Snowmobile, sign . . .
On the road in the Northwest of America.
Thoughts on Snow Machines . . .
I have to admit, the idea of using snowmobiles for sport is
as foreign to me as using a chainsaw to fashion the scroll of
a violin or cello. Indeed, it might be possible, but so in violation
of the essence of the music the instruments are meant to play.
In the Alps, with their sense of tradition and what Americans
would experience as an overly restrictive limit to their freedom,
snowmobiles are strictly a vehicle of utility. After all, when in the
snowy, silent highcountry, snowmobiles—even when bringing a
needed doctor or the week's delivery of mail—have something
mean-spirited about them. Perhaps it's the intense, high-pitched,
decibel-busting buzz, the whining rocket-like trajectory that one
can hear a good minute or two before it closes in. Or maybe
it's the Darth Vedor-like presence of the helmeted riders. Or the
two-cycle vapors that seem to linger for a while as if lost in such
a pure world, then fall in a sharp vector of descent straight into
the depths of the winter snowpack.
But in a way, I have no bone to pick with those who come into
the mountains on snowmobiles. They seem like good people to
me. I would hope they would say the same about me on skis. I do
envy them their amazing organization in the Northwest.
Skiers have nothing by comparison. They purchase licenses, and
the state of Oregon with those funds grooms an extensive labyrinthian
network of trails for the snowmobilers' use, a fact I happily make use
of on skis. And, of course, they are many, and skiers of any kind,
because of the lack of, in my view, of a comparable supporting
infrastructure—not one of trails but of a few rough but alway-ready
refuges—are extremely few in the Wallowas.
There are ethical questions, of course. About resource use,
distribution, and world conflicts about oil, mostly.
But I always raise my hand when out on the trail in friendship.
"Good people," I say to myself, on what some among us might
find bad machines . . .
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