The Enemy Within The Enemy Within
Having been involved in the sport for over 50 years now, we’ve seen the growth and rapid rise to fame of snowmobiling and are... The Enemy Within

Having been involved in the sport for over 50 years now, we’ve seen the growth and rapid rise to fame of snowmobiling and are now witness to what could very well be our demise. Over the years we’ve fought and conquered many battles, from government emissions regulations to rising fuel prices to restrictive land use policies, but these could very well pale in comparison to our current number one enemy – and all we have to do to find it is look in the mirror.

That’s right snowmobilers, take a look in the mirror to find the current cause of fear and demise of having places to ride our beloved snowmobiles. We are truly our own worst enemy. We could very well be the main cause of the decline of our sport.

For the past several years we’ve been warning you and talking about a couple of subjects that are having a negative impact on our sport, both in terms of riding areas but also in the eyes of the general public and our image as a user group in general. Perhaps you know where we’re going with this, because we’d like to think those of you reading this are not the problem and that we’re preaching to the choir, so to speak.

There are several elephants in the room. Loud exhaust pipes and trespassing on private land are two of them. All one has to do is read some of the colorful commentary on social media to see how so many snowmobilers do not understand the importance of these two subjects to get a glimpse of why it has become such a problem. Many snowmobilers evidently think it is their right to make as much noise as they damn well please, and they think they are doing no harm by cutting across open field and riding outside the groomed portion of a trail when it suits them.

Of course, these riders will use all kinds of logical arguments to support and bolster their positions, claiming riders drinking alcohol is a bigger problem or that riders going too fast kills, but loud pipes and trespassing kills nobody. Sounds pretty convincing on the surface. If we’re going to moan and complain, why not moan and complain about behavior that gets riders killed?

We could easily spend our entire efforts in this column talking about the problems so many areas are having with drinking alcohol and riders going too fast. In a single day there were five riders killed in Michigan, and in a single weekend five more died in Wisconsin. Yes, these areas had some really good snow and there were a huge number of riders out putting on miles so the exposure was much greater, thus the argument to educate riders to not drink and ride and to slow down is very important. Too many people are going way too fast for the conditions and distance they can see, losing control of their machine and hitting things or going off a corner and crashing. One day saw three riders getting a medivac helicopter ride in a single county in the U.P. of Michigan, not good.

Clearly common sense wasn’t handed out in equal amounts as we continue to have riders crash into each other, with head-on collisions killing both riders. It happens, more often than we would like to admit. Again, going too fast, riding on the WRONG side of the trail, being intoxicated, these are usually the factors in such incidents. Slow down, stay sober, ride right. Pretty simple.

So yes, these kinds of behavior need to be addressed. We feel like we’re talking about these safety items and subjects quite often, to the point our readers should be well-educated as to the hazards and risks. Out west the more common cause of death is avalanche, and while we have made great strides in rider education and carrying the right gear the past several years we continue to hear of multiple deaths each year involving experienced riders, those who did take the training, those who were carrying the right gear. While many slides are being avoided, sometimes riders are in the wrong place at the wrong time, or make poor decisions. And sometimes it just gets the best of their judgment and they get caught.

Sometimes referred to as the victimless offenses, we come back to the subjects of loud pipes and trespassing on private land. These two are closing trails and causing snowmobile clubs major headaches in having to re-route trails to less suitable locations – roadsides, road ditches, railroad grades, or worse yet – all out closure. All it takes is one landowner who has been disrespected one too many times to revoke their permission and that trail could forever be closed. Sometimes it takes years to secure a new route, clear the path, sign it and make it a viable option. Sometimes it never does reopen.

Areas where the groomed trail network relies on large amounts of private land are most vulnerable. The land owners do not want to hear the stupid-loud sleds all day long, or all night long. They don’t want their horses or cattle exposed to the non-stop barrage. Often times it amounts to knowing when to keep quiet. Like, if you’re in a residential area keep your noise down, don’t be a damn hot dog. But no, some snowmobilers want to be the tough guy and show off how much noise they can make.

