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Snowmobiling: Farmers Don’t Just Drive Tractors

December 15, 2016

At the first sign of snow, dairy farmer Jeff Hardy begins tuning up his Polaris sled, inside lingo for snowmobile, and working out on a treadmill to get in shape for the season.

Since he was 11 or 12 years old, snowmobiling has been his family’s weekly tradition during the winter, and it is the ideal outlet for work-life balance.

With a smile, Hardy explains his philosophy, “If you are going to work with family, you’ve got to have some sort of therapy. So you either go to a therapist or you have a good hobby that you do together.”

For the Hardy family, snowmobiling is that therapy and during the winter brothers, uncles and sons load up the sleds and head for the mountains – and it’s a favorite of dairy farmers in snowy states. What started as a tradition with his dad and uncles has transitioned to one with even more of the family. Currently, Hardy dairies with his father and four brothers. Some of his nephews are also involved, and this weekly winter therapy remains strong. 

“Snowmobiling fits in with the dairy because the farm slows down [in the winter] and it’s close,” Hardy said. “You can do chores, load up, go sledding, come back, and finish up chores when you get home.”

The Hardys’ dairy, Tuleview Holsteins, is nestled at the base of the Wasatch Mountains in Box Elder County, Utah. On a good snow year, the brothers drive just 30 minutes up the road for some great snowmobiling terrain, and in leaner snow years, they head about 75 minutes up Logan Canyon for some of the greatest snowmobiling in the country.

Not only does snowmobiling bring Hardy’s family together in a non-work setting, it’s also become an opportunity to socialize with other dairy families.

“Before a trip up the mountain, we’ll make a few calls and gather a group together,” Hardy said.

There are warming huts out on the mountain, and around mid-day the group stops for a warm up and a bite to eat. It’s a chance to meet other snowmobilers who stop by the hut and give each other a hard time. Jeff laughs as he talks about razzing friends about the brand of sled they ride or the experiences of the morning.

Why the treadmill? Snowmobiling is hard work. Most new sleds weigh around 500 pounds, and come early November, if Jeff doesn’t feel in shape, he starts working on his fitness so that he can ride the way he likes – hard – through the pines and in the powder. Several hours out in the cold, maneuvering a big machine over steep, deep, terrain at elevations upwards of 8,000 feet is hard work and being in shape pays off.

“My wife let’s me go because snowmobiling keeps me in better shape – it’s keeping me alive longer,” Hardy joked.

Like other winter mountain sports, snowmobiling isn’t an activity without risk, and the Hardys take safety and preparedness seriously. Hardy has been through avalanche training courses and always rides with his beacon, probe and shovel in addition to water, food, and fire starter. Many people even wear a backpack equipped with a float that can be deployed in the event of an avalanche to keep the rider from being trapped under the snow. While Hardy has never been caught in an avalanche, friends and family have, and they have even had to life flight a friend out who hit a tree. It’s not something to take lightly, and while out sledding, he is constantly aware of snow conditions and terrain.

With the snow flying, the Hardys’ mountain therapy sessions beckon, and Jeff seems giddy with excitement about the coming season.

“There are times we really need it,” he says. “When things aren’t going well here [at the dairy] and we’re at each other’s throats… we work hard and play harder at Tuleview.” 

 

This story was brought to you by our friends at the Dairy Council of Utah/Nevada.

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