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Yellowstone by Snowmobile: A Guilty Pleasure

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Yellowstone by Snowmobile: A Guilty Pleasure

Environment

Yellowstone by Snowmobile: A Guilty Pleasure

Yellowstone by Snowmobile: A Guilty Pleasure

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  • Transcript

At Yellowstone National Park, managers will soon decide whether to continue to allow snowmobiles. Meanwhile, a ride through the snowy expanses of the park remains a decadent thrill.

SCOTT SIMON, host:

Earlier this week, NPR's Jeff Brady took us to Yellowstone National Park, where managers will soon decide whether to continue to allow snowmobiles. Jeff opens his reporter's notebook to describe a guilty pleasure.

JEFF BRADY: Deciding whether to do this story on a snowmobile was not easy. After all, the question the park service is considering centers on the fact that snowmobiles pollute, less than they used to but still they pollute. And they're noisy, disturbing animals that already are having a tough time making it through the winter.

Still, I wanted to find out why supporters of the machines were so vigorously defending their right to motor through Yellowstone. Before leaving the rental shop, my group sat through a short safety lecture. Our teacher, John Gospaderrick(ph), also had other information that we would later find quite valuable.

Mr. JOHN GOSPADERRICK (Safety Teacher): To keep your bottom warm, there is a heated seat element right in the seat. And on a real snowy day like this, it can melt snow and make your butt get wet.

BRADY: So always brush the snow off your seat before you sit down.

(Soundbite of motor running)

BRADY: I took off, smelling the fumes and wondering if this was a good idea. But by the time I reached 35 miles an hour on those snow-covered roads, all doubts disappeared. The experience is thrilling. This is a little embarrassing to admit, but I found myself thinking of that motorcycle movie from the late 1960s, "Easy Rider."

(Soundbite of motor running)

BRADY: We stopped frequently so the guide could point out interesting sights. We saw a bald eagle, then bison ambling through the snow. They were only 30 feet away from us. Yellowstone's geysers and mud pots are extraordinary in winter, boiling right next to the snow and sending steam through the narrow valleys. Of course you can see all this inside a toasty, warm snow coach, just as environmental groups would prefer. It's less polluting and quieter. But still there's some guilty pleasure in riding a smelly, noisy machine through Yellowstone in winter, the cold air rushing by, feeling a little bit like a young Peter Fonda.

(Soundbite of motor running)

SIMON: The Jeff Brady experience, riding a snowmobile in Yellowstone National Park.

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