Winter Romp 2017

Winter Romp is one of the longest running wintertime gatherings of Land Rover enthusiasts in New England.  It unofficially began in 1987, then named Winter Safari and was run by Ron and Bernie Mowry through 1994.  Winter Safari was then taken over by Bruce Fowler, Scott Herring, and Rush Hambleton and renamed Winter Romp. Bruce Fowler now runs the show, which has grown from 15 to an impressive 116 vehicles.

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Run a bit differently than a typical off-road rally, there is no fee to attend, no trail leaders or guides, and only one important rule: No Whining! Talking with previous Winter Romp attendees, the conditions can be vastly different from year to year. This year, a powerful Nor’easter dumped over three feet of snow the week leading up to Winter Romp.  Last year, the snow level was low, but the temperatures were brutally cold.  (Remember: No Whining!) The trails void of snow are nearly stock friendly, however deep snow and ice completely transcend these friendly trails to foe. I have a feeling the unpredictable conditions add a sense of adventure and draw some people to the event.

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Nearly every model of four-wheel drive vehicle made by Land Rover since 1950 was in attendance in varying states of repair and modification. Everything from a 1951 Series 1 to the modern Puma Defender 110 was represented. The shining star of the event however was a North American Spec Defender 90, adorning a set of Mattracks rubber track system. The tracked D90 spent the day Friday breaking trail in an attempt to create passible conditions for those with traditional tires and chains. Needless to say, the representation of Land Rovers was nothing less than eclectic!


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Despite the efforts to break trail by the D-90, the conditions at 2017 Winter Romp were still very challenging.  The snow was deep and the state of the trails changed throughout the day due to the unseasonably warm weather. The majority of drivers used tire chains and every strap and winch repeatedly throughout the weekend. On Saturday, the difficult conditions created a traffic jam on the access road to the main trail systems. Fortunately, the guys from Lucky 8 Off-Road, a leading Land Rover parts outfitter, had a surprise planned for Winter Romp 2017. Lucky 8 towed into the woods a Discovery II appropriately named the “Weiner Wagon”, which had a little surprise under the hood. They removed the original engine, and installed a professional grade, fully functional gas grill under the hood! No one seemed to mind the wait to gain access to the trails with Lucky 8 treating everyone to grilled sausages and beverages. The trails were difficult, and the progress was very slow, but camaraderie was in full effect!


On Saturday, the majority of drivers were enjoying dinner and a beer somewhere in Waterville by the time the sun went down. However for a small group, the adventure continued on into the wee hours of Sunday morning. Sometimes off road travel does not go as planned and complications such as mechanical breakdowns can make for an extended day in the woods. Winter Romp is a truly unique and fantastic Land Rover event, full of amazing vehicles, unique people, and endless adventure.

If you decide to attend one year, just remember Bruce’s number one requirement, “NO WHINING”!!

* OutdoorX4 Magazine Promoting responsible 4×4 adventure travel and outdoor recreation