Is the snowmobile industry going into terminal decline?

Jorli

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I have some thoughts about some disturbing trends that have been developing over the past few years in this sport. Seeing as my e-mails to the manufactures likely go straight to their trash bins, I wanted to put this out there in hopes it might gain some attention.

Last season, I produced a snowmobile film titled 'Fourcast'. As an independent film producer, I was on the front lines, day-to-day with some of the best snowmobilers on the planet. Being in this position, one thing is becoming clearly apparent, there is very little new talent coming into this sport. This should be incredibly alarming to the snowmobile manufacturers and supporting parts and accessory companies as there is no future market for their products.

I believe there are two prevailing reasons as to why this trend is rapidly expanding throughout this industry.

1- The barrier to entry is too high for most of what's left of the middle class. In Canada, many of the manufacturer's sought after sleds- out of the box, bone-stock snowmobiles are pricing in at $16,000 to $18,000 when you include taxes. And at those prices, you'll likely be including finance charges which put them $20,000+. That's close to a 100 % increase in the last 10 years. One could argue, that the price of a snowmobile hasn't increased relative to inflation(dollar devaluation), however neither have people's salaries, thus the cost of snowmobiles are out of reach for most folks, especially young people.

2- For those that have money, the snowmobile industry is not competitive with its marketing in contrast to other sports. The manufactures are great at brand-based marketing, (which targets existing users mostly) however they have done little to nothing to support the sport. How do they expect to maintain profitability if they choose to not compete for consumer spending? Especially when one looks at other industries(sports) that have been so much more successful in drawing new participants.

I put all my own money and available credit into producing 'Fourcast'. A project that has amounted to a five year mistake on my current payment plan. I've found it to be truly unbelievable in how the manufacturers have responded to the film. Its somewhat of "You want to help us sell snowmobiles and grow the sport, ........Well F-you!" type attitude.

The manufactures seem to be very content in ignoring those who support them, or perhaps they just enjoy the free ride they've been getting. Sadly, they really owe independent media companies (such as Slednecks) a tremendous amount of gratitude for carrying the marketing of sport for the past 12 years. Even as a competitor to my product, I can say with absolute certainty that Slednecks has done more to market this sport than every other company combined, now that is really sad!

When all the independent film producers get fed up with marketing an industry that refuses to support itself, then the manufacturers can really watch their sales evaporate, along riding areas and supporting infrastructure. There is a symbiotic relationship, but its failing quickly.

I have several recommendations that I sincerely hope get some attention, much of which is pointing out the obvious. The industry has been going in the wrong direction for some time now and really needs an abrupt turn!

1- The price of snowmobiles needs to get under control, if that means curtailing development, so be it. If that means stop writing blank cheques to over-priced advertising agencies that take 15 people and 17 days to produce an in studio photo shoot, then double so be it!

2- Support the sport! The industry has got to change its ideology and look at new and innovative ways to keep this great sport alive and thriving. How can they expect independent media to market their business activities with out their support? One needs to look no further than Red Bull for examples of exercising proactive, inclusive, in-house marketing programs. While Coca Cola and Pepsi were buying billboards space at hockey games and getting next to zero ROI, Red Bull invested in local talent around the world and sought new ways to get their name out. No one can deny how successful they have been. Why is this industry so slow to clue in?

3- Quit screwing Canadian dealers and consumers, It makes no sense that one can find a Ski-Doo, made in Canada, selling for $3000.00 to $4000.00 cheaper in the US. That is completely absurd. If the dollar is close to parity, then pricing should be relative.

A call to all the independent film/video/photographer/hospitality producers and providers; stop giving these guys a free ride! We all know that there is no red carpet in doing back-breaking work that breaks your bank, where is the pleasure in that? No, its not about the money, but yes it takes money to survive and produce good products and services. If these companies think they are better off with out us, then so be it! Why on earth would anyone want to support an industry that does nothing to reciprocate?

Thats it for the rant, hope this rings true to some of you! I didn't write this to be negative, but rather there is nothing more that I'd like than to see this sport succeed as it is the best sport in the world deserves to be recognized for it merits so that it can gain public acceptance rather than be demonized and outcasted by the ignorant. We need to turn this game around!
 
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snowmanx

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I think there are alot of different things that contribute to the decline of snowmobiling. Along with cost is the fact that the season is so short.....what, 3 months at best back east, where the majority of sleds are sold.

the average age of a sledding is something like 44, isn't it?

I don't know where it's going, but I'll support it as long as I can. I too am looking at producing my own sled film, but I'm going into it jsut more for fun.....don't know if that wil work either though.

