Winter 2015 cover story: Snowmobiling

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Text by Lorna Oppedisano | Photos by Lauren Harrienger

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For many, snowmobile culture is a way of life to beat the blues during long north country winters.

The dead of winter has the north country in its grips. Everything on the ground is some shade of gray or white. Any sign of life, save the occasional far-off bird call, has left the area. A bright, glaring sun shines down from the clear blue sky, a meek attempt at melting the heaps of snow, feet high in areas. But it’s no use. The burning ball in the sky is not a match for the crisp, almost biting, freezing winter air. It’ll be months before Northern New York breathes a gasp of warm, balmy air.

The conditions are perfect.

A machine roars to life in the distance. And then another. And another. Before long, a fleet of iron sleds races into view, caravanning across the gleaming paths carved into the snow, moving at speeds rivaling those of cars on a nearby county road. Perched atop the machines, the riders lean into the twists and turns of the trail. Each traveler is decked out from head to toe in layers of impenetrable snow gear. The sleds race in single file, and then, as suddenly as they appeared, they’re gone around the next bend, on to their destination.

Welcome to snowmobile season.

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Winter 2015 Feature: An adventure for a non-thrill-seeker

Writer, Lorna Oppedisano

Writer, Lorna Oppedisano

Thrills are not my forte. Adrenaline usually just makes me dizzy. I bit the bullet once and tried a rollercoaster; I can safely say that I never want to be upside-down again in my life. I’m a legs-planted-firmly-on-the-ground type of woman.

A little more than a month ago, my editor mentioned the idea of ‘beat the winter blues’ as the cover story topic. Would I write it? Of course. Would I investigate the culture of snowmobiling? Definitely. Would I get on the back of a snowmobile for the first-hand, in-depth perspective? Gulp… sure. [Read more...]

Customize your snow machine

Investments in gear, equipment can be costly, but worth it

By Lorna Oppedisano

Josh Roes, D&D Racing mechanic, works on a custom-built Arctic Cat XC 1100 turbo, turning it from a 177-horsepower sled to a 600-horsepower drag-racing sled, able to reach 140 mph in 500 feet. Photo by Justin Sorensen, NNY Living.

Josh Roes, D&D Racing mechanic, works on a custom-built Arctic Cat XC 1100 turbo, turning it from a 177-horsepower sled to a 600-horsepower drag-racing sled, able to reach 140 mph in 500 feet. Photo by Justin Sorensen, NNY Living.

Snowmobiling is a beautiful sport. It’s a fun sport. It’s a cold sport. It can be a dangerous sport.

But all those involved would agree that it is an expensive sport.

“The base machine now, depending on the size — some people are going to kill me on this — I would say $10,000 to $13,000. That’s ballpark,” said Gary R. Stinson, president of Sno-Pals snowmobiling club. “Gear — I’m not sure if you could get outfitted for less than $1,000. It’s very pricey. Very sophisticated clothing to keep you warm without a lot of bulk.”

And that’s just the basics. From there, people can add upgrades and customize their sleds.

“Main things are stud and wind protections,” said Matt J. Waite, general manager of Waite Motorsports, Adams Center. “Most people are upgrading for comfort.”

Mr. Waite explained that when people complete performance upgrades on their sleds, it’s usually for quicker acceleration and extra horsepower.

Along with those features, riders choose to put aftermarket skis on as well, said Dale E. Roes, owner of D&D Racing, Lowville and Denmark. Such an upgrade can make the machine steer more aggressively.

High-performance shocks are another popular choice for north country snowmobilers.

“They really make a difference up here in the north country, as far as the ride,” Mr. Roes said.

“From there, people start to go into more performance things, such as clutch kits and exhaust canisters,” he continued, mentioning that noise is a big deal to people. “Mostly it’s clutch kits, and exhaust silencers definitely help some. To build the ultimate [snowmobile], you’re talking the turbo products.”

Your most average basic upgrades will usually cost on average $500, Mr. Waite said. But that’s nothing compared to the price sticker on the turbo products.

“You could spend up to $3,000 to $4,000,” Mr. Roes said. “For race builds up to $50,000.”
Contact Waite Motorsports, 583-5680, or waitemotorsports.com, and D&D Racing, 376-8013 or ddracing.com for more details on products or prices.

