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Snowmobiling through Snowmageddon: Dickinson couple highlights community service in style

Social media has turned one Dickinson couple into snowed-in superstars as they use their snowmobiles to assist getting people to and from the hospital for work.

Kari and Jeff Maas, of Dickinson, North Dakota, give someone a ride during the blizzard of the century that swept over North Dakota from Tuesday, April 12, through Thursday, April 14.
Kari and Jeff Maas, of Dickinson, North Dakota, give someone a ride on their snowmobile during the blizzard of the century that swept over North Dakota from Tuesday, April 12, through Thursday, April 14.
Contributed / Kari Maas

DICKINSON — Snowmageddon created a three-day halt for North Dakotans with its record breaking snowfalls and inclement weather conditions that proved to be hazardous, causing road closures and city shutdowns across the state. In Dickinson, the snow didn’t stop a snowmobile couple from lending their sleds to transport essential workers and others to their destinations.

Kari and Jeff Maas had their snowmobiles on a trailer, ready to be cleaned for the season and tucked away until next winter. But after they saw the snow wasn’t about to quit Tuesday evening and their children were wanting a ride, Kari and Jeff decided to pull them back out, rip up the engines on their sleds and head out into the blizzard.

Kari noted that it’s been probably since 2010 that they’ve been able to drive a snowmobile in Dickinson.

After buzzing around town in their snowmobiles, Kari came across a Facebook post Wednesday afternoon for people requesting help to get to work.

“So we were like, ‘We have the snowmobiles out, we want to ride, let’s take people to work. So that’s what we did,” Kari said, with a chuckle. “Our hearts are just so happy being able to help because it’s a small thing that we can do in our community. We weren’t able to do anything else; we were stuck there. So to be able to get people to work, it’s just very gratifying.”

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Kari and Jeff Maas use their snowmobiles to transport a resident to work in Dickinson during the three-day blizzard that swept over North Dakota from Tuesday, April 12, through Thursday, April 14.
Kari and Jeff Maas use their snowmobiles to transport a resident to work in Dickinson during the three-day blizzard that swept over North Dakota from Tuesday, April 12, through Thursday, April 14.
Contributed / Kari Maas

Throughout the blizzard, the Maas made countless trips to the hospital, spending time at the ER with patients and nurses. Before long, doctors were requesting the snowmobile couple to pick up employees. They also helped out some of the local nursing homes during the winter storm and provided their input on Facebook and to local emergency responders.

“We just are very, very, very grateful that we can do what we did and have fun doing it,” Kari said, adding that they were swarmed on social media with people asking for assistance.

Throughout the three-day blizzard, the Maas were able to provide at least 50 rides, and it wasn’t always a breeze to pick them up, Kari noted.

“It was a struggle, because the people that we had to pick up we’re back in the boonies. So it was chest-deep, snow cars buried, surprises all over the road. It was very hard to see,” Kari said.

Blizzard winds blow through Dickinson, North Dakota, from Tuesday, April 12, through Thursday, April 14, leaving travel at a standstill except for Kari and Jeff Maas, who utlized their snowmobiles to transport people to and from work.
Blizzard winds blow through Dickinson, North Dakota, from Tuesday, April 12, through Thursday, April 14, leaving travel at a standstill except for Kari and Jeff Maas, who utlized their snowmobiles to transport people to and from work.
Contributed / Kari Maas

For some of the nurses and other people that they transported, riding on a snowmobile for the first time was not the most pleasant experience, Kari said.

“It was scary if you’re not ever on a snowmobile, which most of them haven’t been. So we didn’t want to scare them, but we couldn’t do it any other way because it was hard,” Kari said.

Despite extremely poor visibility and maneuvering through deep snow, the Maas didn’t get themselves stuck or held up anywhere. They also had assistance for some of the rides as there was a pickup truck that would then take the person the rest of the way, she said.

“We kind of were sad that the plows came out because that took our snow away from the streets,” Kari said, jokingly.

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Kari and Jeff Maas, of Dickinson, North Dakota, give someone a ride on their snowmobile during the blizzard of the century that swept over North Dakota from Tuesday, April 12, through Thursday, April 14.
Kari and Jeff Maas, of Dickinson, North Dakota, give someone a ride on their snowmobile during the blizzard of the century that swept over North Dakota from Tuesday, April 12, through Thursday, April 14.
Contributed / Kari Maas

Kari, now 37, recalled when North Dakota used to receive quite a bit of snowfall each winter and there was an actual snowmobile club that would help out during snow emergencies. She remembers doing runs with her father to Killdeer, Manning, Medora and beyond.

“So I’ve been around it my whole life; my husband hasn’t. But he was just thrilled,” Kari said.

With more than 50 rides during the three-day storm, Kari recalled just how bizarre the conditions were for some people.

“We had a nurse with a dog; that was our first one and she was I think terrified and it was very rough conditions where she was. She was out at the Hawthorne Hotel,” Kari said.

The traveling nurse hadn’t experienced a North Dakota blizzard before, Kari said, noting that riding on a snowmobile can be shocking at first.

“I really wish that we could reach back out to her and let her know we did not mean to scare her on the sleds. It’s just how it is,” she said, giggling. “She stands out to me because I think it was very hard to get back to her. So it was very hard to get her to the truck… But other than that, everyone’s been very grateful and talkative and some of them laugh when they go over the drifts and the snow. It tickles your stomach when you’re on the back of a sled. It’s fun.”

With each ride, the Maas had to be looking out for snowed-in vehicles, fire hydrants and other things that could be disastrous if contact was made.

“It was just mind boggling how horrible the visibility was. That wind was just terrible, and it just brought a drift by the minute. Like we would leave and you couldn’t see our tracks to come back with our tracks,” she said. “If you’re a snowmobiler, you know if you take one way in, you probably want to take that same way back… It would cover those tracks instantly.”

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Giving back is what the Maas are all about, Kari said, adding that if another blizzard pops up in the forecast, they will have their snowmobiles on hand, ready to send out.

Jackie Jahfetson is a former reporter for The Dickinson Press.
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