Or, when the trail gets bumpy they ride outside of the groomed trail and onto the fresh snow with no tracks, smooth and virgin. There are often multiple signs indicating this is PRIVATE LAND and to STAY ON TRAIL, but snowmobilers seemingly are not capable of reading English. Really? You know what we mean. They all see and read the signs – and they ignore them. Snowmobilers ignore the signs put up by the hard-working club members, disrespecting the clubs, the trails, the land owners and the sport. Quite frankly, they do not care if that trail is open or closed next year. Idiots? Clearly.

As they say, united we stand – divided we fall. If we, as a user group, don’t clean up our act then others will step in and clean it up for us, and it won’t be in a good way. Be it the private land owners, increased enforcement, government regulators passing new laws and speed limits, or increased public pressure to get our act together to stop the killing, it will happen. Again, the choice is ours. Speak up and shut down those you ride with who are offenders – drinking, crazy speeding in the wrong place, stupid loud pipes, trespassing. We’re being watched and our future depends on how or if we can handle this on our own, or not.

Managing Editor – Kevin Beilke

  • Mac McCaughn

    March 26, 2019 #1 Author

    Thank you Kevin!

  • Paula D.

    March 26, 2019 #2 Author

    It would be great for those with mountain sleds to not wreck the groomed trails as well when they ride! Riding with older sleds is not fun when it’s one bump after another. Slow down and lay off the gas please.

  • Adrian Tessier

    March 26, 2019 #3 Author

    Unfortunately you are preaching to the converted. I would suggest that the riders making noise and going off trail don’t read these articles because they know what they are doing wrong, and don’t want to discuss it, they just want to do it.. They just don’t care……don’t forget, this is the entitled generation!

  • Mandeep

    March 26, 2019 #4 Author

    I disagree entirely with the noise component. Studies have show the slow moving hiker/skier that makes no noise is more of a nuisance to wildlife. They leave a human scent, the sneak up on animals (running silent), and they are in an animals area for longer.
    Motorized rec vehicles aren’t. Through conditioning that COULD mean that animals think they are being hunted, versus the loud imposing motor vehicle that is simply making a bunch of noise and not hiding.

    Also, there is one extreme benefit to noise on shared use trails. NOISE. I can’t begin to tell you how an exhaust even at 30km/h has made skiers/trail users move more to the side of a trail. Picture a nuisance rider on an electric snowmobile doing 100mph on a trail going around a corner with no consideration for others. There would be no warning. Noise is a great way to tell who is around. It can also alert other people on the trail to a person that could assist in an emergency.

    private land- i agree entirely

  • ilmar Kents

    March 26, 2019 #5 Author

    We in the medical community call the snowmobiles “donormobiles”, and why? Idiots travelling 100 kph in unsafe situations, be they on private or public trails. Seeing the outdoors is the reason for snowmobiling and not scaring off wildlife. These same idiots travel 100 kph in a boat for the hell of it. So, if you must travel fast, sign your donor cards so we can use the parts of you that are useable after.

  • Doug

    March 27, 2019 #6 Author

    A few well positioned trail cams in , high private property violation areas —-along with really HEAVY ($1000?) fines to the person to whom the sled is registered, will go a long way to spreading the word to stay on trail with this destructive element and their behavior.

    Taking atv’s on state game lands in some states will get you an enormous fine.

    State police fine the vehicle owner ( can’t prove the driver) for speeding with camera use, thousands of times per day.

    I think our organizations should seek to expand these methods.
    Regrettably, the offenders will not comply for the good of the sport, stiff punishment is our only deterrent at time.

  • Matt

    March 27, 2019 #7 Author

    Paula D, it didn’t take a mountain sled to make bumps.. Any sled hitting the throttle hard from a stop or even when moving at times will leave a pile of snow behind and start a bump..

  • Len

    March 27, 2019 #8 Author

    A mountain sled with large paddle tracks has No business on Groomed trails In our areas they’re very hard to steer with no deep snowAs the track pushes the skis they are designed to be leaned to be controlledThat is why they are called SledsExtended tracks are OK with normal tracks I don’t understand what is so hard to figure outMy switch backHandles mostly wherever I need to go

  • Kelvin Hull

    March 27, 2019 #9 Author

    Kevin, excellent article, a long read but true. The biggest question is how to educate the new riders when they are being taught by, firstly the bad drivers and secondly snowmobile magazine adds. Advertisements of sledders racing down the trails, showing ski lifts, cutting corners is against everything we are trying to promote.. Manufacturers and Magazine adds need to change to promote safe snowmobiling..” Mandeep” , your explanation of noisy sleds to skiers, and wildlife is ludicrous, never heard of anything so far fetched.

