When many people think of winter sports, they picture a snowshoer or nordic skier traversing silently through a powder-covered forest. A group of students at Northern has a different idea of winter fun that involves a little more noise and a lot more power.
Many NMU students, and in particular, the Power Sports Club, get their winter jollies by speeding across the frozen terrain on snowmobiles.
The club, a student interest group which also includes ATV, motorcycle and dirt bike enthusiasts, meets once a week, and in addition to meetings, tries to go on organized rides at least once a week – usually on Fridays or Sundays.
Club vice president Spencer Persons said the Sunday rides are usually a fairly casual affair.
“On a weekend we all just usually meet and go out riding around for a few hours,” Persons said. “It’s so much fun just being out on the trail.”
In addition to the weekly rides, Persons said the club tries to organize a few larger trips over the weekends.
“These are just a little more special,” he said. “It’s just a great way to have fun.”
Persons said the club rides trails all over the area. He said one of his favorite trails is a round trip trail from Marquette, up toward Big Bay.
“You think of the ride from Marquette to Big Bay as just a half hour trip,” he said. “When you are on a sled, though, it takes a lot longer. That trip is easily a whole day adventure.”
The club also takes care of storage for members’ snowmobiles. They currently rent a storage unit near a snowmobile trail outside of town.
“Finding storage is tougher than you would think,” Persons said. “You have to find a place that can not only hold the amount of snowmobiles and equipment you want, but also it has to be near a trail.”
He added that this has become an increasing concern as cities have tried to keep snowmobiles off of city streets.
The club consists of around 25 active members, including one woman, Sheri Schweitzer. The only woman who is an active member of the Power Sports club.
Schweitzer said she doesn’t mind being the only woman on many of the rides, and in fact, sometimes enjoys her unique position.
“It’s great,” she said. “I go on these outings and I’m just one of the guys. They don’t really treat me any different. It’s not like, ‘Oh, hey, she’s a woman.’ I feel like I can just be myself.”
Schweitzer said one thing the guys in the club did tease her about was her sled, which was an older sled named the Yamaha Ovation.
She said that some time during the year, the guys in the group nicknamed her sled “the ovulation.”
Schweitzer said she got into snowmobiling at a young age. She grew up in the Upper Peninsula and snowmobiling was just a way of life.
“I remember being in middle school and one winter my dad bought me and my sister a pair of sleds,” she said. “I’m the only one in my family who still snowmobiles. My parents just don’t do it anymore, and my sister grew up and stopped, but I’m still holding strong.”
Aside from just riding around and having fun, the Power Sports club has also tried to focus on getting involved in volunteer activities. This past year the members of the club have volunteered at Make a Difference Day, the Noquemenon Ski race and the dogsled races.
“It shows that we are more than just some guys who get together and ride around making noise, wasting gas and ruining the environment,” he said. “We want to show that we care about the community and want to do our part to make it better.”
This past weekend the club groomed the trails ahead of the dog sled racers. Other members served as chase vehicles who followed the racers.
“It’s good because we can get to places where other people can’t,” he said. “Unless they wanted to hike for a few hours just to work on the trail, snowmobiles are the only option.
Schweitzer said that snowmobiling is a unique experience.
“The feeling you get when you are out on your sled in amazing,” she said. “It’s like nothing else.”
Students who are interested in joining the power sports club can contact Spencer Persons at [email protected] for information about meetings and rides.