First national snowmobile magazine celebrates 50 years
In December 1966, the first national snowmobile magazine in the U.S. was mailed out. The magazine was produced by Susie and Ed Scholwin, who wanted to share their passion for snowmobiling with the world.
“Snow Goer was started by people who had a passion for snowmobiling first and an interest in business second,” said John Prusak, editor and publisher of Snow Goer, a sister publication of Powersports Business.
While the Scholwins were devoted to snowmobiling and channeling their enthusiasm for the industry, the business side of the magazine had issues with being under capitalized, and the couple struggled to keep up. The Scholwins eventually sold the magazine to The Webb Company, a large publishing company based in the Twin Cities of Minnesota.
In the early 1970s when The Webb Company took over, the snowmobiling industry was exploding with popularity. By most counts, more than 300 brands of snowmobiles existed.
Dozens of companies, from department stores like JCPenney and Sears, to motorcycle brands, entered the market with their own units. “Anybody who could figure out how to buy engines and run a welder well enough to put together some angle iron was creating their own snowmobile brand,” said Prusak. “Everybody jumped into the industry.”
The snowmobile market remained strong up until the first oil embargo in 1973, when gas prices went up, and an oversaturation of sleds caused it to collapse. After a revival in the mid 1980s, the market tanked again in the early 1980s. That caused further market consolidation, including the purchase of Snow Goer in 1985 by John Ehlert, the founder of Ehlert Publishing Group (a predecessor to EPG Media). Ehlert folded the magazine and directed readers toward his own competitive Snowmobile magazine.
But in 1990, due to new technology and a few good winters that revitalized the snowmobile market, Ehlert made the decision to bring Snow Goer back as a consumer magazine. “We can’t claim 50 consecutive years, but we’re celebrating that 50 years ago the first national snowmobile magazine was launched, and it was Snow Goer,” Prusak added.
At one point, Prusak says Snow Goer mailed to 1 million households up to eight times a year. The magazine now has seven issues a year and has a readership of approximately 55,000 people. In a recent study, Snow Goer found that 59 percent of its readers have been in the industry for more than 30 years.
Over the years, Prusak says Snow Goer has been able to stay successful in a weather-dependent market like snowmobiling by having “a foot in passion and a foot in reality.
“If you don’t have passion for the market, you won’t live through the down times, but if you don’t have a business sense, you’re definitely not going to live through the down times. You’ve got to have both,” he said.
Snow Goer quickly learned that it had to diversify itself from its competitors. While all the national snowmobile magazines have destination stories and new model comparisons, Prusak says that Snow Goer’s niche has been how-to stories and aftermarket product tests. “That’s been one of the keys to our success. We have a unique niche, and we are speaking to a specific audience instead of being a generic magazine.”
Another key to Snow Goer’s longevity has been its participation in several industry events per year. Snow Goer now has a presence at events in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Colorado and New York, and it owns and operates the Big East Powersports Show and the Rocky Mountain Snowmobile Expo.
In August, Snow Goer mailed its tribute October issue, commemorating the past 50 years of snowmobiling told through the pages of previous Snow Goer issues.
“The real key is celebrating 50 years of snowmobiling, not necessarily 50 years of Snow Goer,” he added.
To help celebrate 50 years of snowmobiling, Snow Goer is also hosting a grand prize giveaway for a Ski-Doo Renegade snowmobile, a Triton trailer and many other prizes from within the industry. The giveaway will conclude in December.
“Our mission is to stir the passion of snowmobilers,” said Prusak. “It’s to keep them engaged, informed and interested. If we’re doing our jobs right, our readers are going to want to ride more, work on their machines more, and they’re going to want to experience more.”