Travel

A Tiny Town's Obsession with Snowmobiles

Photographer Corey Olsen travels back to his hometown of Turner, Maine to document the annual one-lunger snowmobile race.

by Corey Olsen
Mar 24 2017, 10:57am

Not much happens in the place of my birth, Turner, Maine, unless you count its annual snowmobile race. The event brings the small town together. In typical Maine fashion, when you arrive, you have two parking lots to choose from: one for the cars and one for the snowmobiles. Though they're not really even parking lots. They're more cornfields where people just park their vehicles.

Restricted to one-lunger (single cylinder) engines, the snowmobiles can't go much faster than 30 MPH. All of this might not necessarily sound too exciting, but people mainly go for one reason: to watch them crash.

This year, I went to photograph it.

Before the start, the announcer welcomes those who have traveled a long way to witness the spectacle—from Mexico and Norway, Paris and Denmark. Everyone laughs, because no one has actually had to come very far. Mexico, Norway, Paris, and Denmark are all towns in Maine.

Most of the accidents happen at the beginning, and by the end, after 50 laps, the 50 or so racers are down to only a handful. Motors buzz, gasoline wafts in the air, participants strap GoPros to their heads, and we watch as the snowmobilers fail. Their machines break down and are dragged off the course. They hit a bump and lose control. They go flying into hay bales.

Seated on snow embankments along the track, the crowd drinks beer and cheers. Eventually, the announcer yells that only a few laps remain, and the spectators get up to leave. Like most sporting events, it's not really a matter of seeing who wins; it's about beating everyone else out of the parking lot.