Marathon resident Chad Conley has been riding snowmobiles since he was 13, turning a childhood pastime into a lifelong hobby.
“For me and my dad, it’s always been a father and son thing,” Conley said. Even now that he’s in his late 30s, Conley looks forward to snowmobiling with his dad. “It’s definitely fun, there’s nothing like it. Once you get on a snowmobile, you never get back off.”
The adrenaline rush of sledding as a teenager has led Conley to collecting eight vintage snowmobiles — two of which he showed off Saturday at the 7th annual Vintage Snowmobile Show and Swapmeet at the Central New York Living History Museum.
“I come here to try to keep this sport alive,” Conley said. “I want to show everybody and keep the old sleds going just like everybody else here.”
Wayne County resident John Lester brought his grandsons, ages 6 and 10, to see the collectors’ snowmobiles.
“We found the event on the internet, just looking for vintage shows,” Lester said. “It’s something to do, and the boys like it.
We’ve got a couple of more modern ones, and they’ve started a little collection so we’ll see how it goes.”
Conley’s advice for young riders is to remember snowmobiles can be dangerous like any motorized vehicle.
“You gotta be smart about it — always have the proper gear and all that kind of stuff so you don’t hurt yourself,” Conley said. Conley was one of several dozen collectors who set up in the museum’s parking lot. More than 100 snowmobiles lined the lot, along with tables of sled parts, memorabilia and snowsuits and gear for both display and sale.
The show featured more than 30 snowmobile brands, and some collectors traveled as far as 350 miles to participate, said event coordinator Lee Miller.
“There’s a couple different clubs that come, like the Groton Ridge Runners, the Truxton Trail Riders club brought a groomer down to display, the Cortland County Sheriff’s Department brought a few sleds,” Miller said.
“You’ll see sleds show like this all year-round,” said Ron Fesko, owner of MSR Vintage Sleds in Onondaga County. “Whatever it is, people are going to collect vintage things — especially for the guys, and especially if it’s got an engine on it, that’s the way it is.”