2018 Riding Season Wrap Aboard Sno-Runner

One of the things I had on my 2018 to-do list was to get more ride time in on my 1979 Chrysler Sno-Runner. You might recall the story of finding and restoring this rather quirky early snow bike built by Chrysler Marine back in the late 1970s and into the early ‘80s.

Well, lack of snow in my immediate neighborhood has been a limiting factor in doing that into late December. So, in taking a little R&R time over the Holidays back up north in my home town area around Hurley, Wis. and east into the Upper Peninsula of Michigan at Wakefield, I decided to bring the Sno-Runner up there since there was enough snow to open the area’s many miles of snowmobile trails.

Sno-Runner in action
Miles of abandoned railroad grades have been put to great use as all-season trails to the back woods—but this section is in the City of Wakefield!

In the upper Midwest, a great many of us who enjoy motorcycles in summer take to the snowmobile trails in the winter. Increasingly, motorcyclists are giving the remarkably capable snow bike conversions such as the Polaris Timbersled or Moto-Trax a try and most of the trails open to snowmobiles are open to snow bikes, as well.

My Sno-Runner is one of a small number of early attempts to make a workable motorcycle-style snowmobile. It proved to be lacking capability in deep snow, but on the well-groomed trails of today, it is a gas to ride!

Hurley has been one of the premier locales for snowmobiling since the sport began and for downhill and cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, ice fishing and any other winter sport you can name. Back in the day, when I did my snowmobiling on a 1969 Ski-doo Olympique 12/3, well-marked, groomed trails were the exception, not the rule.

Today, things have gotten dramatically better and the Ironhorse Trail that has its trailhead right in downtown Hurley connects riders to all the attractions right in town as well as miles of trails to the south and west and to the trails east across the Montreal river in Michigan. The trails on the Wisconsin side of the river are maintained and groomed thanks to the efforts of the White Thunder Riders Snowmobile Club, which has been at the forefront of trail development since the 1970s.

Ending the 2018 Riding Season in the Saddle and on the Snow
The Ironhorse Trailhead sign on the west end of Hurley’s famous Silver Street marks the beginning of miles of great off-road riding.

Getting on the trail on the Wisconsin side of the border with Michigan found me trying out the Sno-Runner at the Ironhorse Trailhead in Hurley, but finding the machine tending to bog out and lose power as the RPMs reached normal operating range.

Turns out, the compression release was on, but I didn’t find that out till later—after we called it a day and spent some time trying to figure out what was wrong.

The next day, however was another story. With the decompressor turned off, the seven horsepower Power Bee two-stroke ran great. With calm conditions and temperatures between 18° and 20° F., the tiny Tillotson carburetor fed the little loop-charged single the mixed-gas juice that fun in the snow was made of before some geniuses figured out oil injection for two-strokes.

The riding had another mission; to check out the Scorpion Sports gear we had a look at a while back in even colder temperatures than we did before. Kind of a double review, if you will.

Sno-Runner with Gary Ilminen
The White Thunder Riders Snowmobile Club keeps the Ironhorse Trail in great condition, here coming into Hurley from the west.

The Yosemite XDR jacket with both the thermal and wind/water resistant liners in place once again exceeded my expectations. Contrary to my thoughts that the long vent zippers down the front of the sleeves or chest vents might allow cold air to seep in, despite the temperatures being 20+ degrees colder than our first go, it didn’t happen.

The Yosemite jacket was comfy, warm and equipped with CE approved impact protectors at shoulders and elbows as well as PE foam back pad in the back protector pocket that can be upgraded to Level 2 SAS-TEC protector.

Most snowmobile jackets still don’t come with impact protectors, though there are plenty of reasons why they should. Heavily-used, frozen trails are as hard and unforgiving as pavement and trail-side obstacles are just a couple feet off the trail.

Ending the 2018 Riding Season in the Saddle and on the Snow on a Sno-Runner
This part of the trail in Wakefield runs through a thick stand of pines.

The EXO AT950 Teton modular snow helmet, meanwhile performed exactly as expected. The dual lens face shield didn’t fog up even without the breath box in place. During the rides, I also tried out the Scorpion Covert 3-in-1 helmet we took a look at earlier in the year, but this time in the gloss white version with the optional silver mirror shield.

With a 509 heavyweight Pro balaclava in place inside, the helmet worked very well though in the temperatures at play, the shield did get some minor fogging at the bottom edge if left in the down position when stopped.

No matter the season or your machine of choice, there’s a lot of off-road room to roam in northern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Adventure bike, snow bike, snowmobile, ATV, UTV, you name it—or no machine at all, there’s a trail to get you there.

Here’s a video of the the Sno-Runner in action!

Here’s a video of the the Sno-Runner in action!

For more information on hitting the trails in the Hurley, Wis., area and Western U.P. of Michigan, check out:

Images by Jacquelyn Shauger and Dean Massoglia; video by Jacquelyn Shauger