driving motor vehicles into bodies of water don't apply to snowmobiles. After all, who'd ride a snowmobile on a reservoir? Apparently enough people that a world championship water skipping event is held every summer in Grantsburg, Wisconsin. The only state to ban the activity, after discovering the sport's potential for creating new Darwin Award candidates, is Nebraska.
(8 July 2001, Montana) From the time we first climbed down from the trees to light a fire, we've been developing new and creative ways to make our lives easier. Centuries ago, the hardy Arctic peoples discovered a time-saver: sliding on boards (skis) across snow was easier than walking! And motors? When motors were invented, an improvement was obvious: hook the motor to the board, making the snowmobile.
Today, intrepid innovators are finding new uses for the snowmobile.
Hydroplaning a snowmobile is called "water skipping" or "snowmoboating."
Gary, 49, did not know how to swim, but in Montana a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do. Snowmoboating had a new convert. Demonstrating manliness by not wearing a flotation device, Gary climbed onto his snowmobile, gunned the motor, and skittered across the surface of the reservoir like a waterbug on speed, zooming onto the far bank 200 yards away. Great delight was expressed by all.
He turned the snowmobile around, gunned the motor like another Montana daredevil of some reknown (Evel Knievel) and roared onto the water for the return trip. But here, physics was his downfall. The snowmobile was moving too slowly when it hit the water. Speed and water-skipping go hand in hand, so our Darwin Award winner had barely bagged the 50-foot buoy when the snowmobile lost momentum and plunged to the bottom, carrying an overly-confident winner down with it.
Montana had claimed its first victim of snowmoboating. But innocent victim? We think not. Had he taken the obvious precaution of wearing a lifejacket, this story need never have been.