October 2018 -Autumn has finally arrived and changes are in the air. Fall is a busy time of year for most of us, as we transition into yet another season of endless outdoor possibilities.

My wife and I recently spent a week with our son in Valdez, Ak. Our son is serving in the U.S. Coast Guard and will be stationed for another two years in what I believe is the one of the most beautiful and pristine places left on this earth. He has taken his passion of snowmobiling from Michigan to a new vast and foreign land. Snowmobiling and skiing is very popular in the rugged backcountry during the dark winter months of Alaska’s abundant snowfall. Alaskan’s certainly embrace all of their seasons to the fullest!

A Snowmobile By Any Other Name …

I was amused that our son is now adopting the terminology from that region by calling a snowmobile a “snow machine.”  I asked, “What did you just call it?” Imagine receiving this magazine today and on the cover was printed; “Michigan Snow Machine News?” Just doesn’t feel right to me, but what do I know. I’m just a southern boy transplanted by choice to Western Michigan. I really only have experienced riding in our great state of Michigan, with a couple memorable trips to Utah and Idaho tossed in.

I’ve heard the terms snowmobile, sled, snow machine, and several others. I even talked to a gentleman who called a sled a “bike.” I had to ask him to repeat himself. I  haven’t heard that one before.

Not only do we all call them by different names, but consider how we describe our beloved snow machines by color and brand name, short or long track, two stroke or four stroke, vintage or late model, and designed exclusively for the riders preferable destinations. Just go to any snow show or even take a look at a popular eating establishment’s parking lots off the trail and you’ll see a vast array of machinery.

Practice Tolerance — Accept Other Viewpoints

For many, the shorter track sleds enable us to go a little faster on the groomed trails, while others enjoy a leisurely cruise on the two-person variety. Then there are the crossover and backcountry riders who prefer to explore and test themselves on a steep tree lined incline. I mention all of this to remind ourselves that each one of us has a passion for our sport, but choose to enjoy it together in so many different ways.

The challenge that MSA and most of us face today is learning to practice tolerance and accepting others people’s viewpoints and interests, even if we don’t agree sometimes. Self-evaluation and reflection is often healthy for us in understanding where others are coming from.  I often read posts on social media from people who are very critical of others, often without really understanding the entire picture.

Listen More Talk Less

Sometimes I wish that we could just take a deep breath and step back for a moment before we blast someone because we don’t understand or agree with their point of view. We see this in our government of course every day. MSA is sometimes no different because we are also the very same people comprised of many imperfect personalities, that just happen to get together every winter because we all love to ride snowmobiles.

As we get older, we start to realize what really matters in this life. Of course that’s uniquely different for each individual and our priorities are constantly changing. For most of us, I think, that as we mature we all start to choose our battles more carefully and start to practice the lost art of listening. Listen more, talk less is something that I know I need to work on.

I know that I’m sounding philosophical this month, but I guess that I’m trying to set the stage for what I hope will be a more accepting and generous snowmobile organization in the future. We have such great volunteers that show so much enthusiasm from within MSA, and I hope that we don’t take these supporters for granted. We could not continue to do what it takes to maintain all that we have worked so hard for without their generosity and selflessness. We are all on the same team!

There is one thing that we should all agree on no matter what color of sled, new or vintage, the type of oil we use, or the length of the track. We all want this season to be a safe one for all of our riders! Remember- Do not drink alcohol before or during a ride! I have witnessed several bad accidents and have pulled many destroyed and burned sleds from the tree lines because the operator was impaired. Remember the horsepower of today’s snowmobiles can get you into trouble very quickly, if you are inexperienced and don’t follow simple rules of riding etiquette.

Every one of us has experienced someone crossing the center line on a blind corner nearly clipping our skis, or blowing through a stop sign, or simply riding faster than the trail allows and ending up impacting a tree.

Every life is precious, every member valued and appreciated, and every out of state rider is welcomed!

As we all begin to attend the pre-season shows and swap meets, and once again open up our trailers and enjoy that sweet aroma of snowmobile smells, let’s all work together this season for a safe and enjoyable time together on the trails — even if you do call it a “snow machine.”