Good Ideas/Bad Ideas

Column Steve Janes

A couple of years ago I was off doing the "magazine guy's job" of riding on assignment with a group of snowmobilers. It was your typical ride where I was trying to get enough photos and information to write a story while several members of the group were busy showing off their skills in hopes of being recognized as the next greatest snowmobiler ever.


Usually, this is where certain individuals will go out of their way to show how great their snowmobiles are by trying to do things that nobody in his right mind would do. (And normally I sit back and fake taking their photos while I watch these guys do the most stupid things ever.)


Anyway, this one rider tries to show me how his 2000 Mtn. Max is the baddest thing on the mountain-much better than any of the new snowmobiles-and promptly sticks it in the bottom of a creek bed.


Now, although I'm not a big fan of riding with unfamiliar groups, I do enjoy seeing a variety of riding techniques. I also find that it is on these types of rides I also witness firsthand some interesting and unique products for snowmobiling. Some of these products I've seen at snow shows or in magazine ads, some are just crude homemade items that tend to adapt to certain riding styles and some are just hard to describe.


It always amazes me to see the ingenuity of snowmobilers.


But then there are times when I witness the lack of ingenuity. You know, when someone sees a good product but is too cheap to actually buy it so he goes about making his own version of that product.


Anyway, my new best buddy had his old iron wedged in a hole and was looking for some help. My first inclination was to act as though I didn't see him and leave him for dead. But I've already gone through the hate mail from readers for doing something similar with riders. So against my better judgment, I pulled up to the edge of the creek and offered my assistance.


"I think it will only take a tug on the skis," my entrenched friend uttered as he unpacked what looked to be about 50 pounds worth of junk from the back of his sled. (I didn't know you could actually carry that much stuff on a back of a snowmobile.) Finally, he came up with what looked like a twisted mess of bungee cords with a big hook on the end and tossed it up to me.


"What's this?" I asked.


"It's my snobunje," he said.


"No, this ain't no Snobunje," I respond.


"It's my homemade one," he explained.


Perhaps it was that my curiosity had been peaked . or perhaps I was just stalling, hoping that one of the other riders in the group would show up and help. But I just had to know more about this contraption.


"You actually made this yourself?" I asked.


Now, sensing that his moment of greatness was going to come from his intuitiveness rather than his riding abilities, the guy leaned back on his sled, removed his helmet and began to tell me the story behind his genius.


"I saw one of those Snobunjes at a snowmobile show a year ago . but the guy wanted $70 for the thing. There's no way I was going to pay that kind of money for something I could make myself," he related. "So I just went to the hardware store and started getting the parts I need to make my own."


He said that first he bought three extra long bungees and zip-tied them together and threw them in his sled. But the first time he tried to use it, the ends bent and slipped off the skis and broke his friend's hand. So the next time he bought another three bungees but cut off the ends and zip-tied them to a tie-down strap. This time he tested them in his garage by trying to pull his sled across the pavement with the other end attached to the bumper of his truck.


Again, the bungees failed, this time busting out his headlight.


What he had now was a third generation snobunje with a combination of tie-downs and elastic straps in a fail-proof design. And it only cost him about $35 (not counting the first two attempts, a headlight and the doctor bill).


"Just connect the hook to my left ski and start walking until you pull the slack out of the straps. Then you can stretch out the straps until you pull your arms out of their sockets and I'll give my sled a little gas. It'll pop right out."


I looked at his device and then I looked at his sled. There was no way I was going to get involved with either.


You know, my first instinct to leave the guy for dead was probably the best one. And sometimes that's worth getting a few extra letters of hate mail.

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