I could call it boondocking or flatland freeriding or, dare I use expletives like off-trail riding, but it all means the same thing.
Here in the flats, it’s riding where the trail isn’t. Hardcore trail folks get really worked up over this subject. Some for good reason and some because they’re just crusty old-schoolers who need a dose of perspective. No matter your stance, with this subject, conversation gets to the redline pretty quickly.
I’ll just say this – yet again – for what must be the 36th time, we absolutely do not support reckless off-trail riding. We have always been proponents of sticking to the trails where they cross private property, or utilize farmers’ fields, or if it’s signed and telling you to keep off. Those who abuse this are in the same category as trail riders who drink and ride – the 10-percent who spoil it for the 90-percent.
A group I ride with frequently, the Lake Effect Slayers, are a band of riders who seek premium powder, epic hill climbs, gnarly drops and natural-shaped jumps and transitions that are all located on land we have access and permission to ride. We all buy trail permits and support the sport, but we’re getting frustrated with the lack of tolerance from some trail-only riders.
Did you know when J. Armand Bombardier first built his snow traveling machine there was no such thing as a trail? While the sport has evolved and changed since its inception, we must begin to realize there will be new views and new ideas on how to use a sled. If we cut them off, we’ll have two scenarios:
1) Riders will do what they want and not support trails with a permit purchase.
2) They will go to other sports and quit buying sleds.
Those narrow-minded ones who say good riddance to off-trail riding are the problem, not the solution.
So what’s the answer? Right now we know it’s not to have freeride zones on the map. That option is not going to be endorsed, patrolled or insured and no organization will put their stamp on it. But it may mean including highlighted areas on a map showing where there is government or Crown land. No endorsement, but an understanding this area is open for use to anyone (snow-shoers, crosscountry skiers, backcountry snowboarders and the like) because, as a citizen, this is their land too.
It’s easy to pass this off and say: “Well, most freeriders don’t ride government land and one of them tore up a farmers field last year!” Guess what? Lots of trail riders kill other trail riders because of drinking and riding, running on the wrong side of the trail or stopping for a smoke in a blind corner. We cannot convict all trail riders because of those few who are idiots.
When I ride with a crew where the trail ends, we call-out and self-police anyone we see coloring outside the lines, and while we’ll never be able to get rid of the 10-percent in society who cause everyone grief, the sooner we realize the actions of one does not represent all, then the sooner we can start to work together with local clubs, governing bodies and the general snowmobiling populous.
Long live snowmobiling, no matter how you ride!