11 Reasons Why Snowmobiles Are the Best (and Worst) Vehicles Ever Made

snowmobiles
Photo: Courtesy of Jeff Cricco/POWDER Magazine

1. Hands-down the best vehicle yet devised by homo sapiens to travel over snow at high speeds. The easiest, most cost-effective means for one person to convert powder from untracked to tracked. With talent, can be used to bend gravity, climb walls, do backflips, skim across pristine mountain lakes, and leap headlong into death-wielding couloirs.

2. More addictive in the right conditions than sleeping pills or video games. I’ve met great skiers still in their prime who suddenly realize they’ve come to prefer turning a snowmobile in powder than a pair of skis. They have ski racks on their sleds but don’t bother anymore.

3. Impossible to carry on your back. Not the ideal tool for hardpack, ice, gravel, mud, tundra, bushes, or asphalt.

4. Slightly less of a pain in the ass to haul around, store, and maintain than a steam-bent hickory dogsled and twelve mongrel canines. Maybe slightly more expensive. When they die you don’t have to bury them; you just leave them in the yard.

5. Like religion, spray paint, drones, RV generators, Facebook, saxophones, assault rifles, subwoofers, Jägermeister, snowboards, chainsaws, nuclear weapons, and other such tools, best kept out of the hands of jackasses.

6. Compared to jet aircraft, helicopters, commercial shipping, corporate ski resort operations, wildfires, and beef cattle, not a globally significant source of greenhouse gases. Uniquely emblematic, however, of the ancient human impulse to prioritize personal pleasure and convenience over physical health, neighborliness, quiet, simplicity, clean air, self-restraint, ecological integrity, and other quaint notions.

7. As with flatulence, karaoke, cigarette smoking, and sex, when one human is having a snowmobile experience, all species within a certain distance— miles in the case of snowmobiles—are also sharing a part of that experience. Perhaps not the best part.

8. If it weren’t for the Wilderness Act, the National Trails System Act, the 2015 Over-Snow Vehicle Rule, and all manner of other regressive, anti-industrial, anti-freedom public lands management scenarios, there’s almost nowhere a person couldn’t go on a snowmobile. As it happens, on this ragged planet with its fast diminishing snowpack, dozens of species going extinct on an average winter’s day, and a human population nearing 8 billion fun-seeking individuals, there are still some places—stains on the map here and there—where a person has to travel on foot to truly appreciate the scale and volume of commercial air traffic.

9. Because I’ve advocated that we might at this point in our history at least consider setting aside a few more places like this, I’ve been called—not to my face, of course—a kook (ouch), a whiner (they even made stickers and put them up on my street), a liar (because really what I want to do is abolish freedom and destroy communities), an elitist (because I want the powder all to myself; because I don’t know how to share; because although I’m not perfect at it, I think grammar and punctuation matter).

10. The backcountry, although not the planet as a whole, will likely be a better place when they’re all electric. Which inevitability will not, however, solve global warming, improve overall human well-being, or bring about the extinction of aforementioned jackasses.

11. Offer me and my skis a bump to the wilderness boundary: if I can be reasonably sure I’m not going to ruin someone else’s day or screw up the denning habits of some sensitive mustelid, I’ll probably take it.

This story originally appeared in the November 2019 (48.2) issue of POWDER and was republished with permission.

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