You hit the nail on the head about the specialization of the sleds contributing to the decline.
Back when sno-x started locally in AK, we had lots of entries and most of my friends raced. Back then guys would race their production trail sled and it was just a really fun time.
Then as some guys got more serious, they bought race sleds which didn’t work as well for trail sleds with the stupid 5 gallon tanks, missing idler wheels, and requirements for high octane gas.
The serious guys dominated on the race sleds causing fewer and fewer entries. Even I bought a race sled in ’02 and it was way more temperamental than the ’98 race sled I had.
I had trouble justifying the cost of a high strung 440 that had terrible resale in our area, was not very versatile for play riding and just required way too much time and effort to jet properly for changing temps.
As the years past by, the sleds got even more specialized and you couldn’t get one without participation in the stupid race programs. What’s wrong with the dirt bike concept of going into the dealer and buying a YZ, CR, KX or RM right off the floor?
The other thing was the tracks. The jumps got bigger and the tracks became more difficult and technical. Combine that with racing that got more competitive even in the semi-pro and sport ranks with ever-increasing severity with the injuries, people quit entering.
With fewer entrants, fewer families and spectators showed up. Just a snowball effect and for this season our club is not even hosting a sno-x because they were money losing events.
In the end does it matter? A race sled from Cat or Polaris is not what they sell the consumer so who cares how they do in the nationals? What good does it do for Polaris and Cat to spend R&D money on a sled that never sees the showroom?
Yamaha had dropped out of sno-x and Doo seems to have a half hearted effort. They should just drop the whole thing and focus on XC racing where average guys still race production sleds at the grassroot level.