Conner Statler on winning track

Antrim Township youth Conner Statler, 13, is a force to be reckoned with when he gets behind the handlebars of a snowmobile. He competes in drag racing and has a bundle of trophies marking his victories.

For snowmobile enthusiast Conner Statler, snow is almost irrelevant. He loves riding the winter trails with his parents, Brian and Tracy Statler, and sister Corinne, 11. The 13-year-old youth might ride 150 to 200 miles a day with them in state forests and parks, and up to 2,000 miles in the season. But late summer and fall are more exciting for Conner and his machines.

He drag races snowmobiles on grass. Since the age of eight, Conner has been competing in the sport. The last three years he has entered in the adult class, meaning larger engines and faster speeds.

"It's fun and challenging," he said. And he has been successful. At Somerset in mid-November he won four out of five races, all double-elimination.

He averages 6.2 to 6.6 seconds for the 500-foot straightaway. His fastest pace has been 84 miles per hour.

"Every race I usually come home with at least money," Conner said. "And sometimes trophies."

He wears a helmet and hard plastic vest, and the sled has tether gear so it will stop if he falls off. He never has.

Conner almost didn't have a choice for which activity to pursue. Not that he's complaining. But Brian admits his son is following in his footsteps. "I grew up snowmobiling," he explained. "I just never got it out of my blood. Conner rode before he was born. His mom thought that was a good idea."

So the seventh grader at Greencastle-Antrim Middle School naturally started early working on the 29 machines stored at the family's Statler Road home. Brian is quick to point out most are kept for parts and some are vintage models. "Yeah, that's a sickness there," he grinned. The family rides just six of them.

Father and son are in the garage most free moments maintaining the machines, which weren't designed for grass.

"He's a gearhead," Brian said. "I don't know if that's good or bad. He would live on the handlebars all year if he could."

The two proudly admit they are sledheads and slednecks. They are members of the Pennsylvania State Snowmobile Association, which sponsors the safety course both Conner and Corinne passed. They read seven industry magazines.

The family heads north for the snow and Conner's favorite site is Poe Valley in Centre County. They have a one-ton truck and enclosed trailer to haul the machines. Sam Shatzer from Stouffer Brothers in Chambersburg sponsors Conner for the drag racing. That helps with some of the expenses of the costly sport.

Conner has thought about a possible career. "I want to be a professional snowmobiler. They can make broken bones but no money." His Plan B is to become an engineer for Arctic Cat.

Other interests are not so far removed from snowmobiling. Conner also likes tractor pulls, four-wheeling, watching car drag racing and dirt biking. He also hunts. If he can be outdoors, that's where he will be.