By Kevin Hite
I am writing this note to everyone a bit earlier than you are going to be reading it. For those of you who do not show a rational distaste for reading another of my stream of consciousness ramblings, welcome to what should now be shaping up as the beginning of the cold weather season, or as we like to call it here in Alaska, normalcy.
For most of the state, we suffered through an extremely wet fall season. Flooding across most of Southcentral and the Interior hampered an already poor fishing season. While the discussion of building an Ark was bantered about a lot, I couldn’t help but think that if it was a bit colder, this weather would be an incredible start to our winter season. Of course my saying that out loud in August was a bit unnerving to some folks. Those who are aware of the hunting skill set of a displaced Detroit native (me) aren’t surprised when I begin to muse about snow much earlier than most people. That conversation is designed to deflect conversation about my hunting success.
Now that it is a bit colder, it isn’t as strange. It has even started to show up in what folks are carrying in the back of the truck. Last month everyone had the ATVs in the back or on the trailer on the way to or from hunting camp. This month it is snowmobiles beginning to show up. Combine that with the change from hunting and fishing stories to bench racing snowmobiles and you know that we are on the way. Last year’s record less than tremendous snowfall was a big disappointment to our sport and we have our fingers crossed for a banner year.
Great snow years are what those of us in the snowmobile community live for. The more snow the better. One of the major impacts a good year has is the opportunity it gives us to recruit new people into our sport. Local clubs around the state are beginning or already deep into the membership drives that keep them strong. If you are a serious snowmobiler who cares about the continuation of his/her sport, I encourage you to make sure you are a member of a local club and to give some of your time to advance our cause.
Clubs should take advantage of the opportunities out there to advertise the advantages of their clubs as well as look for programs that are designed to help out. One of the best and longest serving organizations is ISMA. Their “Take a Friend Snowmobiling” program is designed to get more folks on the snow. ISMA is one of our strongest advocates. They are funded by the big four snowmobile manufacturers and have proven to be a tremendous force. Their sponsorship of the following events will be noted and followed in this publication.
International Snowmobile Safety Week: Jan. 16-24, 2016
The 5th annual Take a Friend Snowmobiling Week: Feb. 5-15, 2016
Go to www.gosnowmobiling.org and take a look at the web offerings they have. Look at the section titled “Safe Riders!” order form and see if any of the materials can be used by your club. The ASSA will be making a statewide order in the next 30 days, so if there is something you like, let me know and we will add them to the shipment.
In the next couple months we are going to be advocating a discussion about lots of things that Alaskans are facing as a recreational community. Registration fees and grooming and trail programs have dominated the discussions within our community. The ASSA and SnowRider are going to be facilitating as much discussion as possible concerning these issues as well as land actions, challenges to our sport and many more subjects. Unless you want to hear only what we have in our heads (not a pretty thought) we are going to need each and every one of you as well as your clubs to get in touch with us and begin this process. This publication is your opportunity to reach a wide range of participants as well as a spot to gather your thoughts and ideas. Those thoughts and ideas are what we are going to be able to go forward with and we shape the conversations that will shape our sport.
Closing out this article is a reminder that in the early season of riding, when we are most anxious to finally get out and recreate, Alaska has the potential to be very unforgiving. Early season riding many times includes water, unstable snow conditions, low or nonexistent daylight conditions, all of which combine to make any outing a potential disaster. It only takes seconds to make the difference between a great early ride and an incident that endangers folks. Be patient, Alaska has never let us down, and I am betting it won’t start this year. Be safe.
— Kevin Hite, ASSA
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