1979 Yamaha HL500 x Timbersled

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By Orion Anthony

I live in the coast mountains of Canada just north of Whistler B.C. and I'm an avid outdoorsman and "motorized" alpine explorer. (Snowmobiler)

I've been in product design and branding for almost 30 years now and I've just launched my 5th brand. This time around, a luxury sunglasses concept I've named Northern Lights Optics, inspired by early mountaineering and motorcycle eyewear.
I believe that branding is an art form. A medium to communicate ideas and provoke feelings.  A great product is very important, but it also needs have a great story behind it so that people really feel it.
For me, telling the story is the best part.
For this new brand, I wanted to create something exceptional that would communicate the idea of my new and modern, but vintage inspired sunglasses collection.
Hopefully something that has never been done before, like the feats of the early explorers that wore the eyewear styles that inspired my collection.
Something to provoke that same sense of adventure and freedom, with a vintage twist.
I love touring the alpine on my snowmobile, but my sled is very modern and it has little relationship to the vintage feel of the collection. While vintage snowmobiles are cool looking, they are not effective for alpine touring in deep snow. 
But...several companies are now making modern snow bike kits....maybe I could ?t one onto an old MX bike!
My ?rst thought was an TT500, what a beautiful ride. But it wasn't the ultimate bike. The HL500 was more like it!
So I did my research and found Rob Phillips at Husky Restorations, the man for HL replicas, down in New York. We had a great phone call about the idea, and Rob became very enthusiastic.
The whole time we were developing  this  "Vintage Snow Bike" most people in my snowmobiling circles shook their heads and asked my why.
Well, the 1979 Yamaha "NL" 500 snow bike is intended to tell the Northern Lights story.  A vintage MX masterpiece converted with a modern snow bike kit, creating a whole new concept that could only be of this decade, just like my eyewear collection.
The level that snowmobile engineering has progressed to today is incredible. Combining that with a beautiful bike design of the past we have created something brand new.
Inspired by the past and re-inveted for the present day.
I see the NL500 Snow bike as a very relevant piece of working art, speaking of the amazing possiblilties we have available in our time.
So in February, we exhibited Northern Lights Optic at the MIDO Eyewear exhibition in Milan Italy. Before this year I had never been to Europe , or the Alps for that matter.
Being an avid sledder and with a fresh snowfall in the forecast,  I researched snowmobiling in the region. I honestly wasn't sure if it was even permitted there, but I found "Team Extreme Team'" http://www.teamextremeteam.com/ a snowmobile tour out?tter in the small ski resort town of Madesimo Italy. As far as I know now, Madesimo is the only area you can legally ride a snowmobile in the country, and one of few in Europe.
I heard a story of some sledders who tried to venture through the Italian alpine across into Switzerland, only to be immediately greeted by the Swiss authorities in a helicopter. Consequently, their snowmobiles were con?scated.
My day riding into the Alps for the ?rst time was a very surreal experience.  Riding into the Alps on a throaty sounding HL500 beast of a snow bike was over the top. Unforgettable.
We had a great day touring the area. Rolf Egg, our Swiss guide from the out?t knew all the great riding areas and interesting history.
But the highlight of the day was pulling up on the NL500 Snow Bike in front of "Ristoro Pasini", the alpine restaurant & bar. The reaction from the people sunning themselves on the patio was priceless.
I think they checked their drinks when the saw the bike, they had de?nitely never seen anything like it before. 
It was  a special day in the Italian Alps.
Photos by Claudio Bader 

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