Group behind Ladies Ride event creates a project snowmobile
While it’s clear at any trailside stop that women are a big part of the snowmobile culture, a group of western snowmobile enthusiasts recently pooled their efforts to build a project snowmobile entirely with female mechanics to highlight their growing presence in the industry, advocate for riding access and show that it’s possible — and very welcome — to build a snowmobile exclusively tailored to women’s preferences.
The idea was hatched last August at a meeting of women riders who organize the Ladies Ride snowmobile calendars and a series of Ladies Ride snowmobile riding events that have been held throughout the Pacific Northwest since 2001.
“We were talking about the industry and, as industry professionals, we had to be spokespeople for the sport. We had to get out there talking about keeping our riding areas open,” said Tammy Schoen, a project participant and co-owner of 2Cool AirVents. “Riding areas aren’t going to keep themselves open. We’re going to have to do it, and how the industry wasn’t going to build itself, we were going to have to do it. This idea kept going into the sled and that became our theme for the sled: it’s not going to build itself.”
From that point onward “it was a complete and total snowball effect” where the group began to dream up the details for their snowmobile build project, and what it wanted to accomplish with the subsequent publicity from showing off the sled at the year’s major snowmobile shows.
Although Schoen has been involved with the Ladies Ride group since 2002 — back when it was a much smaller group of 10 riders — she credits Brandy Floyd with starting the group, organizing the annual calendar photo shoots and bringing together so many women who are involved with the snowmobile industry.
A helpful industry
For the snowmobile build project, the concept was nine “Sledchix,” many sponsors providing accessories and a budgeted three-day window to assemble the sled. From there, group member Liz Van Amburg of snowmobile parts manufacturer Van Amburg Enterprises, donated a 2013 Polaris 800 Pro-RMK mountain sled.
“She ended up getting the sled, and we started talking about what products would we want on a sled to make it … set up for a woman,” Schoen said. “We started talking about what mods we would do to it, what would stay the same and started ticking off a list of companies in the industry to get ahold of. When we contacted them, they were very excited to be involved in the project, and it just kind of went from there.”
The list of sponsors included Camoplast, which donated a 153-inch Power Claw track, Cascade Clutch & Performance, A-arms from Zbroz Racing, a big wheel kit from OFT Racing, a graphic kit from Fokus Graphics, exhaust from High Performance Sports, a pipe tattoo from Thin Air Powersports, Curve Industries skis, narrower handlebars from Fly Racing, Sled Solutions bags and several accessories from both 2Cool Air Vents and Van Amburg Enterprises. Overall, there were several more accessories, with companies approaching the group throughout the build asking to assist with the project.
The build begins
Once all the parts were assembled, the group of eight women and two teenage girls gathered again in a garage in Washington to turn their dream into reality: building a hardcore mountain sled that was designed for women riders.
Schoen said the response to the sled — wrapped in images of women riding to highlight the point — has been incredible. The best experience, she said, was in Denver at the Rocky Mountain Snowmobile Expo. Schoen recalls seeing a 3-year-old girl spot the sled from a distance, squeal and come running down the aisle to get as close as possible to the machine.
Another highlight for the group was a woman in her 90s attending the show with her children and grandchildren who loved the message behind the women-built machine.
“The most common response from men was, ‘I’d ride that,’” she said. “A lot of men brought their wives over to see the sled and talk to us about the experience. We had a big poster board that had photographs on it that showed how we built it, what we did, the teamwork and the camaraderie.”
She added that there were no wrenches thrown or any yelling during the assembly of the project snowmobile.
“What it boils down to is, we want people to know is that women are out there; they need to be encouraged; they need to have things made specifically for them, because our needs specifically as snowmobilers are different,” Schoen said. “We want it to be a positive thing for anybody. I don’t care if they’ve never been on a sled to somebody who rides every day if they could like some of us. So we really wanted women to see that just because your man doesn’t buy you women’s stuff, you can do anything as a woman in the snowmobile industry if you put your mind to it, and we wanted to be some of the first to do a sled build like this.”
For more information on the upcoming Ladies Ride events or the Ladies Ride calendars, visit www.ladiesride.com.