There are two types of people—those who stay on the beaten path, and those who blaze their own path. Most people like the comfort of knowing where tracks will take them, while others relish the thought of an unknown course or destination.
Thus it is with snowmobilers. Many ride trails, carry maps and embrace a certainty of a desired destination. They need the reassurance that the tracks they follow lead somewhere they want to go. And let’s face it, if there are tracks, it pretty much establishes that others have safely gone there before … and others will likely be going there sometime in the near future.
Tracks represent a record or history of travel. The more tracks, the more confident the history. Even when following tracks that lead off a beaten trail, there is a level of confidence that whoever made those tracks most certainly know where they were going.
So there is nothing wrong with following tracks or staying on a trail. In this there is safety, in this there is peace.
However, there are a small segment of snowmobilers who gladly sacrifice a level of security for freedom and adventure; those who constantly stray from the trails and establish a new set of tracks. Often the course taken for those who set their own tracks are more difficult and challenging. But isn’t that part of the price of freedom—you give up easy and common for unique and difficult.
Naturally, an activity like snowmobiling is something that should be respected for the challenge and element of danger that it holds. You are recreating during a time of season that can be cold, harsh and unpredictable. A bad decision can often lead to a life-threatening situation.
Spending a night out in December through April is a lot different than spending a night out in May through September. And walking out of the backcountry during winter may not be an option.
So before you wander off a beaten path or trail, you better have a pretty good level of confidence that you know where you are at and what to expect. Each winter various search and rescue groups perform multiple rescues of stranded snowmobilers who found themselves in situations that provided greater challenges then they were capable of overcoming. Seldom if ever do search and rescue groups save snowmobilers on groomed trails.