Editorial: Is a snowmobile in your future? Time to learn the rules of the trail.

Editorial by Will Burgess

Grand Rapids, Mich β€” Living in Michigan, our winters are long, and heavy from the high accumulation of lake effect snow we see. Take for example, the Upper Peninsula of our state, which frequently sees more snowfall than places like Anchorage, Ala!

What that means is we are one of the many regions across the nation and the world that values our snow sports, especially snowmobiling.

Recently, Powersports Business reported snowmobile sales rose 16% in North America, totaling 109,801 snowmobiles, as measured during the 2020-21 selling season. What’s more, there has been an 8% increase in new sales worldwide. That means consumers are taking home more sleds than recorded in over a decade, even with scarce inventory affecting virtually every manufacturer.

In 2021, Scandinavian snowmobile brand Lynx entered the North American market, which has traditionally been dominated by the big four manufacturers for decades. It helps that Lynx has a partnership with BRP, manufacturer of Ski-Doo, but these deep snow sleds from the cold white north of Europe are traditionally meant for mountain climbing and deep, deep snow packs (unlike much of the US snowbelt).

Despite this, Lynx proved to be very popular and, indeed, shows to have a cult following that BRP predicted would help with their successful overseas launch.

For a while snowmobile ridership had been falling (Powersports Business). Long dogged by meager winters and nearly always the requirement to drive far “up north” to where the deep pack lay, these endeavors required lots of fuel both for your hauler and your toys during a two-decade period when gas prices have fluxuated wildly.
Who has the energy to spend on snowmobiling when there’s just so much effort to put in before you’ve even started your engine?

But the recent reversal of this trend spells great news for sledheads like us. The more participation in the sport means more innovation and options in our snowmobiles, like BRP choosing to Lynx.
More riders also means more snowmobile trail permits are issued, which means better trails and a better riding experience.

However, there are downsides too.

Recently, there has been contention among those who maintain the trails, landowners, and snowmobilers. On many of our trails as more and more sledders are deviating from the paths marked and groomed, onto the private lands of owners who allow trails to pass through.

There are a lot of newcomers to the sport who, it seems, aren’t taking the time to review the trail maps are are seeking, whether willingly or ignorant of the rules, to go boondocking in someone’s open field with virgin snow pack.

Based on sales data from the powersports industry and simply in conversation with friends and acquaintances, powersports ridership is up among first time riders or hobbyists to the sport. Likely driven by the pandemic, powersports riding is something fun you can do while many venues are shut down or social distancing orders are still in place.

However, it’s these new riders who may not have the experience and “street smarts” of seasoned riders that are hurting this long-established relationship between land owners and the legacy trails established so long ago, which are now closing, whether temporarily, or for good if new agreements aren’t reached with the DNR, trail grooming associations, the landowners, and any and all other interested parties.

It’s worth stating, when you deviate from the trails, in many, if not most instances this is illegal trespass. My word of advice: know the trails, plan your journey, bring a map.

As always, ride safe.

Statistics referenced in this editorial via Powersports Business

Will Burgess is a journalist with Adrenaline Powersports Mag

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