We all ride sleds for those heavenly moments of deep pow turns and sick lines through the trees. And maybe a little bit for that feeling of drinking a beer at the end of a long day that was filled with challenge, adventure and beauty.
Nobody gets involved in snowmobiling to be political or to add stress to their life. And yet, here we are in a world where access is being restricted and snowmobilers are often viewed as the enemy. As someone who has participated in other outdoor activities facing similar challenges, I have some advice for all of us: Don’t be the victim. Be the solution.
Here are seven ways you can make individual decisions that will add up to support the industry, the sport and your own backyard access.
1. Buy Your ORV Stickers
I don’t care if you ride in all 50 states. Buy your damn ORV stickers. These stickers pay for the management of areas, parking lots and so many other important resources for riding. And the more the land managers are worried people cheating the system, the more money they put into patrolling instead of actual management. And they cost like .2 percent of your snowmobile. You can afford it.
2. Join Your Local Snowmobile Club
Local snowmobile clubs are dying. People have so much information at their fingertips that they no longer depend on actual human groups to gain riding partners and talk about conditions. However (and this is a REALLY BIG however), snowmobile clubs are the first point of leverage when an access issue comes up. Sure, we can all show up with pitch forks to the town hall meeting, but the snowmobile club is the place that real conversation and progress can happen. Pay the $20 a year to join and get involved if you want to protect the access you have.
3. Buy Avalanche Gear (And Know How To Use It)
This isn’t about the sport, this is about not killing yourself or your friends. Buy a beacon. Buy a probe. Put your shovel in your backpack. And practice every year. Having an avy bag is a good idea, too but it won’t guarantee you won’t get buried. And if your friends don’t have an avy bag you need a beacon to find them. Stop being ignorant and claiming you don’t ride in avalanche terrain. And stop being too cheap to spend $250 to save your best friend’s life.
4. Hug A Skier
If you think skiers are the enemy, you’re missing the boat. It’s not the non-motorized users who drive their car to go backcountry skiing who will shut down snowmobile access. In fact, most of them own mountain bikes and want access to the very same spots in the summer. It’s the causes and initiatives far more aggressive (and well-funded) that will do it. So introduce yourself to skiers or snowshoe folks in the parking lot and start imagining you’re on the same team … you might just need to be.
5. SnowCheck A Sled From A Dealer
Did you know snowmobile sales are nearly half of what they were 20 years ago? The technology is better than it has ever been, and yet sales remain static at best. If you are going to buy a new sled, getting a snowcheck from your dealer is the greatest impact you can have for the local business and the industry. If you are a business owner of any size, the case for production and inventory management should make a lot of sense to you.
6. Stop “Burning Off The Youth”
This is a phrase that means putting people in their place or taking advantage of their inexperience. If you take out someone new and punish them with grueling terrain or make them dig out for four hours by themselves, they are probably not coming back. And they certainly aren’t spending $15,000 to get into the sport. If we want riding to continue and sleds to keep improving, we need people to buy into the sport. So at least be nice to them until they buy a sled and trailer. Then you can burn them off.
7. High-Five A Flatlander
We often roll our eyes when we see license plates from out of state, especially in mountain riding areas. But consider the fact that the people in that truck were willing to spend the exact same amount of money you did (or more) AND drive 18 hours to enjoy it twice each year. You should be congratulating them for their passion and commitment to keeping the sport alive so you can enjoy it a few minutes or hours from your house.
If any of these made you cringe, I encourage you to challenge yourself and start with that exact item. You may have to spend a few extra dollars, swallow a little pride or give in to “the man.”
But it will be worth it when your grandchildren are ripping on their Polaris 2900 quadruple turbo sled.
This article originally appeared in an Article in Snowest Magazine: https://www.snowest.com/2019/02/why-you-are-killing-snowmobiling?page=2#articleContent