Posted in Backcountiryunited.com
An open letter to the snowmobile industry
by Jon Miller
September 20, 2018
Snowmobiling, and the industry that supports it, has changed my life. I’ve been working with this industry for about 14 years now, which started back in 2004 when I began working for one of the leading OEMs within a large corporate advertising agency. Through this experience, I have learned all about the history of this sport. Learned about where it started, who started it, what it took to get it off the ground, and the culture and people that continue to carry this industry forward today.
What’s hard to explain to anyone looking at us from the outside, is what’s unique and special about the community and culture I have grown to understand and love. And even more difficult to explain, how profound the experience of snowmobiling is, for the spirit of those who pursue it.
Nothing can describe the sense of freedom and inspiration that comes from roaming our beautiful mountains and forests and connecting to a frozen world that most of humanity will never know. Nothing can describe the feeling of standing on top of a new Vista, in a cold and hostile environment, overlooking the splendor of nature and feeling the warm rays of sun on your face. Nothing can describe the comradere that is formed with other hard working and free spirits when you’re stuck in deep snow or challenging terrain, or running into a mechanical failure and having to work together to solve problems, survive and return back to the trailhead in the dark in sub-zero temperatures. And lastly, nothing can come close to describing a community culture of people who refuse to accept the status quo and who forge their own paths forward in life, in business, in relationships, and in taking some of the hardest paths discovering what they are capable of and just how free a person can feel.
It’s one thing to visit a National Park, or to go skiing at a resort in the winter. It’s a completely different thing to learn the nuances of a highly specialized piece of innovative equipment, the techniques required to move around efficiently and confidently in deep snow and challenging environments, the skills and senses required to explore uncharted territories, the time and education required to travel safely in Avalanche terrain, the understanding that comes with learning about snow science and the dynamics of instabilities in snowpack, the humility and preparedness that is required to anticipate problems, be ready to rescue a partner, or to fix a mechanical failure in challenging environments. Something happens to you out there. You see things that most of the human race will never see. You understand the forest and the weather in a way that most don’t care to. You run into challenges and danger when the rest of society is hunkered down and staying warm. All in all, you learn a certain grit and resilience that carries forward in everything you see, do, touch and connect with.
For me, I can’t even begin to explain how all of these experiences and relationships have changed me. I’ve stood on top of peaks in Alaska, Jackson Hole, Lake Tahoe, Utah, Idaho, and all over my home State of Colorado. And my spirit has been changed by the Forests, the winds, and the mountains of which everything we take for granted comes from. I’ve learned about forest health, climate, weather patterns, watersheds, snow science, and unfortunately I have also learned about more death than I care to admit from avalanches , as well as selfish and disrespectful people who cause division and problems in our communities.
What’s interesting is that selfish entitled people come in all packages. Human powered AND motorized. People who only think of themselves and have no empathy or respect for others who may cross their paths. No capability to understand that every single human being is out in nature because of an innate connection with the earth and our environment. They might not be able to articulate this connection in an intellectual way, but make no mistake, mostly all human beings who put their time and money and passion into spending the most precious time of their lives outdoors, are not there because they hate the environment!
We are at a juncture in human history. Whether you believe in climate change or not, the world is changing. Society is changing. Our natural resources are dwindling. People are moving to places like Denver, Jackson, Salt Lake, Boise, etc in mass-exodus-like scale. Our Public Lands are under more pressure than they’ve ever been. And there are many perspectives that are coming to a head and colliding over our Public Lands. Whether you want to pay attention to these factors or not, they are real, and they are coming to roost in your own back yard.
We are all painfully aware of some kind of Forest Service travel management revision that is going on in our favorite playgrounds. And if you’re not, don’t worry, because it’s coming to a National Forest near you. There are many many Wilderness proponent groups who believe that our activities on snowmobiles are bad for the environment, the wildlife habitats, the wildlife itself, and of course, their own desire to experience a pristine natural setting. In my opinion, as an American, they have as much of a right to their opinions and experiences, as we do. And as long as they have plenty of space to have the kind of experiences they are after, then we should have a good mutual understanding.
However, there are ALOT of things that we as snowmobilers MUST start thinking about, if we care about sustaining our own desired experience in the mountains. I mean, why wouldn’t we take an honest look at ourselves and find easy places that we can make adjustments to eliminate as much criticism as possible? In my opinion, these are low-hanging fruits that we can easily change. Continue reading “An open letter to the snowmobile industry-John Miller”