In Alaska, for some reason, snowmobiles are called “snowmachines.” This confuses Californians, who think that’s a machine that makes snow.
Snowmachines are a convenient mode of transportation between September and May, especially for kids too young to drive, or when you’re going somewhere the roads don’t go, or where the roads don’t get plowed.
Personally, I just liked to go fast. I’d take our family snowmachine out to the neighbor’s barley field and open her up. It was probably close to a half-mile of clean, wide, flat land without any hint of obstacle. Go straight, and go fast — upwards of 80 mph. I’d roar up and down that field for hours at a time.
One day, presumably after it had been a little windy, I accidentally discovered a snowdrift on the first run. Drifts can be rock hard, and though it was probably only 2 feet high, it made a heck of a ramp at the speed I was going. The snowmachine leapt under me, and we flew into the air, which came as quite a surprise to me.
If you find yourself accidentally jumping a snowmachine at high speed, let me give you a word of advice: Don’t let off the gas.
That’s what I did. The big rear treads stopped while I was in the air, so when the snowmachine landed, they acted like a giant brake. My body, having taken off slightly later than the snowmachine, had gone a bit higher and was taking longer coming down, so when the machine came down my ass was still up, and I was tossed ham over tea kettle over the windshield at high velocity. Whee!
I was wearing a helmet (mostly as a windbreak; I wasn’t planning to hit my head) and a considerable amount of cold weather gear that made excellent padding. As I was flying through the air, my top thought was, “Please, please don’t let the snowmachine run over me.” Of course, since it slowed much faster than I did, that wasn’t a problem. I tumbled and tumbled through the snow for perhaps 75 feet before coming to a bruised and sore stop.
I lay there for a few moments evaluating my body, and once I determined nothing was broken, I crawled back on the still-idling snowmachine and crept home at a leisurely pace. Every part of my body was sore for a week.
I learned to scout thoroughly before going all out. And that wrecks can hurt.