10 | Snowmobile VERMONT By Ron Nanfito My family friend and snowmobile riding guru Charlie Hnilicka from East Haddam, Conn. turned 88 this last March. He started riding in the Woodford area in 1971 with his late wife, Peg, who was also known as Betty. He has been a member of the Woodford SnoBusters since 1971. Charlie tells me that there were no such things as trails or groomers back then. They broke their own trails and went wherever the snow allowed. They groomed the trails with double size bed springs pulled behind the sleds. He recalls trailside cookouts and goodhearted fun with friends. His first sled was a 1971 Moto-Ski single lunger two-up. He’s had six new Polaris sleds since and is now riding a 2006 Polaris 600 with 10,000 plus miles on it. He still uses an open faced pop- up visor helmet! WITH PLENTY OF THROTTLE LEFT! In 1984, he spent six weeks riding in the Yukon River area in Ruby, Alaska and again this year in Nenana, Alaska. He also rode in Old Forge N.Y., in the 1980s and in Yellowstone National Park in 1993. Charlie also rides in Maine and Vermont. He faithfully makes the trip to Stockholm, Maine several times a year in addition to at least three trips a year to Island Pond to ride with me and our riding buddy Bob Russo from Torrington, Conn. In the last 15 years, we have logged well over 20,000 miles together and memorable trips are plentiful. In mid-March 2009, I called Charlie to see if he could make an unscheduled three-day weekend trip to Island Pond. He said, “I’ll have to let you know. I have a commitment on Saturday. I’ll see if I can get out of it.” The next day Charlie called and said, “I’m good to go. What time are we leaving?” A few days later, while we were taking a break on the trails up in Canaan, we were talking about priorities and commitments and I asked Charlie what the commitment that he canceled was in order to go riding with us. He laughingly said, “My eightieth birthday party that the kids were having for me. You have to have priorities!” This statement was followed with roars of laughter. Over the years, Charlie has provided wisdom, knowledge, laughter, physical workouts and, most of all, great friendship to Bob and me. We are looking forward to many more years of his companionship. 88