The Good Guys Versus The Real Bad Guys

Nov. 01, 2005 By Doug Chamberlain
As with many of the other dedicated sledders who partake in and immensely enjoy this sport, I too get wrapped up in talking sleds, working on them and planning for many enjoyable outings and trips. The trails and places I go to are always open and available for riding in the winter.No Nothin' is Allowed Now I'd sure like to assume that's the way it's always going to remain, but unfortunately I'm finding out lately that it just might not be so any longer. And to make things even worse it appears that the status quo is changing rather rapidly and squarely to our detriment as a user group. We now find ourselves staving off attacks from those who don't want to co-exist with us or even allow snowmobiling to continue in general. Those who would like to curtail or eliminate our pastime use various accusations and tactics designed to induce land and trail closures against us. Much of this adversarial activity is based on perceived threats to wildlife usage or infringing on other categories of users rights and enjoyment. Currently the sport definitely faces some extremely staunch opposition from many different sides.

The rollerbladers don't like us on paved trails with studded tracks. Never mind that in many cases paving was done in their behalf on traditional snowmobiling trails. Some landowners may not be keen on trails crossing their property be it based on a few trespassing trail cutters or maybe loud pipes. Some cross-country skiers may not care to share trails with us, so they sometimes seek to have our trails designated for their use only. And then of course, there's the green extreme groups that just don't want us or any off-road motorized groups around period. Never mind the fact that many of them might drive their four wheel drive sport utility vehicles to their favorite trailhead when they do manage to leave their urban realms behind. Then proceed perhaps to see a few miles of trail on foot and to believe they have communed with nature. After this, they think they now intimately know and understand the area much better than any other type of user could. Do they get out into the countryside in winter or heaven forbid during a snowstorm? Well, I seriously doubt it. But their ilk sure would like to stop you and I from doing that very thing. Maybe it's for the simple reason that we do and they, for whatever reason, do not. Who knows why but maybe it's a facet of human nature to resent people who are different or dissimilar in some ways from ourselves.

Whatever the case may be, we ride for the sheer fun and some folks want to stop that. We should all realize that the threats to preserving our sport are very real, and the need for active participation in a unified front is now absolutely critical to our further enjoyment of the sport and our traditional trail usage. I don't seem to hear much about new snowmobiling trails being opened; instead, traditional trails continue to be closed. Why then does there seem to be a polarization going on at some levels and within subgroups amongst ourselves? It's rather difficult to fathom the cause. Such a thing as a little diversity within our sport can at times inflame intolerant attitudes and even plain outright animosity in some instances. It really seems rather ridiculous when you stop to consider the following.

I've come across some attitudes by mountain machine riders thinking they're maybe better than the trail machine riders and vice versa as well. Also, some of the hillclimber types believing that the boondockers just aren't up to snuff and again this works both ways. Or say big iron lake runners believing that acceleration and top speed is the only way to go. How about the snowcross racer types cursing the family riders for being out on "their" trails and again this definitely works the other way too. And just in describing these groups I've labeled and somewhat induced stereotypes of them myself. Just the fact of being out for a ride and just being able to choose to go for a ride is a lot more important than copping a "particular style" type of attitude. Sure there's diversity in our styles and machines but when you come down to it the big common denominator is we all like to ride snowmachines.

We also really need to put aside extreme brand loyalty and the brand-bashing mentality. It may be enjoyable to think each of us is on the best thing on snow, but it detracts from the comradery and an attitude of being fraternal towards all riders no matter what brand or model they ride. What we are doing as a group is far more important than what particular machine we happen to ride. Everyone on a machine does it because they enjoy riding period. These are all your fellow enthusiasts out there, and they are the only ones who really care to see the sport continue and thrive. The manufacturers compete on the track and in the marketplace for our dollars, and some of us seem to get swept away in the competitive advertising hoopla that's created and generated by them. True we need their products, and they need us as customers. But they differ from us as riders in that we are user-end, enjoyment oriented, and they are by nature bottomline, profit motivated. So don't have that "Brand X Rules" tattooed across your forehead or more importantly inserted between the ears for that matter.

This polarization of users has occurred in other sports, as well, not just ours. Climbing has followed a similar vane with free climbers versus the aid assisted ones using fixed ropes and pitons. Or alpine-style climbers versus sport climbers. This sport has seen increased permit fees, permit reservation systems imposed, aided route bans and even closure of some previously accessible areas. Maybe too many of them have been busy doing their own thing and in the meantime some traditional rights were lost while they bickered amongst themselves. These similarities to ourselves and the possible results could be pretty akin to where we may be heading.

Another case is downhill skiing. Everyone goes up a lift and slides down a ski run together right? Well, not exactly. Since the invention of snowboards some years back, many traditional skiers and ski areas have been biased against them and have even banned them from use in many areas. Since their popularity now accounts for most of the growth in the industry, areas have for the most part become receptive toward and enthused about allowing them access. An interesting development of late is a new type of very short ski that some snowboarders now are rather prejudiced against. Isn't it funny how they fought for acceptance by the skiers and now are prejudiced against a new subgroup of users?

And now the ski areas themselves have increasingly come under attack from "enviro" groups and face many difficulties in seeking area expansion and Forest Service permit approval. On a related note, recently arson fires have destroyed structures and a lodge valued at 12 million dollars in Vail Colorado. An obscure, extreme enviro group has claimed responsibility. Great method for winning friends and influencing people. However, they do inadvertently assist in generating some very negative publicity for their causes and groups as a whole. Real brilliant tactics there!

Our infighting, indifference, arrogance and apathy will certainly do ourselves harm unless we see where the real competition against us is out there. It most certainly won't be someone on another sled; it's going to be some of our legislators or some of the state and federal officials appeasing those who are squawking against those noisy, smokey and obnoxious snowmobilers 'ruining' their outdoor experience or 'destroying' the environment. We can't let them whup up on us while many of us are just too indifferent to care or too busy to notice. It's time to care about what really matters FOR US. I want to go out riding when I want and where I've been previously allowed to go with only my choice of plans and decisions dictating my options. Whatever we can do to help guarantee that future for all of us we surely need to pursue. How about all of us showing the real competition that we are a group deserving respect in our resolve and strength in our numbers? Not some disorganized yahoos that can be taken lightly when trifled with and easily shoved aside by those who think that their priorities and agenda take precedent.

That word 'trifled' I just used above is defined in Websters as: trifle -noun, french trufe, trufle mockery 1)something of little value or importance esp: an insignificant amount (as of money) trifle -verb, french trufer, trufler mockery, trick 1a)to talk in a jesting or mocking manner or with intent to delude or mislead b)to act heedlessly or frivolously :play 2)to waste time :daly 3)to handle something idly :toy trifling -adjective :lacking in significance or solid worth a)frivolous b)trivial c)lazy. I don't care to have any such description applied to us nor would I want it to actually be an accurate term used in any shape or form when describing snowmobilers. Would you?

Join your local clubs and state organizations as well as national groups such as the Blue Ribbon Coalition. They can keep their members informed of the issues that effect all of us and help counter the increasing erosion of our rights to go out riding and fully enjoy such a stupendous sport. Then maybe we'll always have plenty of reasons to look forward to each new winter season because of all the riding that's ahead of us.

The Blue Ribbon Coalition Newsletter
Join our Weekly Newsletter to get the latest off-road news, reviews, events, and alerts!