  • Ted Feller

    March 27, 2019 #10 Author

    Life is tough. It’s tougher if you’re stupid. John Wayne

    Great article.

  • David Schil

    March 27, 2019 #11 Author

    Im sick and tired of this sport! And ive been apart of it since mid 90’s Way too many individuals have been killed or seriously injured this past season in this province from stupidity. Seems like everyone is literally driving 80 mph everywhere you go and im worried about the safety of my family when were out on the trials. We literally get continued fist shakes if our group drives the posted speed limits and hold up the goons…. Groomers are not being dispatched like they were 20 years ago and the trails are rough in this area. I buy 4 permits every year and local associations cross over multiple farm properties I own. The past 3-4 seasons have been atrocious for riders not sticking to the trail. (WHICH COSTS ME MONEY) The respect for ones neighbor is lost. I have great respect for the folks who donate time and money to keep these trails posted and open, and many of them are frustrated with how the sport is evolving….

  • MikefromNY

    March 27, 2019 #12 Author

    I ride here in NY and we had a couple weekends with multiple deaths throughout the season. The freeze / thaw / freeze cycle created a lot of icy trails under a false shallow snow cover at times. I think that it is impossible to mitigate all accidents as they always occur when people are finding the edge of the envelope for conditions. It is in the nature of the sport. Modern snow machines are faster, more comfortable and more capable than ever before. I have watched the same thing occur with sportbikes (motorcycles) over the last 20 years as the machines often are more capable than the riders. Education on managing your risks, suspension set up and maintenance of the machines takes time are we are not a patient culture. NY has a great club system, the NYSSA, and a vast network of resources to people but “you can lead a horse to water, but cannot make it drink”. I think it takes those of us within the sport to teach, police, take under your wing, call BS and protect the sport by helping others. Make it social, help a person learn, bring up the subjects we need to have front and center to keep closures from happening.
    On the subject of noise: Keep the highly engineered OEM exhaust system in place. The aftermarket needs to own up to this and realize their profits in “cans” will close trails for the future. Sound seems like the #1 issue non-snowmobilers have when trying to share the nature areas with sleds. It is pollution and not something you wanting 10 lbs less! or +5 hp! is worth closing for the rest of us.
    Staying to the right: I usually ride lead to guide my kids and lesser experienced friends on riding trips. I know the trails and maps. The TekVest I ride is concerned with the out of control riding not staying right around a blind corner. Gets back to accidents will happens, so risk management is the best we can do to avoid and reduce risks. Get your machine under control, buy those new carbides for the skis instead of the bodywork wrap kit, learn to corner and get off the seat to lean inside. Again, teach others you ride with to respect that and get their skills up to the level the machine they buy is capable of.
    Good Article. Managing the perceptions of non-riders is tough business too. They have a say in how our sport procedes too.

  • David Dulmage

    March 27, 2019 #13 Author

    Excellent article, So true!

  • Randy Blanchard

    March 27, 2019 #14 Author

    I have also seen in the province of Ontario some new businessmen to the sport volunteering with clubs as trail stop wardens so they can make sure signage is up and promoting their related businesses not knowing all landowners and while on patrol see sleds out in the farmland ride up to said sleds and berate them for their actions when all the while it is the landowner on his own property with his kids we lost a lot of land access this way also so let’s not put the blame all on riders I do not advocate pipes I suggest not to ride outside your lights or ability and respect others on the trail snowmobiling is big business and when big business is involved it’s like politics it all goes to poop

  • Colin Mucci

    March 27, 2019 #15 Author

    When other sleds are approaching can everyone slow down to a safe speed not just for yourself but for the riders that are approaching you. My wife rides behind me and is not as experienced a rider as me and I worry when sled coming toward us at high speeds that she is going to get scared and crash.
    no need to fly by me at 80 mph, my sled goes just as fast and I slow down to 20 km so it is safe for both directions to pass. Its not going to add any time to your trip to slow down when another sled is approaching… just saying

  • Steu Pidasshoe

    March 27, 2019 #16 Author

    In the 90z every sled had tripple pipes and loud exhaust, nobody ever said a word about it.. get off the loud sleds topic and lets focus on the real issue.. liberals.. always tellin ya how to live.. guess what.. Braaaaaaap!

