The 2014s are here. There’s not a ton of new stuff for mountain riders to drool over. But after three straight years of new platforms (Pro RMK—’11, ProClimb M—’12, Summit XM—’13) that’s not a shocker.
Not that we really need another all-new platform or new engine or new anything really. We’ve gotten so used to that over the last few years we’ve become spoiled. So I’m not suggesting that a new platform is what’s missing.
There’s a huge void in the industry that has me concerned. There are just not a whole lot of options for a cheap mountain sled that can serve to keep teens who grew up on 120s interested long enough to get them back after high school sports are out of the picture. No SnoScoot or SnoSport. Nothing much to get a newbie started in mountain sledding, either.
I’ve taken friends riding and they absolutely love it. The freedom, the scenery, the adrenaline rush… and then they start asking how much. You almost hear their interest in the sport leave their head. Ten grand for a sled, $1,000 for gear, trailer, belts, fuel…
I’m sure you all remember the past couple decades (because it seems all the sport consists of is the same die-hard snowmobilers who just get a little older each season). You used to see people buy three or four sleds at a time. When they went riding, they took anyone who was up for a ride. Guys at the dealership I worked for in high school would pull up with an empty four-place trailer and drive away with four (or five if the salesman was good) XLTs.
Obviously more has changed since then than the faded Norman Rockwell painting on the wall. For one, EPA regulations have directly inflated the cost of engine technology and the final price tag of new sleds. Lightweight parts cost more than heavy parts. Re-tooling presses and assembly jigs for minor year-to-year updates add up quickly.
We’re partly to blame, too. We’re specialized, technical mountain riders now. We expect the best equipment, the lightest weight and the most horsepower. We want titanium, magnesium and carbon fiber. Anything less and we rip it to shreds in every discussion that comes up on Facebook and on forums. And we’re apparently willing to spend as much on one snowmobile as we did on two snowmobiles 15 years ago.
But you can’t buy what isn’t built.
It seems the manufacturers kind of narrowed their focus to the chunk of the market that buys the big-cc sleds. We can’t fault them for that. It’s good business to target the core audience and go after the market with the big profit margins (mountain sleds). And we realize that each OEM has had to tighten the belt over the past five years.
But now we’re left with a lineup where the cheapest mountain sled starts out at just under 10 grand.
Is it impossible to build a $7,000 500cc mountain sled? Would we even buy it if one of the OEMs built it? Will we ever see one?
My guess is probably not before we see more new engines, new platforms and more carbon fiber.