Hartley: The dangers of breathing snowmobile fumes

Todd Hartley
I’m With Stupid

The Winter X Games have come and gone here in Aspen, and I consider myself fortunate this time around to have not had to attend. I’ve been very clear in the past that I’m glad the X Games are here — they’re a boon to the local economy and they shine the national spotlight on Aspen for a few days — but to an old fart like me (and most of the people I know, apparently), they’re insufferable in person.

One nice thing about the X Games, however, is that they feature sports that are popular in the mountains, and thus local kids, such as ski superpipe bronze medalist Alex Ferreira, can have the opportunity to shine in front of their home crowds. Skiing, snowboarding and even adaptive monoskiing (an event for disabled athletes that featured Aspen’s Josh Elliott this year) are all deeply ingrained in the local culture, and they’re natural fits for a place like this.

That’s what makes the seeming disconnect with the snowmobile events all the odder and more glaring to me. Snowmobiling is big around here, too, and people love watching the long jump and speed-and-style events, but I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that you will never see a local athlete participating in one of them.

I think the reason is that even though snowmobiling is popular in Aspen, it’s not the sort of place where you typically find a lot of slednecks. And for those of you who don’t know, a sledneck is the winter equivalent of a gearhead, a person infatuated with things like engines, fuel additives and really loud noises.

I don’t know any slednecks, and I won’t presume to judge them as people, but every January, when they descend on Aspen for the X Games, I’m reminded again of how totally out of place they seem here. They walk around town in large packs, dressed in matching leather team jackets with sponsor logos plastered all over them and they stand out like a bunch of sore thumbs.

I suppose the high-school-letterman-jacket kind of look might still be popular in places where slednecks live, but in Aspen, it looks — to put it bluntly — pretty stupid. In fact, I’d say it rivals the man fur for the most ridiculous getup you will see in Aspen outside of Gay Ski Week. (Actually, the X Games and Gay Ski Week kind of coincide. Perhaps the slednecks are double dipping.)

Despite the outlandishness of the slednecks’ outfits, I’ve always given them the benefit of the doubt and assumed that they only looked like idiots. In reality, I imagined, they were probably intelligent, level-headed, perfectly normal people. That all changed this year, however. Now I’m starting to think the outfits might match the intellects.

What changed my mind was a story I heard from a very reliable source who witnessed the incident in question. According to him, he was walking past Aspen’s Isis Theater when he saw a pack of slednecks berating the poor girl working there, accusing her of supporting terrorists and telling her she needed to change the name of the establishment.

I’ll let that sink in for a second or two and give you time to digest it. If pressed, I imagine I could think of something stupider, but that’s pretty dumb right there.

First of all, the slednecks evidently believed that a girl selling tickets and popcorn at a movie theater was the owner of the theater and had the power to change the theater’s name. That in itself would be deliciously moronic, but that’s the least of it.

I’m going to assume that the slednecks are unfamiliar with the Egyptian goddess Isis, after whom Aspen’s theater and countless other things are named, so it’s understandable that they might not get why the terrorists in Iraq were given that acronym. But that’s still not a reason to assume that anything with the word “Isis” in it is a show of support for terrorism.

I am a little concerned, though. If the slednecks are opposed to anything called Isis now, what will happen as the acronym IS (for Islamic State) becomes more popular? Will the slednecks start protesting the third-person singular version of the verb “to be”? That could make things complicated for any of them who speak English.

Now, obviously, the stupidity of a single pack of slednecks is hardly enough evidence to indict the entire species, but I have to say, looking like they do, it’s kind of hard not to.

Todd Hartley is the head of HORUS (Humans Opposed to Rude, Uncouth Snowmobilers). To read more or leave a comment, please visit


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