  • C. Killop

    March 27, 2019 #17 Author

    Steu – back in the 1990’s the HP was developed from the triple pipes. Technology has significantly changed.
    150 hp from a 900T, 200 hp from a ‘Winder, T Cat with 200 ponies, and a Polaris Patriot motor is top secret ?.
    That’s with a stock exhaust ? Win / win for the sledders. Quiet, fast, and extremely maneuverable ! ! And now sleds have extremely bright stock LED head lamps ! !
    Another win / win !!!!

    I can see lights faster than hearing the loud exhaust.

    Mr. Beilke’s article is accurate and sheds light (no
    pun intended) on a simple saying – “If it’s predictable, it’s preventable.”

    I was all about Brrraaappp in the 90’s, it’s all we had for engineering.

    This is truly is not about the L word you dropped, it’s about integrity and character of the general snowmobiler for this sport to continue to flourish.

    How do you want to represent the sport sir ?

    It’s what you want to leave behind for the next person….

    Stay safe

  • Corey freemire

    March 27, 2019 #18 Author

    I do have a loud exhaust but ik when coming up on homes to let off an be quite ect. Its the ppl buying houses right by trail systems like you know come snowmobile season comes your gonna hear em 24/7. All times during sleeping hours now your dog is barking an wont shut upp so lets call an complain about somthing we knew would be a problem at some point

  • Patriot MXZ

    March 27, 2019 #19 Author

    Thanks for helping shut down trails Corey and not comprehending anything you just read!

  • Mandeep

    March 27, 2019 #20 Author


    I take it you actually didn’t read the studies. I can understand it sounds far fetched because this isn’t the “normal” perception people have and it also isn’t the story that is promoted. However, it’s worth looking into.

  • shayward

    March 27, 2019 #21 Author

    This is so true. I live in Ontario, and am watching trails being shut down and support of the activity being tested. The loud exhaust thing drives me crazy. Total bitch slap to anyone with a full deck of cards. Someone made reference to sleds in the 90’s being loud. The three cylinder sleds all had single mufflers and were not loud at all.
    Snowmobiles produced since February 1, 1975 and certified by the Snowmobile Safety and Certification Committee’s independent testing company emit no more than 78 dB(A) from a distance of 50 feet while traveling at full throttle when tested under the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) J-192 test procedure. Additionally, those produced after June 30, 1976 and certified by the Snowmobile Safety and Certification Committee’s independent testing company emit no more than 73 dB(A) at 50 feet while traveling at 15 mph when tested under the SAE J-1161 test procedure

  • Jon Halliday

    March 28, 2019 #22 Author

    I think the manufacturer’s bare some responsibility. I can see no reason to need more than 120-130 Hp.

  • William

    March 28, 2019 #23 Author

    Corey freemire it doesnt matter what YOU think unless YOU are the landowner for all the trails. If the landowner thinks your sled is too loud then its too loud, they make the decision.

  • David

    March 29, 2019 #24 Author

    Snowmobile manufacturers can’t be held responsible for others actions. With that being said I blame most of the problem on advertising. Alway showing a machine blasting down a trail or sky high off a drift or hill. People these days have little to zero respect for other because of the way their brought up. I’m not saying all, but many. That is why I only ride on Tuesday & Wednesdays. The training courses should show what happens to sleds and operators after an accident.

  • Karl Bullock

    April 2, 2019 #25 Author

    As can be seen in a couple of these comment somebody always has to smart off qbout what they perceive as “their right”. When the trail crosses private property that is where “your right end” and rightly so. To those with that attitude i wish icould pull your rights to own a sled because you are the problem people. People like Corey above

  • Duelfuel

    April 11, 2019 #26 Author

    Yep, the people driving these machines are there own worst enemy. Why is there no multi-use bridge across the Scugog river in Lindsay? Because Town Council does not want these exact brapping idiots driving through town, being a nuisance and potentially causing and accident? And they have the ordinary tax-payer on their side! Just like the dough-heads who have loud mufflers in residential neighbourhoods on their cars. Do you want to list to some “guy” that’s just living His life? To finish, what do you need a mountain sled in Ontario for? Personally I can’t believe that snowmobiling has progressed since the 90’s? Sleds of that decade will get you anywhere you need to go in Ontario or wherever. If you wanna live it up, go way out on the Lake somewhere.

