Let It Snow

Tags: SEND North, Story

Villages all across the north anticipate the coming of winter because it brings an entirely new means of travel, the “snow machine.”

The snow machine, a.k.a. “snowmobile” or “Snow-go” depending upon the locale, is the essential vehicle for much of Alaska and northern Canada.  Few roads and a lack of highway connection often limit an automobile’s usefulness to the community where it resides. If the car or truck could not be driven to the village, which is usually the case, it follows then that the vehicle can only be used within the local community.  Without road connection to other towns, and the world at large, village residents can only drive their car within the confines of their community’s limited road system.

But the snow machine is a whole ‘nother animal. Snow machines give villagers the equivalent of Aladdin’s magic carpet; they can go nearly anywhere. As long as the surrounding countryside is frozen and covered with snow, the world awaits the village snowmachiner. Rivers may be crossed, forests explored and mountains climbed. Tundra, swamps and lakes, impassable during the summer months, now become “highways” for the remote traveler. All you need is adequate cold, which is seldom in short supply in the north, and snow.

And there is the problem. This year, freeze-up has proceeded as normal, the temps are 30-40 below across much of the Alaskan interior, but snow is lacking.  It is certainly nowhere near the snowfall we had at this time last year.

Without enough snow to operate the snow machines, Koyukon Athabaskans can’t get out to check bear holes, dog mushers can’t run their teams, trappers can’t trap and villagers can’t set fish nets under the ice on lakes and rivers. Snow is needed; it’s essential for remote village life.

So, as the Christmas caroler has often said, “Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.”
And when it comes, get out of the way; a lot of “cooped-up” villagers will be heading out into the country at a high rate of speed.  So, please pray for safety.