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March 22. 2013 12:45AM

Snowmobile group makes classic run up Mt. Washington


The group takes a break before reaching the tree line on the Mt. Washington Auto Road. (Courtesy photo)

PINKHAM NOTCH - The recent snow will make it possible for weeks of great spring snowmobiling on the state's northernmost trails in upper Coos County, according to state Bureau of Trails head Chris Gamache, who on Thursday said in Pittsburg the snow was still piling up.

There's still snow on Mt. Washington - even on the iconic Mt. Washington Auto Road.

Snowmobilers took advantage of the snow this past Sunday when they took sleds from the 1960s into the sky.

The machines were much quieter, and slower, than today's models, but they still had enough power in them, after being restored, to make the climb.

It wasn't the first time this method of travel was used to summit the Northeast's highest peak. That honor goes to a group who made the ride in 1963. Included in that group half a century ago was Edgar Hetteen, founder of Polaris. The next generation of Hetteens, Mike and Alex, came all the way from Minnesota to drive up Mt. Washington on a vintage Polaris.

Their participation wasn't the only nod to history.

Maine resident Steve Campbell of Millinocket ascended the Auto Road on a snowmobile that had been owned by the late Paul Doherty, the legendary woodsman who was an officer with the state Fish and Game.

This year's sleds also included several rear-engine Polaris Sno Travelers, which were first developed by Hetteen, his brother Allan and other partners in Roseau, Minn., with manufacturing for the general public starting up in the mid-1950s. The vehicles were first used to get to hunting locations.

Campbell and Mike Hetteen have another historic connection. In February of 1961, their fathers were among a group who rode Maine's Allagash, and in 2011 the younger men organized a 50th commemorative expedition along the same paths, trails and frozen lakes, driving vintage machines.

It was the 11th year the group made the run up the Auto Road. Most years they don't make it to the top, due to weather conditions.

"Being the 50th anniversary, we were happy to be on the mountain at all, even if Mother Nature said no to the summit," said Roger Emerson, coordinator for the New England Antique Snowmobile Club.


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