Several years ago I took a friend from college snowmobiling for the first time. This friend had a strong background in downhill skiing and a love of the outdoors and I had been trying for a long time to take him out snowmobiling. He took to the sport rather quickly, and by the end of the day already displayed a natural talent for riding sleds. This was likely a result of his skiing ability and familiarity with the winter backcountry.
The day went especially well as conditions were ideal for a beginner, with blue skies and about a foot of new snow…enough to have fun in, but difficult to get stuck too much. A good time was had by all and on the drive home he buzzed with pure enthusiasm for his newfound hobby. However, he also felt compelled to tell me that he thought snowmobilers were particularly arrogant. When I pressed for an explanation, he told me that many of the riders he passed going the opposite direction on the trail that day held up an index finger towards him as they passed, in his view to illustrate to him that they were “#1”, as in “I’m the best rider around so get out of the way!”
After I had a good laugh at his expense, I went on to explain that this was a merely a safety precaution on the trail and passing riders should identify the number of remaining riders in their party by holding up the appropriate number of fingers as they go by. “Well geez, what did you think when riders were holding up two, three…or four fingers???,” I joked. We had another hearty laugh and he admitted the foolishness of the observation and I confessed that I ought to have explained the practice before the ride, although to be fair I rarely find myself riding the trails.
Long after the comedy of the remark wore off, I found myself wondering why an otherwise reasonable person would jump to such a ridiculous conclusion about snowmobilers. Most likely I think, it was due to the unfavorable view of snowmobilers in general that often persists with other winter backcountry users. I won’t dive into inaccurate stereotypes right now, but suffice to say there are a few. While we certainly have our fair share of oddballs and parking lot racers, my experience in the sport has led me to believe that most snowmobilers are some of the greatest people around. Additionally, many people unfamiliar with the sport do not understand just how physically and technically demanding true backcountry riding is (i.e. the type of riding that requires sidehilling, tree riding, carving, and boondocking).
Over the past two weeks I had the opportunity to ride with most of the Boondockers crew. Two weeks ago Aaron Case, Cody Case, and Ryan Searle made the trip from Idaho down to Utah to ride with Geoff Dyer, Ryan Nelson, Rick Barker, Justin Cowett, Shane Kynaston, Jackie DeWolfe, and me for several days. We had one of the best weekends of the year so far and despite low snow levels, still managed to find great powder, big drops, and plenty of boondocking through the endless trees, river bottoms, and canyons that Utah has to offer. Aside from the riding, I am incredibly grateful for the camaraderie and associations with so many exceptional riders and people that I have developed out on the snow. I could list a hundred names, but through this sport and Boondockers I’ve built many of my closest and most positive friendships.
So next time I pass by you on the trail, don’t take it personally if I seem to laugh…it has nothing to do with you. See you on the snow!
Photos by Jackie DeWolfe