My Turn: Article misses the point of snowmobile meeting

Club's proposal threatens to strip ability to ski in quiet

Posted: Monday, May 07, 2007

Brittany Retherford has written some great articles in the past for the Juneau Empire, but she totally missed the point of the snowmobile meeting on May 1.

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Her article spent almost all of its ink quoting snowmobilers even though almost all the speakers were skiers who wanted to maintain the boundaries as they are right now.

The article quoted Lisa Davis who said, "Snowmobiling saved the relationship between my husband and my son." I totally understand her position, but the meeting was not about their ability to sled. It was about invading a ski resort against the wishes of most of the skiers.

This isn't small. The relationships of thousands of fathers and sons, fathers and daughters, mothers and daughters, have been saved or enhanced through skiing. Couples fall in love and others find God on the mountain. Does the Empire think that skiers' relationships are less important than those of Davis' husband and son?

I kept notes at the meeting. Retherford's article missed at least 13 important points made by speakers at the meeting:

1. Ray Howard, the Juneau Snowmobile Club president, threatened to support closing down the ski resort if we didn't allow dirty machines next door. The insults against snowmobilers followed that threat.

2. Most speakers said motorized and nonmotorized recreation are not compatible.

3. There are 200 snowmobilers in Juneau and more than 7,300 skiers and snowboarders.

4. Backcountry skiing and boarding contributes to our economy and improves our quality of life.

5. Eaglecrest Ski Area and the area around it is the only place we have to ski or snowboard.

6. Thousands ski or snowboard at Eaglecrest when the lift is closed, and this includes the area outside the ski area boundaries.

7. Driving a snowmobile for an hour emits more air pollution than a modern car emits in a year.

8. The noise from a snowmobile carries for miles.

9. Snowmobiles are dangerous to skiers and snowboarders.

10. Enforcement of the law is difficult and often nonexistent. People frequently sled in illegal places (for example, closed parts of Spaulding Meadows).

11. Snowmobilers have lots of places to go already.

12. Most speakers favored keeping snowmobiles in the Dan Moller Basin even though skiers were effectively forced out of the basin years ago.

13. Backcountry skiers and snowboarders have long established a pattern of use on Mount Troy, Mount Ben Stewart and the Hilda Creek Basin that predates snowmobiling.

Yes, some people insulted snowmobiling and snowmobilers, but the Empire's article missed mentioning that the meeting was not about taking away the Davis family's ability to cultivate relationships through snowmobiling. The meeting was about stripping my ability to ski with my family in peace and quiet. I wish Davis' husband and son the best of luck sledding in the Dan Moller Basin.

I hope the Juneau Snowmobile Club will back away from its proposal to damage something that so many of us find important.

• Carl Reese is a Juneau resident.

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