By Jason DeRusha

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — To imagine a Minnesota winter without snowmobiling is like picturing a Minnesota summer without boating.

And as much as the sport has woven its way into our culture, as deep as the drift at the end of your driveway, it’s still relatively new.

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Although some of the early, bulky prototypes of snowmobiles were built back in the 1930s, it wasn’t until the mid-60s that smaller, sleeker designs with mass-market appeal sent the first snowmobiles roaring onto our winter landscape.

Dealerships popped up almost overnight, and it seemed like every company that had a product with a motor got into the snowmobile business.

With the sudden influx of these new machines came problems: We had a brand-new sport that was mostly unregulated.

Two members of the Prior Lake Snowmobile Association (credit: CBS)

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It was early organizations like the Prior Lake Snowmobile Association that helped get Minnesota snowmobiling back on track.

Now, nearly 50 years later, the PLSA is still going strong, with 86 families enrolled and maintaining 250 miles of trails.

They also organize important community functions like “Snow Sports Sunday,” designed to get neighbors interested in outdoor winter activities.

This year they drew almost 1,500 people to Charlie’s Bar on Prior Lake.

Let’s not kid ourselves: There is plenty of sled-head banter, but these die-hards are always looking forward.

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And in Prior Lake, the future of snowmobiling looks pretty bright.

Jason DeRusha