Lorna Oppedisano is a staff writer and editorial assistant for NNY Magazines. Contact her at loppedisano@wdt.net or 661-2381.

Five Things Friday – Oct. 3

Happy Friday! Happy October! We’re more than a week into autumn, and it’s really starting to feel like it. The leaves are changing, and starting to fall. Pumpkin spice is everywhere. And people are starting to celebrate the season… [Read more...]

Jefferson County Fair starts this week with old favorites, new animal shows

From left, Steve Close, Robert Stackhouse and Jimmy Rhodes set up their lemonade tent in preparation for the Jefferson County Fair, which starts Tuesday at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds. Justin Sorensen / NNY Living

From left, Steve Close, Robert Stackhouse and Jimmy Rhodes set up their lemonade tent in preparation for the Jefferson County Fair, which starts Tuesday at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds. Justin Sorensen / NNY Living

This week, all in the same day even, a trip to the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds will enable you to interact with an exotic bird, ride a Sky Flyer, see a miniature stallion take a bow, watch a “brawl” while listening to “head-banging rock” and pick apart a jumbo sticky bun.

The Jefferson County Fair — the oldest continually running fair in the nation — has descended on the city for its 197th running Tuesday through Sunday off Coffeen Street.

“Every year it’s a combination of new and the same,” said Robert D. Simpson, fair president. “We’re going to have a good fair,” he said as setup kicked into high gear over the weekend, noting he hopes as many as 55,000 people attend.

One new attraction this year is the “Horses, Horses, Horses” show by Sarasota, Fla.-based performer Lisa A. Dufresne, which features 12 miniature stallions, a Friesian from Holland and a black Arabian performing a variety of stunts. Ms. Dufresne’s horses have traversed the U.S. and have performed with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus, her website says. The show, free with admission, runs at 3, 5 and 8 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday and at 1, 3 and 5 p.m. Sunday.

“We’ve been trying to get it for several years,” Mr. Simpson said of the act. “We were finally able to book it this year.”

Ms. Dufresne said the 30- to 35-minute “variety show of horses” features five or six different acts. “It’s quite entertaining for everyone — adults and children alike,” she said Sunday.

Also new this year is “Westy’s Birds of Prey,” an interactive show of exotic birds with master falconer Rick West, of Adams.

A new non-animal-related attraction is “Brawlapalooza,” “a rock and rumble event” set for 6 p.m. Friday. Tickets are $15 to the show, which features seven mixed martial arts bouts and three bands — My Poor Brain, a tribute to the Foo Fighters, Stone Temple Co-Pilots, a tribute to STP, and Wrapped in Noir.

Mr. Simpson said the popular demolition derbies will return at 7 p.m. Thursday and at 3 p.m. Sunday. A 2CW wrestling event returns at 5 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $15.

As always, livestock and 4-H events will feature prominently. New this year is an open-carrier rabbit show on Sunday, which could draw as many as 300 well-groomed rabbits, many from out of the area, said Beth Shelmidine, first vice president of the Jefferson County Agricultural Society.

“We have a lot of competitions for everything from cattle to sheep and goats and chickens and rabbits,” she said.

This year’s rides also are a combination of traditional and novel. The Orbiter, a popular ride that Mr. Simpson said has been gone from the fair for some time, will return. The Wild Claw, the Sky Flyer and the Super Himalaya also will be featured, and a ride called Zero Gravity is new this year.

Other attractions include a roving balloon artist, daily contests and an array of traditional fair cuisine, including a new vendor, Mr. Sticky’s Sticky Buns.

On Sunday, as multicolored neon tents billowed under pristine blue skies, Lauren M. Clark, who will turn 14 on the first day of the fair, and her father were giving a fresh coat of white paint to their wooden animal pens, which will house two llamas and two meat goats. She said it will be her fifth year attending the fair with her animals, but only her second with goats, and this year she’s bringing a 4-month-old baby goat. “I will be breeding it,” she said. She added that she enjoys the livestock shows for children at night, and works at the dairy bar during the fair.

Under another yellow-and-white tent, Jason and Holly Schell, of Schell Farms, Philadelphia, were painstakingly hammering the letters of the sign for their booth, which will be staffed by their two daughters, Cassidy, 14, and Macie, 20.

