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Ken Schuster
February 16, 2008

Selectman's meetings minutes here.

What goes 131 mph and doesn’t fly, float or touch the ground?

    Hundreds of them will be at Sunapee State Beach, in Newbury, Saturday, Feb. 16. They’ll be from all parts of New Hampshire and beyond. Many will arrive here by segments of the 7,000-plus miles of trails in our state. They’re snowmobiles!

    Snowmobiles earned a bad reputation in the early days of their development. They were eardrum-shattering, air polluting and often driven by irresponsible people who left a mess for everyone else to clean up. But everything about snowmobiling has dramatically changed for the better.

Snowmobiles on Lake Sunapee at sunset

    Lake Sunapee Snowmobile Club Trailmaster, Tim Gove, said that machines made since 2003 have very low emissions and average about 22 miles per gallon of fuel. They are made with stronger and lighter materials, aerodynamically designed and water-cooled. Tim said that technological advances have changed every aspect of snowmobiles. They started out like old stripped-down Chevrolets and now they’re like the newest Cadillac. The suspension technology has made the ride a lot more comfortable, and handling improvements have made them much safer. Their footprint is light on terra firma, too. It is unusual for snow on a well-maintained trail to get thin enough for dirt to come through, but when it does, it’s quickly repaired. Running on mud and dirt is not good for the trail or the snowmobile.

    Tim’s twin brother, James, is certified to operate the two $150,000 Tucker trail groomers owned by the club. They get heavy use. The club’s map shows their 85-mile trail system divided about equally between north and south, with Newbury Harbor at the center. Lake Massasecum is at the southeastern tip, and Stocker Pond (just south of I-89 exit 13) is at the northwest. The trails branch off and connect with others, leading to destinations such as Pillsbury State Park, Henniker and Claremont. Trails go through Bradford, Newbury, Sunapee, Newport, Washington, Sutton, Springfield and Grantham.

    As Tim said, “When the snow is gone, it’s no longer a trail,” but the club continues trail-way maintenance in the warmer months. For example, they clear fallen timber, fill-in eroded areas and move rocks displaced by spring runoff.


Lake Sunapee Snowmobile Club Trailmaster, Tim Gove (left) talks with Trails Committee member, Rob Green, about up-coming Radar Run at Lake Sunapee. Tim’s brother, James, looks on from cab of one of club’s Tucker trail groomers.

    The club will mark the 20th anniversary of its charter, next month. There are more than 44,000 members of the New Hampshire Snowmobile Association, including 335 paid members of the Newbury club.

    Rob Green is on the club’s Trails Committee, and I asked him how long it would take to go from Bradford to Grantham by snowmobile. He said that the state speed limit is 45 mph, but there is no speed limit on lakes. If you go that route, you can make it in about 40 minutes. Sounds like fun!

    That brings me back to “131 mph,” which was last year’s top speed in the club’s Lake Sunapee Radar Run, part of the Annual Ride-in. You do not need state registration to participate in the run, but there is a small fee; $3 for one run, $5 for two and $20 for 10.

    Admission to the festivities is free, and donations are cheerfully accepted. Club president, Maxine Mendes, said “Since the LSSC is nonprofit, we rely on memberships, donations and fundraisers in order for the club to operate. This annual event is one of our most successful fund raisers. 

   The event began in the early 90s. It started out as the Torchlight Parade with maybe 100 sleds and has grown to what it is today. In the past two years with barely any snow, we have had well over 600 sleds in attendance.” Maxine recommends that you take a folding chair to watch the runs. Here is what will be happening:  

  • Radar Run 10 a.m. to about 4 p.m.

  • Cook shack opens at 10 a.m. and closes after the fireworks.

  • Vendors will be there until dark, or later.

  • Bonfire all day until after the fireworks.

  • Torchlight parade at 6 p.m.

  • Fireworks at 7 p.m.

  • Demonstration rides throughout the day.

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