  • Thomas Robertson

    August 4, 2019 #27 Author

    What I find amazing is that nobody seems to care that the tv shows like Snowtrax always test the new sleds by flying down the trail at top speed. I know that they are on a closed trail, but is that the only way to test a new sled, by how it handles at top speed. By the way, in Ontario Canada, we have a speed limit on the trails of 50 kmh. It’s the same for ATV / UTV trails, and they test them at top speed too. It’s great that the testers can handle a Sled or ATV, at top speed, but wouldn’t a better test be what speeds we have to drive at.

  • Tee

    October 12, 2019 #28 Author

    I’m not a sledder. I live in the SF Bay Area where it never snows. I came across this site doing some googling about EJK tuners, which I want to put on my motorcycle. I’ve been riding motorcycles for 28 years and worked as a certified tech in my earlier years.

    Times have changed. When I first rode people lane-split with some sense of respect. Now, they lane-split while car traffic is going 70 – 80mph.

    The bottom line is independence. Many live by the motto: if I can, I will.

    Well, on a motorcycle, you can pretty much go whatever speed you want, whenever you want. On a snowmobile, you can pretty much ride wherever you want, whenever you want, however you want, too.

    It’s a societal issue. I have enough fun and reap enough benefit riding mostly within the confines of the law without ever needing to be an ass to anyone else. But, there are many, who aren’t content with that, and their exercise of independence comes at the expense of countless others.

    The worse conundrum about this is that if it is an issue of willfully exercising one’s independence at the expense of others, i.e., it’s a game of competition where one exerts one’s “superiority,” then expanding the envelope of what’s permissible does nothing to satiate the “law-breakers.” Raise the speed limit to 90mph, and the egotisticals will want to lane-split between traffic at that speed, too. Raise the trail speed limits, or expand the trail networks, and there will be those, who will want to transgress those limits, too.

    This is where you are preaching to the choir: the ones, who are limited by trail closures or censures, are the ones, who agree to abide by those laws.

    You either get it, or you don’t. But, ultimately, it’s a spiritual issue. Even before the chariot there was the horse. Our sense of superiority hasn’t gone far, as it is still enumerated in terms of number of horses: HP.

  • James

    December 13, 2019 #29 Author

    How many of these landowners use public roads to get to their properties? How would they like it some club bought a hundred foot patch of road a told them to get lost? Agricultural land is not taxed much because it is not developed so they pay almost nothing in taxes. Make them pay their share of the roads which they use all year round and the snowmobilers should pay to use it too. I have sledded for over 30 years and when the snow is gone so are most of the trench marks until the 4X4s show up along with ATVs and dirt bikes but the worst are the dirt bikes and horses leaving one deepening ditch that causes the roads to wash out because hunters show up late season and the roads are already just mud ruts. Many of the landowners make more money leasing out their land to hunting clubs than using it for agriculture so that tax fraud should stop and make them pay to use the public roads leading to their property.

  • Sirspamalot

    December 27, 2019 #30 Author

    Loud pipes belong on race sleds and show sleds, not on trail sleds. I been around this sport since 1966. The Yahoo problem just gets worse as the people who built this hobby die off. People can talk blame or try to shift it, but the operator is the ultimate responsibility. I got a 300 hp Sport SUV, but if I drove it like I see some people drive their sleds, I’d be in jail.

  • Pat roy

    January 20, 2020 #31 Author

    Here in nh off trail is frowned upon by land owners both corporate and private. Fish and game are forced to spend time and resources monitoring off trail trespassing. Yet, marketing by all the mfgr’s is heavily toward mountain segment off trail riding. You had a great article in the latest issue about intended use. Seems to me the mfgr have left trail riders behind and what few trail sleds are in current line ups, appear to be modded stand up snow crossers or mountain scales or some variation of both. So sales are declining. So is the interest in the sport. I will not be renewing my subscription, first time ever, because of page after page of super long paddle track or snocross style stand up racing machines and very little coverage of snowmobiles made for cold riding on groomed trails. Mfgr’s should take note.

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