Boutin: Snow machines on side roads work fine in New Hampshire, so why not here?

snow machine


The Governor Dunleavy Administration has a proposal to allow people to use off-road and utility vehicles on specific highways.  

Just over three years ago I was visiting family in northern New Hampshire, the state with its motto Live Free or Die on all license plates, and it was the first time I had been there since ORVs became legal on almost all highways except the Interstate Highway System.  

It was startling to meet a group of thirty or more ORVs traveling from motels to access trails and logging roads. But I have to say it worked very well. The people were having fun, and while I cannot recall being inconvenienced by this recreational use of the highway, it would have been OK with me had I somehow been inconvenienced.  

During the visit I ran into a forester I have long known, and a trapper I know, and both told me that they often use snowmobiles now without having to first transport them by pickup.  

Motel and restaurant owners there say that side-by-side ORVs and the then still relatively new law has already become very important to the NH tourism industry.  

I saw and heard of absolutely no problems with this NH law nor in its practice. However it seems that whenever people are having fun there is some who are angry about it – exactly the way they react to the cruise ship tourism industry here in Juneau. There may be people who find fault, but I didn’t encounter any in NH.  After all, it’s a state where people shaking hands often recite the state motto.  

No doubt there are accidents and conflicts; the Live Free or Die state has 1.7 million people in the same area as the Chugach National Forest. Millions of people live just a few hours to the south and come to New Hampshire to hunt, ski, and now ride their snowmobiles and off-road vehicles.  But I cannot imagine there will be many problems in Alaska, and if people are going to drive impaired it’s better to have them on a snowmobile than in a pickup. 

Here in Alaska, the local city government encourages me to plow out nearby fire hydrants, and I am glad to do that with my new skid steer when plowing snow, but I have been led to believe I am breaking the law by running on the highway to do so. 

Let’s face it, Alaska laws have serious inconsistencies and allowing me to legally run my backhoe, skid steer and ORV on the highway will resolve one of them.  

Throughout much of Alaska, everyone can run just about any vehicle on the state maintained and the municipally maintained roads but I am prohibited here in Juneau, somewhat like I pay $16 a day in residential property tax toward schools, law enforcement, etc. while people in many surrounding towns pay nothing.   

This proposed rule may erase one inequity. If the new rule is adopted, and if my local government doesn’t throw a wrench in it, I will buy a snowmobile, if I can find room to store one.

Tomas Boutin is a forester who lives in Juneau.


  1. This author makes a few mistakes: This Bush resident doesn’t pay property taxes, but there is NO private land and I must pay a lease to the State for the privilege of living here, and I don’t have access to anything like many of the services you take for granted. Let’s abandon the myth that somehow city folk are paying more than their fair share. Secondly, and more importantly, there are big reasons snowmachines and other ORVs are illegal on State roads – and I must caviat that with the phrase “but widely unenforced”. Snowmachines, being much more maneuverable at normal speeds, frequently change direction without warning. They like to play (yeah, they’re fun!), sometimes ricocheting off berms across the road. You can just picture the safety issue in mixed traffic. They are a road maintenance nightmare, packing trails down the middle of the street, or curving across – giving automobiles an uneven surface to drive on. Plows have trouble with these tracks also, adding to the cost of making roads safe for cars. Sounds like this author just wants to play without considering anybody but himself and his friends. Next, after a few accidents, he’ll be wanting to prohibit autos from the roads. Keep the ORVs Off Road Vehicles.

  2. In the Bush it’s a no brainer. There’s only 6 miles of State Road on the YK Delta, which encompasses nearly the same amount of area as the State of Oregon.

    Otherwise in Urban areas, kids on fourwheelers, drunks on ATVs, no insurance requirements, no lisences and weight vs. minimal mass ATVs, what in the hell could possibly go wrong?

    Work on the budget and deficit and quit wasting time.

  3. Ok as long as they pay for dmv registration and insurance. I know someone whose truck was hit by a snow machine. Why should vehicle drivers bear all the costs. Same thing with bicycles if they are going to be on the road they should at least pay registration fees.

  4. ATVs, snowmobiles, UTVs, and off-road motorcycles work on the road in Michigan. Anywhere but a Federal or State Highway is fair game for any registered vehicles. Shoulder when available, right side of the lane when not.

  5. This idea is worse than allowing 4 wheelers on the streets. First of all, snow machines are huge disturbers of the peace because they’re so damn loud! I’m already chasing snow machining punks off my street at 1:00 am. in the winter. What if everyone wants to do it? Snow machines belong in the wilderness far from civilization. But I do feel sorry for the critters.

  6. West coast transplants will ruin this before it gains traction, note how many *Alaskan idiots* hail from WA, OR & CA.
    ATV’s are often seen legally and safely riding the public highways in the Carolina’s, but we are talking proper country folk down there, those who know who to run a trap line.

  7. I bet New Hampshire doesnt have as many backward thinking residents young and old, left and right.
    Here on Alaska, dysfunctional behavior is either attributed for being alcoholic, dry drunk, abuse victim and perpetrator, depression, or they just lack education beyond what they been already taught.
    Thats why people here can’t have fun here. They don’t know what clean fun looks like. When someone is being happy, people here resent and look down on them for it.

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