“They do pretty much all of the work taking care of the animals the whole week,” Mrs. Schell said. In its fourth year attending, the farm is bringing 10 cows of various ages.

She said her daughters enjoy the numerous 4-H and FFA activities, such as a “milk-off” competition. “They have a blast,” she said.

Not to be outdone, food vendors on Sunday assembled in prime spots to attract hungry patrons. Smokey’s BBQ, Chaumont, was readying its trailer and smoker. “It’s a good fair,” owner George A. Day said. “It gets better and better every year.”

For more information and a full schedule of events, visit www.jeffcofair.org.

TICKET DETAILS

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Procession of Mount Carmel has special meaning for Italian-American residents of Watertown

The Knights of Columbus honor guard and church acolytes walk Sunday in the Procession of Mount Carmel during the St. Anthony’s Church festival. Norm Johnston / NNY Living

The Knights of Columbus honor guard and church acolytes walk Sunday in the Procession of Mount Carmel during the St. Anthony’s Church festival. Norm Johnston / NNY Living

Families with Italian blood gathered outside their homes on Bellew Avenue and Emmett and Boon streets Sunday night to enjoy a ritual they’ve witnessed for many years — one that defines who they are as a people. [Read more...]

51 Things Every Northern New Yorker Should Do

No matter a native, a transplant, a seasonal resident or a year-rounder, there is an endless supply of fun to be found in the north country.
Here are some things to add to your bucket list. [Read more...]

Two-day walk to Sackets Harbor re-enacts War of 1812 cable carry

Mark Wiggins holds onto the rope while the cable carriers set the rope down for a ceremony on Sunday afternoon. Amanda Morrison / NNY Living

Mark Wiggins holds onto the rope while the cable carriers set the rope down for a ceremony on Sunday afternoon. Amanda Morrison / NNY Living

It was the final push for the approximately 100 people carrying a 600-foot rope down County Route 75 toward the village’s battlefield site.

Sweating the final 3.5 miles Sunday, their footsteps mirrored those of the brave troops whose grueling cable carry 200 years earlier allowed for the creation of the massive USS Superior, ensuring America’s stand against the British during the War of 1812. [Read more...]

City still faces a ‘tree-mendous’ job cleaning up from ice storm

Logger J.R. Hackbarth operates a hydraulic claw to clear tree debris Tuesday on Bugbee Drive in Watertown. Norm Johnston / NNY Living

Logger J.R. Hackbarth operates a hydraulic claw to clear tree debris Tuesday on Bugbee Drive in Watertown. Norm Johnston / NNY Living

For more than a month, Timothy J. Monica and his crew have been going up and down streets picking up logs, limbs and other debris nearly six months after the Dec. 21 ice storm hit the area.

“We’re gaining on it,” he said while working in the Bugbee Drive and Harris Drive neighborhood Tuesday morning. “We’ve moved a lot.”

Another crew is working on the north side. The mission won’t be accomplished until the end of June, Public Works Superintendent Eugene P. Hayes said.

When all is said and done, the crews will complete three passes around the city and take between 1,000 and 1,200 dump truck loads of limbs to the city-owned quarry off Route 11, just north of the city, Mr. Hayes said.

So far, a pile of debris about 200 yards long and 40 feet tall has been taken to the quarry. [Read more...]

Little Free Libraries spreading the love of books in unexpected places

Allison F. Gorham stands next to Helen’s Little Free Library near the corner of Sherman and Paddock streets in Watertown, at the home of her late mother, Helen G. Farrell, who was an avid reader. Justin Sorensen / NNY Living

Allison F. Gorham stands next to Helen’s Little Free Library near the corner of Sherman and Paddock streets in Watertown, at the home of her late mother, Helen G. Farrell, who was an avid reader. Justin Sorensen / NNY Living

The tiny library on Paddock Street sticks out like a bookmark tucked into a good mystery novel.

It’s on a post in front of 168 Paddock St. At first look it could be mistaken for a mailbox.

But for neighborhood residents like George L. Marlette of Sherman Street, the box, full of free books, is a carousel of mysteries, biographies and words of wisdom. [Read more...]