By: Kent Lester
For us snowmobile junkies, last winter was just awesome! The snow came early, stayed late and fell in copious amounts nearly everywhere in the North American snowbelt. For the first time in recent memory, hordes of snowmobile dealers were sold out of sleds.
As the moldy one, two and even three-year-old crates were being evacuated from the rear yards at the dealerships, parts departments were being suctioned of all the dusty items that had been taking up space on the shelves. Traction supplies, lubricants and non-current mechanical and body parts were replaced, consumed and hunted down by rabid enthusiasts determined to enjoy the climate.
After several seasons of declining enrolment, club and snowmobile association memberships were topped up again and, best of all… snowmobilers were out there on the trails accumulating miles! Groomers worked overtime to keep the trails in shape and diesel was being pumped through the fuel injectors on the big machines at an alarming rate. Because of the increased costs related to oil prices and the extra grooming miles, some clubs tripled their fuel and maintenance budgets last year.
It was encouraging to see enthusiasts back in the sport, participating again. The past few years, at the industry level, there had been escalating discussion about declining enthusiasm for snowmobiling, about snowmobilers en masse becoming ATV users and about the future of the sport in general. Those fears were silenced by one extremely good winter.
Even the global warming advocates were quiet. It’s tough to sell that particular dogma when average temperatures are dropping all winter and the white stuff keeps accumulating across an entire continent.
One personal observation was the increased number of older sleds I saw on the trails last winter. It’s like they’d been sitting in dark corners of garages all across the country waiting for snow. Keep in mind the term ‘old’ is really pretty relative. Is a five-year-old sled ‘old’? Ten years ago it was. If the average sled accumulates about 1200 miles every winter, a five year-old sled will have between 6000 and 7000 miles on it. Be honest; if you’re checking odometers when making a used sled purchase, chances are you’ll walk past a sled with that mileage and opt for one with thousands less. Fact is: the 1200 mile-per-year sled is likely just a reflection of normal use.
Technology advances quickly in snowmobiling and that five-year-old sled, even in today’s terms, was and still is, a very advanced product. EFI systems had long been fully developed by 2004 – and even some EPA-clean 2-strokes were appearing in the marketplace. A number of OEMs had already moved into rider-forward design and suspensions had adopted long travel technology. Exceptional ride quality had already become a given in this sport for a number of years.
The performance 4-stroke revolution was deeply entrenched and had seen Yamaha and Arctic Cat building truly viable, high horsepower mills that had plenty of sizzle. Five years ago, the modern snowmobile had become an advanced product, producing reliable, overachieving power and suspension results – even by today’s standards. Furthermore, every individual component and system on the snowmobile was evolving quickly. Shock technology, track design and electronics had all become more reliable and offered much longer life than in the five years before MY2004.
If you bought a used sled last year, you likely got a pretty good bargain. Even late in the season, new sleds were emptying out of dealerships and the old saying always holds true: “For every new one sold, someone has to buy a used one”. The savings on a five-year-old are incredible. One friend I know bought a mint used REV with less than 40 miles on the odometer and paid half the price of a new one! Although that one was rare, there are great deals are out there if you look hard enough. Even purchasing a normal mileage, used sled built in the 2000’s is a good deal as long as it’s been well maintained.
Here’s the point: If you think you can’t afford to get back into snowmobiling, think again. You can buy some of the best snowbound equipment ever made for very reasonable bucks. I predict the used sled market will be even stronger this year simply because more sleds will become available as hardcore enthusiasts feel the urge to buy new ones. Jump onto Kijiji, Sleds2Buy or Craig’s List and check out the selection. Your showroom awaits.