Sightseeing in Northern Michigan: Top of the Lake Snowmobile Museum

“I get harassed because I was born and raised in the U.P. and I don’t deer hunt. Everybody’s like “are you hunting? Are you hunting?” Yep, I’m huntin’ old snow sleds, I’ve just tracked one down and hopefully can buy it this afternoon.”

Charlie Vallier has certainly perfected his sport.

“I like talking snowmobiles. My kids think I’m crazy — I should be committed, but it’s something I like to do. Quit fishing, quit hunting, quit going to the bar — well, not completely — but it’s something I like to do. I like doing it.”

And it’s something he likes to share with anyone who’s interested.

“We’re at the what’s called the Top of the Lake Snowmobile Museum, and the reason it’s called the Top of the Lake Snowmobile Museum you look at Lake Michigan, we are at the top of the lake — the most northern tip of Lake Michigan is Naubinway.”

A museum that started as a show —

“This will be our 23rd year of doing a snowmobile show here in Naubinway. And some of the guys ten years ago — and it’s 10 degrees outside or 10 below zero, and we’re all getting older — why can’t we have a building to show these sleds in. It would be a whole lot simpler than out in the cold. So that started it.”

And Charlie took charge. He’s proud to show off some truly one-of-a-kind machines.

“This is a Mercury Twin Track — the only one that Mercury made. It’s strictly for oval racing. The engineer was here and he said the only — what he wanted to do oval racing, go fast not let off in the corners.”

You can learn how the snowmobile actually came to be …

“They had to work on their own equipment and that’s a lot of where this stuff came from the farming communities. They used a lot of farming parts on them. Bombarider started in Canada. He started because he wanted to be able to get doctors to the outlying areas for sick people.”

And see some of the unique changes and adaptations over the years.

“This here is a 1968 camper. You actually pulled it behind your snowmobile — it would fold down like a popup camper. There’s the hole — this hole is for ice fishing.

“This here is a 200 Husky made in ’63 and this is how you drive it — you sit on the ironing board with skis and then the whole sled moves like this on the snow and ice — it moves really easy, and you see all the room you got back here — you can pile three or four kids on the back here, which I do when I go to rides.”

There is plenty here with Michigan ties.

“This is a Timberwolf. It was made in Soo, Michigan. They made eight machines — they were designed so they could float. It was this sled here that was a pace sled in 1970-71 at the Soo I-500 track.”

Lots to see, learn and experience — an important part of Michigan winters from the past to the present.

“We are the history of snowmobiling. Everyone tried conquering the snow how can we conquer the snow so these guys were engineers without a computer they did great.”