16 | Snowmobile VERMONT Amos Snow Sage Colby After 50 years, it was time to sit down with one of the pioneers of Vermont snowmobiling. On a warm day in June, Amos Colby was behind his house preparing his garden for the summer growing season. His wife, Mary Jane, was also busy seeding rows of vegetables nearby. “It was a cool spring in Lunenburg,” says Amos. It was hard work, yet somehow he made it look easy. So who is Amos Colby? Well, I lived here all my life. I was an appraiser for Lunenburg and also became a district representative for the state of Vermont around 1966. In 1987, I was the Essex county sheriff for twenty years. I was on the VAST Governor’s Council too. When did you start snowmobiling? It was around 1964 when I sat on a Skiroule. I just loved it. The company (Houle) made manure spreaders in Canada. Everyone else had Ski-Doos, so I was an outcast. We rode where we wanted and made our own trails. Land belonged to relatives or friends so it wasn’t really a problem. Did you belong to a club? Yep, the Polar Bears. My wife and I designed the first patch. I was busy making drags out of 2x4s with angle irons. Even dragged bed springs. It was a social club too, not always just for snowmobiling. When it came to snowmobiling, who did you influence the most? I guess it was my wife. I had no choice. She wouldn’t let me head out unless I took her too. Did you continue to snowmobile when you became Sheriff? I sure did, but now I had two new Polaris snowmobiles for the department. And boy, did folks like to ask the sheriff to come out and ride with the group! I also went all over to hold safety training classes. I had to deal with complaints too, especially speed. So we [officers] would head out with ‘Keep Right’ signs and a can of spray paint. We would make a line down the middle of the trail in a corner. When a snowmobiler hit it too hard, another officer down trail would stop the rider. The rider would always say, “How’d you know I didn’t stay right? You’re not even near the corner.” The officer would tell them, “But the other officer in the bushes with the radar gun and radio was.” So why did VAST start? In the mid-60s the state didn’t want much to do with snowmobiling and figured the clubs would just self-police. There were probably about fifteen clubs early on, but we knew an association was needed to handle everything and manage it. The concept became Mitzi’s [Oakes] life. There were different names for it floating around as we sat at her kitchen table. VAST was the one I liked. Money was a priority, but there was another problem too. We had to protect snowmobiling in Vermont. I decided to draw up a law. What happened to the Vermont snowmobiling law? I submitted a bill to the Vermont legislature. I also needed to convince as many people as I could that snowmobiling was essential. So I scheduled a meeting at a dealership in Orleans county to talk about the bill and the need for VAST. Nobody showed. Next we tried a meeting at the Newport Town Hall. When I arrived, there were over 200 hundred people! I thought I was at the wrong place and started to leave. But a police officer said, “Nope, this is it.” Were you able to generate support? There were many folks not familiar with snowmobiling. Representatives throughout the state were being asked about the bill, but just didn’t know what to say. So they would ask me to come talk to their local clubs and stay at their house. Meanwhile the bill was doing OK as it moved through the legislature. There were some tough times, right? Yep. I’ll never forget the VAST meeting in Waitsfield. It was a pretty hot day, so the turnout was bad. Mitzi sat down at the table next to me with tears in her eyes. “We can’t do it,” she said. “There’s no more money. It’s over.” I paused for a Interviewed by Mike Mutascio Amos Colby reads the first VAST newsletter again, 50 years later. (Mike Mutascio photo)