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Thoughtful Thursday#6: Climbing Cars & Climate

Posted Thursday, November 7, 2019

Thoughtful TH#5: “I gotta have a 4WD, I'm a skier/climber”...

I hear this comment frequently from people who take pride in being “outdoorsy,” who likely see themselves as “eco-minded,” and it baffles me—particularly in the NE. This is also frequently followed by, “I thought a guide would drive a Tahoma or something.”

I'm a full-time ice/ski guide—as the Zen saying goes, “A day without work is a day without food.” For 10 years, I've driven a Hyundai Accent, Honda Fit, and now Toyota Prius [recently blinged out with the logos above!], all with 4-studded tires. I've never missed a day of work due to inability to navigate roads. The idea that 4WD is a necessary part of being an outdoorsperson in the NE is ludicrous. All major ice areas—Smuggs, Franconia, Crawford, Pinkham/etc—are reliably plowed and easily accessed. Aside from one steep turn at Bolton, I've never been shut down for even a day of recreational skiing.

Admittedly, Forest Service access roads and high mountain passes in the West at times necessitate high-clearance and/or 4WD. But I suggest that unless you're utilizing those features on the daily during the winter, consider how it affects your carbon output the other 8 months of the year.

I'm far from environmentally pure--no need to point that out. But the fact that I'm not perfect won't prevent me from trying to improve. Vehicle choice is one area I've done so. I hope that guides will begin to understand that their role as influencers extends beyond determining their climber/skiers' choices of a softshell. Our vehicle choices have a strong affect on what people think they should have or need in order to live the “outdoor lifestyle”.

More generally, for all of us that consider ourselves outdoorspeople, who state that we “love winter”, who “live for powder”, I feel it worth the while to consider the vehicle choices we make. Let's face it: At present, most 4WD vehicles put significantly more carbon into the air than comparable 2WD vehicles, and what kind of mindset kills what it loves and lives for?


TTH is a counterweight to (but not a criticism of) the oh-so-popular climbing TechTuesday posts. See my Sept 5th post for background.


As an illustration, a list of the most popular cars in VT was recently published. Liberal, outdoorsy, eco-minded Vermont. Here are the Top 5 vehicle choices of those Vermonters, along with MPG data:

  1. F150 MPG 22/30,F250 MPG 14/19

  2. Chevy Silverado MPG 23/33

  3. Toyato Tacoma MPG 20/23

  4. GMC Sierra MPG 16/24

  5. Subara Forester MPG 26/32