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Getting Started

The birth of Snowmobile West

Published online: Oct 01, 2004 Column Darryl Harris
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Thirty years. Hard to believe we've been publishing SnoWestthat long. Brings back a lot of memories.

My first ride on a snowmobile was in February 1967. I'd been out of college less than a year and was working as a staff writer/reporter for the newspaper in Idaho Falls. A new ski resort was going to be built on Fred's Mountain, on the Idaho side of the Tetons. Promoters wanted publicity. I received the assignment.

The only way to get to the top of Fred's Mountain was by snowmobile. That perfect sunny winter day I found myself dressed in two pair of denims and a ski jacket, riding double up the mountain. It wasn't easy. The Ski-Doo bogey-wheeled sleds did a wonderful job, however, as I look back. We criss-crossed the mountain. We were stuck much of the time in armpit-deep snow, turning the machine up the mountain again.

When we reached the summit I began taking pictures. A cold wind froze me stiff as a board. I hugged the snowmobile on the way down, with the engine heat thawing me out.

After my job at the newspaper, I worked in Salt Lake City as an account executive for a large advertising agency for three years. I obtained the Grand Targhee ski resort account, and used the pictures I took that day for the first brochure.

In 1971, I returned to Idaho Falls to start my own ad agency. The next year I expanded it into a publishing company. My first magazine was about horses. The next about potatoes.

Sometime during the winter of 1973, a friend, Jim Ostler, took me snowmobiling again. I met lots of new friends. I bought a snowmobile, a '74 El Tigre.

I remember some simple advice taught to me when I was a boy scout: Use your resources.I had a snowmobile. I had a publishing company. I launched Snowmobile Westmagazine in 1974. I started small, 5,000 press run, mailed to snowmobilers in the Intermountain West.

Had I done due diligence, I would have never started the magazine. I didn't know it then, but the snowmobile industry was in the dredges of a bad recession. Too many manufacturers, not enough sales. Manufacturers were dropping out like flies. At one time there were 129. Let's see now-129 full page ads sounds great. Didn't turn out that way. But fortunately, a few companies bought ads. So did some aftermarket people. And resorts. We were on our way.

Sure there was competition. But we had our niche. We regarded the other publications as flatlander stuff . but then, so were the snowmobiles. It seemed they were stuck all the time in western snow conditions. We campaigned for snowmobiles that would work in a high altitude, and deep snow. It worked. Today, the most popular snowmobile is the mountain muscle machine. Gobs of them are sold every year.

Year-by-year, success slowly came. The press run (circulation) gradually grew. So did the paid subscriptions, and the number of ad pages. Key people were hired-like Mel Erickson in sales, and Steve Janes in editorial. And later, Lane Lindstrom.

The rest is history, as they say. We've shortened our name to SnoWest.We've increased our press run to 150,000. We publish 10 issues a year, counting special issues we call ModStockand

Just one more thing. Thanks. Thanks to you, our readers. You've made SnoWest immensely popular. Lots of proof. But I'll end on one note. In our peak months, we receive more than 50 million hits on our web site. Per month. Amazing.