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Women in Snowmobiling

By Jim Duke

As a precursor to the 2020-21 snowmobile season, I’ve been told October has been dedicated to the women who have contributed, in some significant way, to make snowmobiling in Michigan special — and to those who simply enjoy getting out on the trails and snowmobiling with the family. So many women of all ages fit into one or both categories and should be included, but I’ve been told to keep in mind how much space is available. So, in preparing this article, I’ve selected just five I consider very close friends and who I believe personify the women in snowmobiling, not only in Michigan but throughout the United States and Canada.

I’ve received permission from each to share some of their contributions, personal achievements and a few of their thoughts about snowmobiling. Here are their stories.

Christine Barker

Christine Jourdain Barker has been a snowmobiler since a very early age, even before she could legally ride by herself. She continues to ride at every opportunity. She is a professional in every sense of the word and well respected throughout the nation’s entire snowmobiling community. Christine currently serves as executive director of the American Council of Snowmobile Associations, being selected to that position in 1995 at the International Snowmobile Congress.

Among her many achievements is immediate recognition in the halls of Congress when bringing those snowmobile leaders to Washington, D.C., for the annual Fly-In, an event she devised to introduce snowmobiling to federally elected lawmakers. She usually declines any awards nominations, directing attention instead to noteworthy members of the several snowmobiling states under her guidance.

She has received a few, however, such as the Working Together Partnership award for the SnoCountry Byways Partnership back in 2005 from the Region Nine National Forest Service and, more recently, she was honored as the recipient of the Iron Dogs Brigade’s George Eisenhuth Distinguished Service award in 2019. She continues to serve the organized snowmobiling community and promotes snowmobiling wherever she may go.

During ceremonies in Eagle River, Wisconsin, in September of 2019, Christine was inducted into the International Snowmobile Hall of Fame. She most definitely qualifies as one of Michigan’s Women in Snowmobiling.

Karen Middendorp

Karen Langlois Middendorp is a relative newcomer to the sport of snowmobiling. She didn’t become an active enthusiast until she accepted employment at the Michigan Snowmobile Association, first as a staff member and later as office manager, a position she held for about 20 years. She has helped guide the association through smooth and rough waters and has been a driving force in developing a variety of fundraising activities and events.

Although she is unable to participate in much random riding due to office duties, she does take part in the annual state legislators ride and when rides are scheduled along with some of the many meetings she must attend.

She says she doesn’t have any awards other than having received the President’s Award in 2011 at the annual convention. She believes her greatest achievement was being promoted to executive director of the Michigan Snowmobile and ORV Association this June, a position vacated by Bill Manson in 2019. She says she’s still learning the ropes and has a way to go yet, but given what she’s already accomplished, she must be considered one of Michigan’s women in snowmobiling.

Amy Rottier

Amy Klinger Rottier says she really didn’t get seriously into snowmobiling until 2001, although her father owned a snowmobile dealership for quite a few years in the Upper Peninsula. A totally outdoors gal, she enjoys hunting, kayaking and riding ATVs as well as snowmobiling. She has served her local snowmobile club as a board member and as secretary for many years.

She participated in many For Women Only Easter Seals snowmobile events and became very involved with the Pink Ribbon Riders annual charity ride in 2016, an event she continues to participate in annually as a rider and volunteer. Amy says she would prefer to work behind the scenes whenever possible and does so on several activities for MISORVA’s Recreation Committee.

She says even though her permanent residence is in the southwestern lower peninsula, she and her spouse have a second home in the eastern Upper Peninsula and spend many happy hours there as often as possible in all seasons. She continues to be an active member and volunteer of her local club and the state association and is always available to help at any snowmobile activity she participates in. For all she does, she is certainly one of Michigan’s women in snowmobiling.

Debra Manson

Debra McGee Manson would more than likely say she always works behind the scenes, but truth be known, for many years after MSA became the state’s one and only snowmobile association, she spent long hours every evening doing volunteer work like typing membership cards and sorting mail. This was before the association could afford computers or a paid employee. The office consisted of a single desk and a file cabinet in the building where Engineered Cabling (her husband’s business) was located. Deb was a full-time teacher in the Grand Rapids Public Schools system, having retired just seven years ago in 2013. A Life Member of MSA for many years prior to the organization becoming MISORVA, Deb was a person the association could always count on to help in any way necessary.

She began snowmobiling way back in 1976 but didn’t get a snowmobile of her own until 1981. In 1982, she rode in the Easter Seals Snow-a-Rama.

When the MSA’s charity of choice (Easter Seals) began the annual For Women Only fundraising event, Deb was one of the first to sign up; she participated in each annual event for the next 25 years. In other events, such as the MSA Snow Shows and Nelson’s Sno-Motion, Deb has always been an active volunteer.

As an avid snowmobiler, she continues to enjoy rides as often as she can, either on her snowmobile or with her husband in their Ranger side-by-side. She says now that she and hubby Bill are retired, she is hoping they can travel more in their motorhome. With all her other activities, she still has attended every International Snowmobile Congress for more than three decades. Definitely a recognizable person, Deb is one of Michigan’s Women in Snowmobiling.

Karyn Hautamaki

Karyn Duke Hautamaki’s love for the winter season started at a very early age and only amplified with the family’s move from the East Coast back to Michigan. It wasn’t long before she had her own little snowmobile, an Arctic Cat Kitty Cat, and would ride it in the yard and around the house until the path used up any available snow. She aced the snowmobile safety course a couple of years before she was even old enough to officially take it and snowmobiling has been a strong passion ever since.

She is a Life Member of the state association, has been an active member on MISORVA’s Board of Directors for many years and has served as secretary on two different occasions, including currently. Among her many awards is the President’s Award for exemplary Service and, in 2015, she was named the MSA Snowmobiler of the Year, but that was not her final award. Karyn’s passion for the sport has led her to the American Council of Snowmobile Associations, where she has been a very active volunteer working on various committees and assisting annually at the Snowmobile-USA Snow Show in Novi, Michigan, in the ACSA Booth. She is currently the elected Affiliate delegate on the ACSA Board of Directors.

In June of 2016 at the International Snowmobile Congress at Rapid City, South Dakota, she was honored with the ACSA National Snowmobiler of the Year award. She says although she doesn’t get to ride as much as she would like, she still enjoys her free time the most when she’s out on the trails. She is the perfect individual to represent Michigan’s Women in Snowmobiling.

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