Summer 2017 | 23 During an interview with several of the remaining VAST pioneers, in her "neat as a pin" South Burlington apartment on June 21, Mitzi Oakes tells of how it all began. "My husband Bill came from a large and very poor farm family, they had nothing growing up. As a teenager, he had to learn very early how to repair the equipment when it broke down, because they didn't have the money to pay others. Bill could fix anything, he just had that special skill with his hands. As a farm boy, he also learned to love and respect the land.” “His love for snowmobiling came about while Bill was working for Vermont Heating. One day his boss wrecked his new Moto-ski and didn't think it was worth fixing, so he simply purchased another new one. Of course, we never could have afforded a new machine, but Bill's boss sold him that wrecked one very cheap! Well, he brought that thing home, pounded it back into shape and repaired it in no time! Bill just loved to ride!” “One of our most favorite trips was to ride up on top of Mount Philo, which we did often. But one night Bill came home very upset and told me we couldn't go there anymore. ‘This thing is getting way out of hand,’ Bill told me. ‘People aren't respecting those fields and trails that belong to the farmers! They're cutting fences, leaving garbage around; it's terrible! There has to be an organization of some kind to help protect the property of others, or there won't be any snowmobiling!’” Already in the works were two UVM professors with the means and the know-how, thinking about submitting a bill to the Vermont legislature banning all snow travel on private property in Vermont. There to help in this process was none other than the head of Natural Resources who was known to hate snowmobiles. Providing the fuel they needed to move this process forward was the myriad of complaints from landowners pouring in at the time, with near zero accolades being received in support of this new sport. That night the idea for an organization was a goal Bill Oakes was willing to tackle, but he would need his wife's support. "Mitzi, will you help me on this?" Mitzi agreed to help her husband, (if only she knew what was in store for her and Bill in the next few years!) The first thing on their agenda was coming up with a suitable name for it. Several people were involved in the process of coming up with one, out of the many different would-be titles, but it was Mitzi who thought of VAST. "Why not call it the Vermont Association of Snow Travelers?" It was a title for the ages. The second item on their to-do list was to get the word out to what few clubs there were back then, as well as to all snowmobile enthusiasts. Bill received an old hand crank mimeograph machine that needed repair from a helpful source, which he excitedly brought home, tinkered with and got working. In her basement, on a bitterly cold 30 degree below zero 1967 January night, Mitzi Oakes began cranking out the VAST Memories By Ed “Midge” Rosebrook Howard Curtis, Mitzi Oakes, Corky Lawson and Amos Colby recently got together to share memories of VAST’s beginnings. (Beth Godin photo) VAST Memories