The Next Generation Doesn’t Want to Sled Anyway, Do They?
Are you tired of loading up the family every weekend and heading out to the hills and meadows to blast through the fresh powder that has fallen? Are you fed up with the kids asking when you can take them riding again? Perhaps you are worried about your children and next generation getting hooked on sledding, forcing them to work hard and earn enough money to purchase their own snowmobiles when they grow up.
In fact, wouldn’t it be great if they found a nice indoor pastime like jigsaw puzzles or cribbage tournaments instead of heading out into the backcountry for some fresh air and exercise? If you are worried about your children and your grandchildren getting hooked on snowmobiling there are a few easy things you can do to help prevent it.
The Next Generation Doesn’t Want to Sled Anyway, Do They?
Install a “Mountain” Can
I get it, you like the sound of your sled. You like to save weight. Makes perfect sense, but if you are going to modify your exhaust why not choose one of the “trail” or “quiet” can options? Almost every supplier makes a quiet version that keeps the decibel level close to stock and within acceptable limits for those trails that do monitor noise.
I’ve heard many riders say that they only ride in the mountains so who cares? The problem with that argument is, of course, many people care: the snowshoer that you never noticed up in the treeline, he cares. The backcountry skiers traversing in to their favourite bowl, they care. The nature photographer hiking in to catch a shot of a Ptarmigan in its winter white ruffles, they care. Even your grumpy neighbor who has to listen to you load up at 6am probably cares a little.
None of the people in these situations are surprised to see a snowmobile, frankly most of them expect it. But to take that a step further and induce an ear splitting shriek that carries for miles will easily move their opinion from one of simple annoyance towards snowmobiles to an outright hatred of them. We need to be better than this.
Ride in Caribou Closures
Lately we have seen more and more areas closed down in the name of protection for our Caribou. I am not going to debate the legitimacy of this. We all have our own opinions on the science behind these closures and whether this will actually help caribou numbers or not—that is not my point right now.
The fact is that these closures are in place, by law. If you disagree with them then please, work towards change. Join a club. Write letters to your MLA. Get involved. But as long as these closures are in place you need to respect them.
This is not about agreeing with their purpose, this is about being an ambassador for our sport and showing that we can follow the laws and regulations that govern us. Every breach of these boundaries damages our sport at a much deeper level than we can measure. It gives those who oppose us more fuel to push for further closures. It sets a seed of doubt about our intentions as a group and reflects poorly on our responsibility to those who shape and control our legislations.
Not Joining a Club
Here’s a quick way to determine if you should become a member of your local snowmobile club. Do you ride a snowmobile anywhere other than your own yard?
That’s it. You don’t need to overthink it.
You may not use the groomed trails, you may not need the discounts on the insurance that you receive, you may not want to “get involved”, you may not even want to support training and safety for kids, but you still need to join a club and here’s why: there is strength in numbers. High membership numbers give the clubs some clout when opposing land closures or lobbying to regain access to land. Of course there are many more reasons to join but this is the big one that helps ensure that future generations will have somewhere left to ride.
Don’t Prepare for an Avalanche
Let’s face it, no one goes into the backcountry with the intention of getting caught in an avalanche. However the way some riders head out unprepared leads one to believe that they are hoping to do just that. While no amount of preparation can guarantee safety, we need to do a better job than we currently are.
Far too often we see people riding with no avalanche training and without carrying even the most basic of tools required should a tragedy happen. Then when an accident occurs (using the term ‘accident’ loosely) the news is sure to point out any errors that may have been made. Of course then the public comment boards will light up with expert knowledge and advice how snowmobilers have a death wish and have no business being in the backcountry at all—it happens every time.
The only way to control this bad publicity is to limit the risk. Take an avy course, get the gear, and practice, practice, practice. If we don’t take responsibility for our own safety you can bet that someone will bring in legislation that will regulate it for us.
Don’t Pack Out What You Packed In
This seems so obvious that it’s almost embarrassing to have to mention and yet every spring we see the results: parking lots, trailheads and cabins littered with empty cans, food wrappers and blown belts.
Clubs and other volunteers spend countless hours doing garbage cleanup every year for the benefit of our forests. When you litter, please ask yourself this question: who the heck do you think is going to pick it up? Long after the snow melts your garbage remains, often in pristine alpine habitats where it will be, at best, found by a hiker who will then use it as a reason snowmobiles should not be allowed in that area. At worst, an animal can find it and die. But hey, we are talking about ways to close areas to future generations so you do what you think is right. I would hate to see the cleanliness of your house, however.
Use Poor Etiquette on a Forest Resource Road
Many of us use forestry roads to get to our favourite riding spots and some of our actions are atrocious. These roads are radio controlled for a reason: they are too narrow to safely meet another vehicle head-on unexpectedly.
If you don’t have a radio, follow someone who does. Even if a contractor is not currently hauling there can still be mechanics and lowbeds moving equipment on the weekends. Since they are actually working, this road becomes a jobsite for them and if you have an accident or a near miss on one of these roads it will be investigated by WorkSafeBC. Too many problems and these area will be shut down while work crews are in the area.
Parking poorly and blocking these roads is also a problem and does nothing to help the relationship between snowmobilers and the contractors. Remember, that resource road was built by, and is maintained by, the forest or mining company and its contractors. The least we can do is show them some courtesy while they are out there trying to earn a living while we play.
Be a Good Steward of Our Awesome Sport
These are just a few of the things you can do to damage the reputation of the snowmobile industry, helping the next generation avoid the hassle of going sledding. The other option of course is to make sure that you are a good steward of our awesome sport and take every opportunity to promote acceptance by the general public.
From the time you load your snowmobile on your truck until the time it is safely back in the garage you are a representative of our sport and your actions are being judged by people who do not understand sledding. Please don’t give them any reasons to dislike us, we need all the support we can muster.
The next generation of sledheads will thank you.