The Antique Snowmobile Club of America (ASCOA) was founded more than 40 years ago to preserve and promote the colorful heritage of the early years of snowmobiling.
Dave Guenther is the club’s president, and like many ASCOA members, he enjoys spending countless hours restoring antique and vintage sleds. The retired high school teacher and avid snowmobiler who lives Pequot Lakes, Minn., says tinkering with old machines is just something he’s always loved doing.
“I’m a farm kid. I like machinery and I enjoy the challenge of taking a piece of that old piece of equipment that’s been laying out in the woods, neglected for years and years and years, and just bringing it back to life again. For me, that’s my biggest kick, preserving the history of those old machines,” said Guenther, who belongs to a number of different snowmobiling clubs and was inducted into the International Snowmobile Hall of Fame in 2018.
“There’s a lot of people who will fix them up and sell them. When I’ve fixed up a machine, some people will ask, ‘Would you ever sell it?’ and I’ll tell them, ‘When I’m done having fun with it, I’ll keep you in mind.’”
When Guenther does get around to selling his carefully restored snowmobiles, it’s usually not for a great deal of cash. “It drives my wife, Barb, nuts. She’ll say, ‘You sold that thing for $200, but isn’t it worth a lot more than that?’ And I’ll say, ‘Well, 200 bucks is what I put into it,’” he said.
“I didn’t get into this to make money. If it’s going to a good home, I’m going to send it somewhere down the road to somebody else for them to enjoy it as much as I did. Some people think I’m out of my mind.”
Guenther, who’s currently restoring an old Ski-Doo Alpine utility sled, says while there are lots of snowmobile refurbishers in ASCOA like himself, there are others who don’t do restoration work themselves, but still love collecting antique or vintage sleds.
“I know some people that have somebody restore [the snowmobiles] for them. For instance, a good friend of mine who’s a banker has a full-time mechanic that just works on restoring his sleds for his museum,” he said. “Some people have one or two machines, some people have 300,” Guenther said. “There’s a lot of different types of people doing a lot of different things.”
Some ASCOA members are also really into restoring vintage snow grooming vehicles and equipment, such as early model Bombardier and Tucker Sno-Cats. Guenther is among them.
“I have an old drag that I found here in the woods near town. It was the first groomer drag for the Pequot Brush Pilots Snowmobile Club, which is another organization I belong to, and I’m in the process of restoring that,” he said.
Benefits of membership
Guenther says ASCOA performs an important service by helping members with valuable tips for restoring antique and vintage snowmobiles. Members can also take advantage of classified ads for people looking to buy and sell restored vehicles, and they can get help from other ASCOA members in determining how much their machine may be worth.
According to Guenther, ASCOA will also assist local organizations in putting on their own antique and vintage snowmobile shows.
“Networking is a big plus,” he said. “It’s about getting connected with other people in the club who enjoy the hobby and can help you with your restoration [and also] finding out where events are.”
Guenther notes that ASCOA was originally known as Green Lake Antique Snowmobile Society when it was first formed by a group of snowmobile enthusiasts in Green Lake, Wis., in 1976. The name was changed to the Antique Snowmobile Club of America shortly afterwards. Guenther said that at the beginning, “if you had a 1966 or older snowmobile, you could join the club.”
He adds that rule was eventually changed so that membership wasn’t restricted to owners of antique (1966 or older) snowmobiles. Owners of vintage snowmobiles (newer than 1966) could join as well.
Guenther, who’s belonged to the club since 1990, says the move helped provide a substantial boost to ASCOA membership. He notes that there are other antique and vintage snowmobile organizations around, but they’re smaller than ASCOA and aren’t as broad in geographic scope.
“We are an international organization. We have members in the United States, Canada, Europe and Russia. We have a lot of members,” he said, adding that the majority of its members reside in the United States snowbelt stretching from Maine to Washington state.
Guenther, who started a second term as ASCOA president in 2015 (his first term was from 1996-2006), says there are numerous regional representatives within the organization, including an ASCOA eastern director and an ASCOA western director. There are also directors from Upper Michigan, Lower Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota.
Guenther notes that ASCOA has issued 2,700 memberships since its inception and there are currently between 900 and 1,000 active members, who pay $25 a year to belong to the club. New members receive an ASCOA pin and patch to wear as well as a subscription to the club’s Iron Dog Tracks newsletter that publishes six times a year
Winter and summer meetings
According to Guenther, a major perk of ASCOA membership is the opportunity to attend the club’s popular winter and summer meetings that are staged at different locations every year.
“They’re usually held somewhere in the Midwest because that’s where most of our members are. We will be in North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Upper Michigan, Lower Michigan, Iowa, Illinois and Indiana,” Guenther said.
In 2018, ASCOA held its winter meeting in Minnesota in conjunction with the Waconia Ride-In, which is the largest vintage snowmobile show in the world. The 2019 winter meeting took place in January in conjunction with the Antique Snowmobile Rendezvous in Pequot Lakes. Rapid River, Mich., is slated to host ASCOA’s 2020 winter meeting.
The next ASCOA summer meeting will be held in Hopedale, Ill., in July. Guenther says the meeting will feature a large collection of antique and vintage snowmobiles on display, and there will also likely be a tour related to snowmobiling.
Guenther says a special aspect of the ASCOA summer meeting involves taking apart an old snowmobile and having members take the parts home with them to recondition. The snowmobile is then reassembled at the next summer meeting with the refurbished parts, and the finished product is raffled off to help raise funds for the club.
According to Guenther, raffle tickets for a 1964 Mathews Trailmaker utility snowmobile are currently being sold, with the winner to be announced at ASCOA’s 2019 summer meeting.