Dick & Audrey Decker didn’t plan to get into the snowmobile tour business, but once they started traveling and snowmobiling, life took them down that course.
Dick had been in the military and then was involved for about 15 years in many things with motors – he worked for the Chrysler Corporation, was involved in Bombardier, sold motorhomes and ran a dealership, among other things. He started snowmobiling in 1962, and the whole family raced – Dick, Audrey, their kids … if there was a class that allowed dogs, we’re guessing they would have strapped a helmet onto Fido Decker.
Through connections at Bombardier in the late 1970s, Dick got involved in Team Oasis – a Bombardier-backed effort to showcase interesting riding areas to “get [snowmobilers] out of their backyard and go touring,” according to Decker. Through that effort, Dick rode in most states and provinces that had snow, and even in Iceland. “They gave a machine for each us to use and a credit card, and they told us to go out and check out these riding areas and report back and tell them what would be some good destination places.”
Decker said he was amazed by all that he found, and he pondered about how great it would be if he could share the knowledge he gained. With that thought, the idea for Decker Sno Venture Tours was born. The Deckers sold their dealership in Marshfield, Wisconsin, moved up to the Wisconsin Northwoods and opened a snowmobile touring and rental business. Later they bought the Derby Track, but that’s another story for another time.
Thirty three years later, Dick (now in his 80s) still spends much of his winter on the road, leading tours from coast to coast – and beyond – while Audrey serves as the primary support truck driver, handling a big diesel duellie attached to a 48-foot trailer in conditions most men would fear.
Dick & Audrey’s business card has a brief list of the places where they’ve led tours –it includes 14 states, from Alaska to New Mexico to Maine, four Canadian provinces and the countries of Russia, Iceland, Sweden and Finland. Miles? He figures he puts on 6,000 to 10,000 miles per year.
We asked Dick Decker to create his own Friday Fast Five list for snowgoer.com, based on his five favorite placed to go riding. His text is below.
BY DICK DECKER
It was hard to pick “five favorite” snowmobile destinations because any place I find good snow is, for the moment at least – a favorite snowmobile spot. But you asked for five, so here it goes:
1. Copper Harbor, Michigan — Why? Because it normally receives more snow than any other Midwest location, the trail grooming in recent years has been superb and the food and lodging stops appreciate snowmobilers. The best way to visit Copper Harbor is to ride there from Eagle River, Wisconsin. We’ve been doing that for 34 years with our tour people.
2. Northern Ontario Via The Snow Train – It’s a beautiful swath of Canada. Again, it generally has really good snow and lots of uncrowded, two way trails with radically changing terrain to delight your senses and test your sled’s versatility.
3. Alaska – It’s a true frontier for man and sled. It seems as though the whole world belongs to only you. It has snow without end and vistas that stretch forever. Oh, and surprise, there are incredible lodging retreats buried in the wilderness.
4. Yellowstone – This has to be on everyone’s favorite list: our grandest Park, and the most grand in winter finery. If you should tire of trips into the park, you’ve got the corners of three magnificent states, Montana, Wyoming and Idaho, to explore on the trail system outside of the park. It’s really hard to beat the wildlife, the geysers and the fantastic mountains around Yellowstone.
5. Iceland – I saved the “best for last.” Nothing beats Iceland. It’s snowmobiling at its most unique. It’s totally different scenery. It’s swimming in geo-thermal rivers surrounded by snow-covered mountains. It’s enjoying a country that has no imatators.
In something that is far from a coincidence, the Snow Goer Great Escape Tour hosted by Decker Sno-Venture Tours will be in Iceland this year April 7-15 — Dick has been trying to get us to join him over there for years. For information or to sign up, call 715/479-4424.