Keep writing your letters, they do help.
 

mtnpull

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Great post. I think you are spot on especially in two areas. Price and support.

I have a big background in the ski industry and the price factor was always a huge obstacle in recruiting new people to the sport. In comparison, to get into skiing is much, much cheaper than snowmobiling and skiing is NOT cheap.

Now I run my own rental business and buy hundreds of thousands of dollars of ATV's and snowmobiles each year constantly turning equipment. I feel that I am a very big supporter of the brands which I buy from. I know for a fact that it helps boost sales for that manufacturer as well as I see many of the cabin owners in the area I rent go out an buy the machines I rent because of their experience with me and my rentals. Nothing bothers me more than when I have a given model that shortly after warranty have a consistent problem and the company will not back it up. For example I had every single voltage regulator go out on 20 sleds just shortly after the warranty expired. If I had one or two go out I would not have thought twice about it, but when every machine has the exact same problem there is something faulty there. Then to have the manufacturer not willing to step up after spending hundreds of thousands of dollars with them shows you exactly where their priorities are. Sad, but I agree with you on this one.
 

94fordguy

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It really is astonishing how expensive this sport is to get into. And with that in mind, it's really no surprise that there aren't near as many young sledders as there are young adults in other forms of recreation. To think that many people who buy a brand new machine will only run it for 2-4 years before having to completely rebuild it and spend thousands, or sell it for a fraction of its original cost and whip out another $10,000 is insane. The argument can be made that old sleds are cheap to start out on, but how many people buy an 8 yr old sled with 5,000 miles on it and expect to run it for peanuts for another 5 years.... That's what I thought when I started... I'm only on my 4th year on a sled and I have already dropped about $20,000 into this sport... That's insanity... but it continues because it is basically an addiction. How much can the average 18-20-25 yr old actually afford to spend on this addiction?????
 
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You lost me at the free-ride section. What's wrong with getting a free-ride through say Thunderstruck and Slednecks and the many other film makers out there who do it for a hobby instead of a profitable sale. I'm sure the manufacturers love all the free advertising. I am on board with the escalating price issue, for those who have more money than sense the price is not an issue, but for your average Joe like myself, forking out 11,000 or 12,000 G's for a new sled is simply insane. In my opinion they're in a tailspin trying to produce something that's new and improved when in fact alot of what is being marketed and sold is a step backwards. I feel the manufacturers are stuck between the proverbial rock and a hardplace. I ride with a friend who destroys the latest and greatest every weekend riding 02 technology, sad, funny, but true. An 11,000 sled is simply out of reach for most of the newcomers, and many of us oldtimers. Apparently volume sales is not part of the equation anymore as it used to be.
 

skippy

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You rich people just keep on buying new sleds for $12000 and then sell them to me a year later for $7000!!! I really don't mind waiting a year to get one with the bugs worked out of it and $5000 cheaper!! LOL Thanks
 

turboless terry

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There aren't hardly any younger people in my area riding. It is an expensive sport. Younger people can't afford new prices and it's easy to get soured on the maintenance of a used sled. After a sled gets 3 years old or older it seems like you start getting towed out of the mountains. Even our snowmobile club is dying out. Tough to find younger people to take over. If we don't it will die for sure. The way the forest service is going our kids will be lucky to ride like we do anyway.
 

Jorli

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Maybe we should ask Jim and Jason about how they feel about spending their own money to market these guys products for them, I can't imagine they are jumping for joy. It takes a good chunk of cash to produce a good film and do it legally, if consumers want to see the sport at its best, non-equity underwriting and support needs to come from somewhere in the form of marketing dollars. Seeing as the snowmobile manufactures are the ones that benefit the most, they should provide some support to those that have supported them. Its very unethical behavior and this industries really uses people in the worst of ways. This needs to change.
 

Mnt bound

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Good post.

I grew up riding. Now at 30 the costs are crazy. And not just purchase price, but the gas, oil, belts and other "ware" parts. Not to mention "if" something happens and you have to replace an A-arm or clutch or something. My 08 (bought new) has about 6k miles on it and I'm starting to see big things fail.
I think for 12k$ you should get more than 6k miles out of one.


Sorry rant over now.
 
There aren't hardly any younger people in my area riding. It is an expensive sport. Younger people can't afford new prices and it's easy to get soured on the maintenance of a used sled. After a sled gets 3 years old or older it seems like you start getting towed out of the mountains. Even our snowmobile club is dying out. Tough to find younger people to take over. If we don't it will die for sure. The way the forest service is going our kids will be lucky to ride like we do anyway.
Ok, the fact of the matter is yes, snowmobiling is expensive to get into. I make a good living and I'm, well the wife, is balking at the price of a sled. But it goes much deeper then that, we are talking about a whole sale life style changes.

