My sincerest thanks to Jack Olsen and SPORTS ILLUSTRATED for the overdue article, Bad Show Out in the Cold Snow (March 16). In past years my state has felt the vicious onslaught of snowmobiles. The blast of this mechanical intruder has sorely infected all but the most remote places where an individual can ponder the serenity of the winter wilderness or the hush of the freshly fallen snow. I have witnessed the effect of these machines upon our vanishing wildlife. Those hidden knolls, where deer enjoyed the early sun, or the alder thickets, which shielded pheasants from drifting snow, stand like barren deserts beaten by the tracks of this menacing machine. The damage done to developing seedlings and cover foliage is immeasurable. If we are to preserve the remnants of our wildlife resources, the use of these damnable vehicles must be sharply curtailed!
JEFFREY P. ANDERSON
Your article was a timely, well-written attack on a very serious menace to the American wilderness. It was also a sad paradox of another SI article, Hot Tips for Cold Days (Jan. 26), in which the virtues of winter backpacking were extolled. We need more of James Phillips and fewer snowmobiles.
The saddest effect of snowmobiling, to me, is that people can now easily reach remote areas of snow-covered wilderness previously "reserved" for those who were willing to take the effort to snowshoe or ski in. To adapt an old adage, "One never appreciates the wilderness until he works hard to reach it." The foul record of snowmobiling speaks for itself. Let's hope that rigorous snowmobile regulations are enacted before one of man's last refuges goes to ruin.
So snowmobiles are the worst recreation to come along in years? I'll admit that there are people who are bad for the sport, but we also have college kids who are bad for the colleges across the U.S., and it's these bad eggs who get all the publicity.
How about the economic factor the snowmobile has brought to the northern reaches of snow-belt states? How about the six retired people who spent their winters visiting the doctor until they bought snowmobiles? Their doctor hasn't seen them all winter. How about the 14-year-old boy who saved a family of four with a snowmobile in one of the snow-belt states? How about the snowmobile races they have every weekend that provide entertainment for thousands of people? For the record, there were 35,000 spectators at the International 500 race in Sault Sainte Marie, Mich., and, I might add, not one driver was injured.
Yes, there are some people who abuse the sport, but there are also a lot of famlilies who look forward to it for winter entertainment. I know my family does.
I doubt if there is a man alive who is more prejudiced against snowmobiles than Jack Olsen. It is obvious that he isn't a fan of this fantastic sport.
Naturally, the safety of snowmobiling as well as the enjoyment one gets from it depends upon the individual. Who is to blame when a parent allows a small child to operate a snowmobile and an accident occurs? It should be apparent to all that the adult and not the snowmobile is responsible for such accidents. Common sense is the key to safe snowmobiling. Accidents do happen to snowmobilers and I think Mr. Olsen managed to cite the majority of them in his story.
Truer words were never spoken than by the snowmobile dealer who said, "A new world has been created in the winter months." And, Mr. Olsen, only you could ask what was wrong with the old one.
Little Falls, N.Y.
We recently attended an event billed as a Winter Carnival. To our dismay and profound discomfort, it was much more like a Cold Inferno, modern American style, with hundreds of snowmobiles and assorted snow vehicles unmercifully assaulting the ears and noses. As a result of the unbearable noise and noxious fumes, we left the "carnival" and retreated 20 miles to a beautiful, silent and little-peopled park to recover our senses.