Remembering Two Incredible Snowmobiling Ladies

Mitzi Oakes
Mitzi Oakes was recognized at the Vermont Association of Snow Travelers 50th Anniversary event in 2017 with this picture, which was posted on Facebook.

As the “first generation” snowmobilers have aged into their 80s, 90s and beyond, we find ourselves memorializing many great men in our sport over the course of each summer as they pass onto the snow-covered meadows in the sky. However, there are also many great women who are a part of the sport’s history in one way or another, or who have great stories from their dedication to snowmobiling.

Two such ladies have passed in recent weeks.

Dedicated To Snowmobiling

Who we knew as Mitzi Oakes was actually born as Miriam Wiebe in Newark, New Jersey, of all places in the middle 1930s, and her recent obituary talks about her fond memories of growing up around New York City. But after high school she married a farmer from central New York. She and that farmer would become the heart-and-soul of the sport of snowmobiling even farther north in the State of Vermont.

In fact, Bill & Mitzi Oaks are credited with founding the Vermont Association of Snow Travelers (VAST) in their dining room 56 years ago. That organization still holds strong to this day for snowmobilers in the Northeast. For that and much, much more, Bill & Mitzi were inducted into the International Snowmobile Hall of Fame in 2000 and the Iron Dog Brigade in 1981, among many other awards and recognition.

Mitzi passed away May 23, 2023 at the age of 89. Some of her spirit is reflected in a very entertaining obituary that includes a few tongue-in-cheek moments. Personally, we will also remember her fun, exuberant spirit and bright, genuine smile that she had every year at the International Snowmobile Congress events over the years.

Francis Niver
Frances Niver, as captured before her snowmobile ride on her 100th birthday by Michigan TV stations WWTV/WWUP-TV.

Also recently, Frances Niver of Marion, Michigan, was very fondly remembered after she passed away June 2, 2023, at the age of 101. The unique snowmobiling twist? She gained some local notoriety about 17 months ago for celebrating her 100th birthday by going on a snowmobile ride!

Like Mitzi, Frances’ history with the world of snowmobiling goes way back. In fact, she and her now-late husband, Basil, helped run an Arctic Cat dealership for some time in Marion. The duo was also inducted into the Michigan Motor Sports Hall Of Fame as a part of the Team Highland Racing group that won countless oval sprint and oval enduro races in the 1970s.

Her obituary talks about her love of riding snowmobile and motorcycles, dancing, camping and more. But her zest for life and spryness are really well-captured in the story by a Michigan television station when she celebrated her 100 trips around the sun.

Godspeed, Mitzi and Frances, your inspirational lives are good examples for us all!

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