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TETONIA RALLY SHOWCASES SNOW PLANES IN ACTION
- Posted On
- Jan 07, 2020
- Local News
Things to Do
Activities near Yellowstone
Every January, snow plane aficionados and curious onlookers gather in Tetonia for the Dale Robson Memorial Snow Plane Rally. The 2020 event is scheduled for January 18 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. in Tetonia’s Ruby Carson Memorial Park. The event brings together many of the valley’s 20 or so remaining snow planes as well as people who know and love the machines, in addition to curious attendees who may even get the opportunity to go out for a ride in one.
The first question on many people’s minds is “What is a snow plane?” Despite their name, these unique machines never leave the ground. However, they do use repurposed aircraft parts—particularly engines—in their construction, leading to the moniker “snow plane.”
A snow plane typically has three large, long skis installed under a cockpit of sorts. The cabin is usually quite simple, with necessary instrumentation and room for just a handful of passengers. A large, whirring propeller often sits on the rear of the machine, leading to an attention-grabbing roar when it spins to life.
These days, building a snow plane is a labor of love. They’re not commercially built, but rather hand-crafted by snow plane enthusiasts. While they typically use old airplane engines, they can be built with engines from other types of vehicles, including certain cars. Each snow plane is unique, crafted according to the vision of its builder.
While snow planes are rare now, they were popular from the 1930s to 1950s, which was the peak of their popularity. When snowmobiles came on the scene, snow planes became less popular as people shifted to newer ways of getting around. Once used for important tasks like transporting mail and even medicine during challenging winter conditions, today snow planes are mainly used for recreation, particularly ice fishing.
For years, Jackson Lake in Grand Teton National Park was a very popular place for families to gather with their snow planes, spending whole weekends ice fishing and enjoying one another’s company. However, in 2002, the National Park Service banned the machines due to the noise and impact on wildlife and the environment. Now, snow plane enthusiasts bring their machines out on different lakes in the region, including Fremont and Grassy lakes.
Around 20 snow planes are still in the region and many of them are on display at the Dale Robson Memorial Snow Plane Rally. The rally is named after one of the area’s most dedicated snow plane enthusiasts. Dale Robson’s son, Brent Robson, still lives in Tetonia and is one of the key organizers of the annual rally. Robson still enjoys getting out in his snow plane, and especially bringing his grandchildren out for a ride.