We each get to decide what ruins our experience

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I was saddened to read in last week’s Chronicle that your joyful experience of the Kingdom’s winters is so often ruined by people riding by on snow machines.

I too have loved the woods in winter since I discovered cross-country skiing 48 years ago. We had just moved to Entropy Acres in West Glover, and lived as quietly as we could on what was intended to be a subsistence farm. We eschewed internal combustion engines of every size and type. Until we realized we were going to freeze to death if we kept trying to cut a winter’s supply of firewood with bow saws. Until some other task became so pressing that we borrowed somebody else’s truck or tractor to finally get it done.

But our intentions were good. I remember when one member of our small household talked of how deeply she loved her new surroundings and lifestyle. But, she added, her whole day could be ruined if she looked up and saw an airplane flying over at thirty thousand feet.

I found that level of sensitivity a bit excessive, and maybe you do too. My point is that we each get to decide what ruins our experience.

I’m sad that your adventures on showshoes can be ruined by the sounds and smells of snow machines, or even by the sight of people dressed for gliding effortlessly over the snow rather than striding through it.

I enjoy chatting with those bundled-up beings when we pause at the same junction on a VAST trail to decide which way to go next. Some of them come from a remarkable distance, some from just down the hill. All of them seem to be having a remarkably good time. Just like me.

All of them slow down and wave when they zoom past, or stop without complaint when my dog wanders into their path. Not one of them has ever suggested that these trails are maintained for their machines at their expense, and skiers like me are a damned nuisance that spoils their experience of the outdoors.

I am sad that your letter seeks to draw a line between people like us, who enjoy the winter landscape under our own power, and those whose choice of snow machines is such a “travesty.”

To me the difference is trivial. What strikes me as important is our shared determination to be out there enjoying a cold, downright hostile environment rather than sitting home in front of the boob tube.

And at this time of year when winter loves to deliver its final insult with a thick dump of snow, we lucky few rejoice together in the chance for one final outing, while the cabin-fevered majority contemplate slashing their wrists.

The snow machine opened the Kingdom’s winters to thousands of people who love its wide open spaces, its tough climate and its gorgeous views.

How sad it would be to separate ourselves from them because we don’t like the smell of their exhaust.

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