TETONIA, Idaho (AP) - Daryl Zohner got his first look at a snow plane back in the late 1960s.
At the time, he was fishing at Jackson Lake in the dead of winter.
“I was standing in water about up to here,” he said.
Zohner pointed down to the top of his boots.
“And here comes a guy along in one of these snow planes,” he said.
The first thing Zohner noticed about the unusual craft - basically, a wingless airplane mounted on oversized skis - was its enclosed cabin, which looked pretty warm and cozy from where Zohner was standing. He decided right then and there that he was going to “get me one.”
In 1968, he built the first of his 16 snow planes. He said it took him about a month, working five to six hours a day. Most, if not all of his snow planes, remain in service today.
In fact, the 76-year-old Zohner built several of the snow planes that lined up Saturday at Ruby Carson Memorial Park for the Dale Robson Memorial Snow Plane Rally. The event was co-sponsored by the Teton Valley Great Snow Fest and Greater Tetonia Community Foundation. It was launched three years ago by Robson’s sons, Brent and Gary Robson, as a tribute to their father. The elder Robson was a snow plane enthusiast.
In the days before snowmobiles, Gary Robson said, snow planes were used to provide transportation for snow-bound farmers and ranchers, as well as wintertime recreation.
“Dad passed away three years ago,” Robson said. “See that one down there, all the way at the end? That was the last one he worked on. My brother, Brent, is driving it today. Dad had the third snow plane on Jackson Lake . in 1948.”
Today, snow planes are banned from Jackson Lake. The vehicles were deemed too loud and considered a pollution threat.
“They used to fish out of these,” Tetonia city employee Mitch Smaellie said. “This is quite a sport . and quite a little community. Gary and Brent have pushed this (event.) They’re very good community men.”
To call Tetonia a small town might be something of an understatement. According to the website City-Data.com, Tetonia boasted a population of 265 in 2012. Maybe that helps explain the size of the town’s workforce.
“There’s two of us,” Smaellie said, “the city clerk, Samantha Robles, and me.”
Both Smaellie and Robles were working as support crew Saturday, making sure there was plenty of hot chocolate and doughnuts, as well as all the fixings for s’mores - Hershey’s chocolate bars, marshmallows and graham crackers. All free, of course.
Smaellie also fed large chunks of fir to a couple of small, but effective, bonfires.
John and Kathryn Eskelson and their three children were among an estimated 150 onlookers and snow plane pilots - 19 planes were entered in the rally. The Driggs family learned about the event, Kathryn Eskelson said, from “my daughter’s teacher. Her husband has a plane here.”
“They’re pretty cool,” Eskelson said.
As for Zohner, well, there’s nothing that quite compares to climbing into the cabin of a snow plane.
So, how fast will it go?
“How fast does a plane taxi down a runway?” Zohner said. “There’s no trouble keeping control until you hit about 70 or 80. As you reach a lot of rpms (revolutions per minute), it wants to pick up those skis in back and lift them into the air.”
And when that happens?
“It’s the good lord telling you it’s time to back off,” Zohner said.
Information from: Post Register, https://www.postregister.com
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