FOR COMMUTERS, the cold temperatures and snowfall that recently swept across the country were inconveniences. But for snowmobile retailers and manufacturers, it was a harbinger of the boom they’ve seen since last year.
The snowmobile season starts around December with the first snowfall at the end of hunting season, and it lasts until the last snow melts. Last year, that final snowmelt didn’t happen until May in some parts of the upper Midwest and Canada, according to Ed Klim, president of the International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association.
“That’s a good thing,” he said. “It sends [enthusiasts] out early the next season.”
Many sources – from Farmers Almanac to The Weather Channel – predicted a winter colder and with more snowfall than in recent years past. That has held true so far, with record cold temperatures blowing through the United States in the first week of 2014. Klim, who calls Haslett, Mich., home, said there was 165 inches of snow on the ground in the state’s Upper Peninsula. Meanwhile, Grand Rapids, which saw less than 10 inches of snow last winter, has already gotten nearly 50 inches this winter.
Minnesota leads the way with more than 251,000 registered snowmobiles, according to data from the ISMA. Second is Wisconsin with more than 224,000, and third is Michigan with more than 205,000. New York at 115,000 is the only other state with more than 100,000 registered snowmobiles. In general, Klim said, new snowmobile sales have held steady over the past five years or so, around 50,000 annually.
Jared Burt of Rexburg Motorsports in Idaho (see image, left) said an early snow this season along the Idaho-Montana border helped spark interest. “That started off the snowmobile selling season,” he said.
David Glassman, president of Tousley Motorsports in Minnesota, said there was only one good snowfall around the Twin Cities during the 2012-13 winter, around Dec. 15. Things started picking up around September, he said – not necessarily for snowmobiles but for the ATVs, motorcycles and dirtbikes he also sells. Then Glassman noticed that the service department was busy doing a lot of carburetor cleanings for customers who own snowmobiles but hadn’t taken them out recently – in part because of recent mild winters.
“Our parts department has just been slammed,” Glassman added.
Glassman said Ski-Doos are moving quickly. Tousley started the season with 150, and was down to 15 by early January. He said he’s heard some dealers in northwest and central Wisconsin are looking to other dealers to the south to help replenish their Ski-Doo inventory.