Many of my friends are reps in the Tahoe area of ski makers, ski boot maker, ski clothing makers. Some of these companies have big time money behind them and the research they have done will scare you. The statistics say that kids aren't spending as much time outside as their parents did when they grew up. I'm doing these numbers off the top of my head so they could be off some. Not too long ago 75% of people walked or biked to school now something like 20% do. Also in the 60-70's 5% of kids were obese, that has changed also. Now somewhere around 20% are obese. Kids 8 and older spend somewhere around 7 hrs a day or more on the computer, watching TV or playing videos. When I was that age I was outside playing or working.

These numbers are freaking out ski/snowboard makers and they should also scare the snowmobile makers. They ski makers truly wonder where the future skier/snowboarders are going to come from. People need to get their kids outside and into a sport of some sort. Oh, hell what am I saying, Obama's healthcare will save us all.
 

Mafesto

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I see 2 different concerns being talked about here.

1 the price to play the game

You cannot blame the manufacturers for continually giving us what we ask for.
Also, you could buy a non-current M1000 for under $8000.
Actually seems cheap to me.

2 The difficulty in maintaining a profit margin in film making (0r other sled related business for that matter).

Let me say I Love sledding. I also love to try to find opportunities to make profitable ventures happen.

In my opinion profit & snowmobiles are incompatible!
 

Chubby

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Really not a big bang for your buck..... Seasons here in minnesota have been real short and resale values are in the tank. Seems like you buy a new model (Hard to get) for 12000 snochecked and in spring there is plenty for 8500-9000.
 

NorthMNSledder

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Maybe we should ask Jim and Jason about how they feel about spending their own money to market these guys products for them, I can't imagine they are jumping for joy. It takes a good chunk of cash to produce a good film and do it legally, if consumers want to see the sport at its best, non-equity underwriting and support needs to come from somewhere in the form of marketing dollars. Seeing as the snowmobile manufactures are the ones that benefit the most, they should provide some support to those that have supported them. Its very unethical behavior and this industries really uses people in the worst of ways. This needs to change.
Great post Jorli. But it would be interesting to hear what Jim and Jason have to say. Because for Jim and the Thunderstuck series you see more promoting individual dealers (sponsors). But with Slednecks you are seeing more and more of them working with Polaris. A few of their riders are in the new Pro RMK video on the Polaris website and seam to (or appear to) be testing product for them. Burandt has a full new shop of Polaris sleds, Thacker has been jumping them for years.

It would appear from the outside looking in that Polaris is working with and helping Slednecks a lot. But maybe that is not the case.
 

Jorli

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I did bring up different aspects, although they relate to one problem: If this industry wants a future customer base, it needs to change the way it does things. The two aspects that stand out the most in keeping new blood from entering this sport are pricing and marketing. I know this because most young adults that are perfect candidates to be sledders- snowboarders, skiers, mountain bikers, motocrossers have no clue about snowmobiling. I tried to get these groups to come out for Premieres of Fourcast, but I had a lot them give me the "No thanks, I think snowmobiling is gay!" type response. No wonder we get demonized by the media when avalanche occur, the vast majority of people don't have a clue what this great sport is all about. That is a failure in marketing, closely followed by sticker shock at the point of sale. The two main reasons this sport is in decline.

The Polaris supports some of Slednecks riders, not Slednecks.

If dealers are having to do the marketing for the manufactures by supporting Jim, that is pretty sad and shows just how out of touch the manufactures truly are, or its as I previously mentioned; very unethical behavior.
 
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mountainhorse

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Jorli,

Good post topic, and great movie.

Buyers and users seem to carry the brunt of the battle to keep areas open, fight bad press and continue to encourage a new generation to enjoy what we love so much.

I see Polaris putting a good effort in with the Avy awareness and rider training support for programs like Dan Adams next level clinics. I'd like to see more of this and also grass roots stuff... Much like Jake Burtons "Learn to Ride" program in snowboarding.
 
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Try living in NY and justify being into snowmobiling...

1. Short season, 2 months at the most

2. Constant harassment by law enforcement

3. Pay $100 state reg every year. Most of it is supposed to go to the state trail fund. Fine with most riders until our scoundrel of a governor raids the fund to the tune of $1MM.

Can't put a price on fun, so will continue to ride!
 
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