The Best Toy Challenge (by James Richard)
Published on January 10, 2010 in Guest Columns, News & Updates
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There are big boy toys for every season: snowmobiles, ATVs including quads and dirt bikes, and watercraft including powered boats and personal watercraft (PWCs). Snowmobiles win the best toy challenge and here’s why!

Comparing things like range of use, environmental impact, characteristics of the season, riding surface, etc, I will now present my case. I do ride all of these things and hold no disdain for any as a whole, but I do have some concerns.

Some things are to be assumed to assure fairness. I’m a member of the Knox Trail Sno-Riders (KTSR), so the following statements pertain to my local recreation areas. I do my boating on Otis Reservoir, my ATV riding on the trails legally available in the Otis-Blandford-Tolland area, and snowmobiling, on the KTSR/SAM trail network. Conditions of riding include weather being warm enough for fair weather boating, winter cold enough for good safe lake ice with enough snow for reasonable trail conditions, and ATV riding during the riding season period enforced by the EPOs.

Let’s start with boats. Boats and PWCs are limited to the body of water upon which they float. On Otis Reservoir this limits you to about 1,000 acres. The season for fair weather boating runs about five months from early May to the end of September. Environmentally, boats have fairly benign exhaust emissions but high-speed watercraft suck lots of gas. Four stroke engines are helping to reduce emissions. The possibility of fugitive organism transmission exists. Bugs are a usual annoyance when activity involves stopping. The riding surface is water, which generally is forgiving when you fall off your PWC. The risk of drowning is the constant companion. PWCs can’t run at night and watercraft cannot reach L&M Gulf, Knox Trail Inn, Katie’s, Hall’s, Hillbillie’s, Maple Corner, Shaw Pond, Tucker’s, or Tolland Store (if it ever reopens).

Snowmobile vs ATV

ATVs cannot traverse lakes unless they are frozen but since that would be outside of the riding date window, we will not count that. I estimate the range of legal use in the O-B-T area to be no more than 20 to 30 miles. The season is the longest running from April until November. ATVs can be environmentally disastrous. Unless there is active trail maintenance, run-off and washouts are common. Marshy areas and water crossings get whipped into a mud bath unless bypasses or bridges are provided.

There are many two-stroke engines in the field but fortunately the four-strokes are taking over, especially in the bikes. ATVs are pretty good on gas. On the trail you got bugs, dust, mud, and some nasty critters. Prepare to get real dirty. The riding surface is hard and rocky. When you take a flop, you’re gonna hurt or worse! An ATV cannot LEGALLY reach L&M Gulf, Knox Trail Inn, Katie’s, Hall’s, Hillbillie’s, Maple Corner, Shaw Pond, Tucker’s, or Tolland Store (if it ever reopens).

The snowmobile, when the ice is safe, the puddles and brooks frozen, and with a decent snow cover, can go just about anywhere. The groomed and maintained KTSR trail system has dozens of miles and the interconnections with other SAM clubs makes for almost endless riding. How long it lasts, or even really starts is Nature’s call.

Snowmobiles win the best toy challenge

Snowmobiles are environmental dreamboats. A frozen environment and a blanket of snow protect the trails from wear and tear. The new four-stroke and two-stroke sleds sip gas and run real quiet with lower emissions. There is no dust, no mud (usually), and no bugs. Even the nastiest critters, i.e. snakes and bears, ain’t around. If you hit the pavement, it is usually soft and forgiving snow! You won’t get dirty and if you drive a newer high tech sled, won’t stink like two-stroke exhaust. But, unless you dress properly, forget about having fun. And for destinations, which every trip needs besides a start, you got L&M Gulf, Knox Trail Inn, Katie’s, Hall’s, Hillbillie’s, Maple Corner, Shaw Pond, Tucker’s, or Tolland Store (if it ever reopens), etc. etc.

The Scorecard

So here is the scorecard: I left out the seasonal characteristics. Ratings are from 1= (eh), 2 = (ok), and 3 = (awesome). As you can see, snowmobiles win hands down!

So if you are looking for a new toy this year, consider the snowmobile, and for maximum enjoyment, join a club!


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