Over the past several weeks I've spent I don't know how many hours checking and re-checking all the information associated with the travel guides (Western Guide to Snowmobiling and the western Canada travel guide in this issue) we put together each year. Mostly, I double check phone numbers and websites and trail information, that kind of stuff.
Sometimes it can get pretty tedious. But most of the time it's actually fairly interesting because I love to read anything to do with snowmobiling, including on various chamber of commerce/convention and visitor bureau websites, which, well, aren't always the most interesting reading. "Hey, come snowmobile here because we have snow." Sometimes that's the extent of some chambers' efforts to entice sledders to their area.
I'm pretty sure I would probably get done a little faster with this research but I tend to get bogged down a little as I read about snowmobiling in this place or that. What really slows me down is when I try to search out new places to ride. It takes a lot of research to pick through websites and other sources of information in an effort to present not only the most up-to-date information available but any new riding opportunities.
As I check, recheck and compile all this information I am once again reminded of the many places there are to snowmobile in the western United States and Canada. It's safe to say there are hundreds, maybe even thousands of riding areas, depending on your definition of what a riding area is. My definition includes trails and off-trail riding so that's why I lean toward the thousands of riding areas.
I'm pretty hesitant to put in writing that snowmobilers have hundreds, maybe thousands, of places to ride because environmentalists will, in their weird, twisted way, say something like, "See, even SnoWest Magazine admits there are thousands of places to ride so creating more Wilderness won't put a big dent in where snowmobilers can ride. They won't even miss it."
That is definitely not what I'm saying. Quite the contrary, in fact. There used to be even more places to ride just a few years ago-even last year-but they have since been closed down to motorized and even mechanized use.
I don't know how many times I've gone on a snowmobile trip to an area I've never ridden or only been to once or twice and sledded with some of the locals who tell me, "We used to be able to ride over there but it's now a Wilderness or closed down to snowmobiles." I may not hear that every ride but certainly more often than not.
Do we need to ride every square inch of snow in the West? No. But not every square inch needs to be locked up in Wilderness or some other land closure.
Maybe you haven't heard much about public land issues lately because it's fairly quiet in your neck of the woods right now. However, I want to point out that every state in the West is dealing with some sort of land issue that affects our riding. Many Canadian provinces are dealing with the same thing.
Maybe you don't pay attention because you don't ride in that particular hot button issue place. After all, it's Washington's or Oregon's or Idaho's, etc. problem, right? Perhaps but we all know how mobile snowmobilers are and how we like to ride new areas. Maybe that area you've been looking at riding is in trouble thanks to a myriad of environmental groups who want to make it their own personal Wilderness area. Does that catch your attention? Is it just Washington's or Oregon's or Idaho's problem now?
Or perhaps you're having some issues in your own favorite riding area and need some help rallying the troops to stand up to keep public lands public for everyone, not just a select few. You could use some help so it's not just you or your club or your state snowmobile association's issue-it's all snowmobilers' issue.
One of the greatest strengths of our sport is our willingness to help others, whether it be through a charity or roadside litter pickup or digging your buddy out of a powder hole. That's who we are.
That's why we need to stay vigilant on public lands issues and help when and where we can. That's who we are.
It might be trite to say and we've heard it probably hundreds of times, but the future of our sport really does depend on our involvement.