On the trail: I’ll stick to skiing | AspenTimes.com

On the trail: I’ll stick to skiing

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

GRAND MESA, Colo. – I’ve always thought of snowmobiling as a noisy, smelly activity – the kind of elitist assumption so typical of a certain segment of the holier-than-thou backcountry set. Of course, I’d come to this conclusion without ever once having actually ridden on a snowmobile.

Now, having zoomed across vast expanses of powder at what felt like Mach speed, I’d have to say snowmobiling is a noisy, smelly activity. It’s also terrifying – at least it is if you’re the kind of person who grips her bicycle brakes on a ride down from Maroon Lake because a screaming descent strikes you as something less than exhilarating.

I was actually offered a snowmobile of my own to drive on my recent adventure. I demurely declined, which was probably a good thing since I’d have driven the thing like the proverbial little, old lady and held up the group. Plus, the other newbie in the party got his machine stuck at least a half-dozen times, much to his embarrassment, I’d imagine.

On the back seat of a two-seater, I watched the landscape rush by in a blur of flying snow. I could have sworn we were approaching highway speeds, but my affable driver assured me we were traversing the snow at all of about 20 mph. He took it up to 50 mph and I turned as white as the snow, tightening my death grip on the rear handles and my sphincter simultaneously. While others in the party, including my driver, swerved gleefully through the powder, I spent a great deal of my time praying for my survival.

I really did figure, though, that the roar and exhaust of the machine, so noticeable to a bystander, would dissipate while I was actually riding one of the things. Instead, the faster we drove, the louder the whine, and the ever-present exhaust fumes filtered through every layer of clothing I had on.

I can’t argue that the snowmobile speedily carried us to a specific location for a legitimate purpose. It is efficient transportation across the snow, no doubt about it.

I also know, though, that for most snowmobilers, there is no purpose and no destination. It’s about tearing around in the snow for the sake of tearing around in the snow.

I think I’ll stick to my touring skis. They’re more my speed.


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