Wendy says, "Driving through freezing Nebraska, icy Iowa, snowy Chicago,
reminds me of the Snowmoboaters: people who pilot snow mobiles across
insane terrain... and I use the term 'terrain' loosely."
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.
500-pound snowmobiles are not designed to float, and in fact do not float,
but people have discovered that a snowmobile can hydroplane across
the surface of water. This happy circumstance probably first occured on a
flooded road or parking lot, but from there it spread to deeper waters.
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.