The economy types keep telling us we should have hit bottom by now and things should be looking up, but for many of you that just hasn’t happened yet. New snowmobile sales slid yet again last season, down to just over 60,000 new units. This was past what many of us thought would be the bottom (80,000 units). Many dealers, however, did a great job at getting rid of their non-currents and used sleds, which always take away some from new sales.
This coming season, actual snowfall is (again) going to have more to do with the situation than anything else. We do know that snowmobile registrations continue to be strong and keep rising, so all of the sleds are still being readied for the coming season. This is a good sign.
Based on the response we received from our latest SnowTech reader survey (sent out to a random few thousand, not every single reader) your enthusiasm remains high and you still plan on going snowmobiling. You (basically) told us that you would rather eat hot dogs and rice than give up your slush fund for sledding.
At least the low gas prices (compared to last year) are in our favor. And if fewer people are buying new sleds, their existing equipment is going to have get some work done. As you can see from the advertising in this issue, the snowmobile aftermarket is (overall) still quite strong. They also know that there is an opportunity in this black cloud. More out-of-warranty sleds typically means more bolt-ons and go-fast parts will be sold.
That’s the way we look at things. One person’s misery is yet another’s opportunity. We run a tight ship around here, because we’ve seen the snowmobile industry have its share of ups and downs over the past 42 years that we’ve been doing this. Sure, the OEMs might be advertising less overall this year and many aftermarket shops have trimmed their budgets, but not with SnowTech. They know this is where they find the sport’s most intense readers and the most active snowmobilers, the guys who would rather give up most anything else OTHER than snowmobiling. This is still your escape, your way to get away from it all. You are the passionate ones who keep this sport alive and clicking, and our advertisers know this.
But through all of this fog we should try to concentrate on the future. The future of snowmobiling lies more in the hands of the youth and newcomers. You guys reading this are going to be on a snowmobile, hell or high water, but what about those who might want to get into snowmobiling? They don’t have the fire burning within them like we do, and they have so many other interests tugging at their time and money. We have to take them into our sport and mentor them. Invite them along for a ride. Show them where to park, where to get gas, where to ride (and where not to go). Make it easier for them to enjoy the sport. Help them find a good clean sled and show them what they should do to make it really work. Each and every one of them could become as passionate about snowmobiling as you and I, given the chance. Let’s not have these current tough times douse their flame of desire. Without new blood, snowmobiling has no future.
– Kevin Beilke