INSIDE TRAX: How to Tell A Good Season

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Despite the fact some pundits would like you to believe the powersports business is in a giant dead zone because of the recession, the facts don’t seem to be agreeing. When we look at all the data, we’re willing to go out on a limb and predict 2010-11 may be one of the best snowmobiling years ever.

Before you start sending emails telling me I’m crazy, let me explain. There are actually several major factors that combine to make a snowmobile season successful. One is the weather. No argument at all here and we wouldn’t even begin to try to predict what the weather is going to do this season.

Certainly, it will snow hard in some places and not so hard in others. Some places that got lots last season won’t get as much this year and the inverse is also true. It happens all the time and one thing we’ve learned is you just can’t control the weather. Period.

Snowmobile OEMs and dealers base a successful winter on the number of new and used snowmobiles sold prior to and during the season. Last year, new sled sales, particularly in the United States, took a pretty severe hit because of the economy. Job insecurity and loss of borrowing power calculated on a household-by-household basis restricted many potential buyers’ ability to get the sled they’d been dreaming about.

Despite this, the manufacturers had seen the writing on the wall early enough to drop production numbers and put aggressive sales programs into effect to stimulate the snowmobile economy.

There are surprisingly low numbers of unsold non-current model year sleds in the pipeline this fall and it’s because of the good planning of the OEMs and the fact snowmobilers will always buy if the weather is decent and the price is right.

In Canada, where the recession hasn’t had such severe repercussions, this year many dealers are shopping the papers looking for used stuff to sell and the last of their one-year-old new sleds are long gone. I’ve spoken to a couple of dealers who, at this point in the year, are way ahead of their sales goals for 2011 models compared to the last five years.

The fact is that actual snowmobile use the last two years has been very strong. Yes, you’ve been out there in big numbers riding – pretty much the same as always.

Gigantic snowmobiling organizations like the New York State Snowmobile Association, the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs and Minnesota and Michigan’s associations have seen very little variation in their paid memberships and just as much traffic on their trails.

Supertrax has a very close relationship with the first two organizations and, despite the fact that in some cases permit costs have gone up, enthusiasts are still out there riding as much as usual every winter day.

The fact is this: Snowmobilers love to snowmobile. When the economy gets tougher, people need to exercise their favorite form of recreation. Call it stress relief or escapism – whatever you want.

We’re going into our third recessed snowmobile season this year and saw so many seven-year and older models on the trails last season, at times we thought we’d ridden into a time warp. Is this a resistance to buying new? No. We think it’s people passionately enjoying a pastime they love despite all odds and eventually, those folks will become new sled buyers out of sheer necessity.

There are only so many good used late model sleds out there and prices are high because demand is exceeding supply right now. Buying new is the answer.

When you tally up all the factors, especially the high level of enthusiasm out there, it looks like this will be a great snowmobile season. We’re banking on it!

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