Weather holds key to successful season

Ed Klim, executive director of the International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association (ISMA) in Haslett, Mich., says the forecast for the upcoming snowmobile season differs depending on geographic location.
“I was recently in South Dakota for a meeting, and I was there with people from the Northeast who all said they couldn’t wait for the coming year,” Klim told Powersports Business. “Many of them have already ordered new sleds and tried their helmets on.
“In fact, I just got the New Hampshire Economic Impact Report for last year and there was $1.2 billion spent on snowmobiling in that state last year. So I think the folks in the East are all fired up again.”
There’s always a market somewhere, and Klim says snowfall seemed to be pretty good last year from Michigan east and in the western mountains, whereas Alaska and the Midwest were dryer than usual.
“All I’m hearing is that it depends on where you’re at. In some parts of the country people will order early and often,” he said. “Dealers on the East Coast certainly weren’t complaining last year, and dealers here in Michigan seemed to bounce back pretty well when we got snow in late January and February.
“We had enough snow where they were able to move product — at a discount, maybe — but still able to move it. I’m not saying it was a banner year here in Michigan like it was out east, but it was OK.
“I think there is a tremendous amount of pent-up demand in places like Minnesota, Wisconsin, South Dakota, so I think snow will bring people out. All we can really do is hope the Farmer’s Almanac is right. Because it’s forecasting a nice and cold, snowy winter.”
Then, of course, there was the European market, which was up substantially last year. Snowmobile sales went from 16,000 to over 20,000 sleds in Scandinavia alone, according to ISMA.
“We’re also seeing growing sales in places like Russia and Poland,” Klim said. “The ecomony in Poland is growing 12% per year, and I know manufacturers are all opening up some distribution points. I get phone calls and inquiries from both Russia and Poland quite often, and that tells me those markets are starting to cook.
“For instance, I talked to a guy last week in Krakow who told me people were starting to build cabins in the woods and were buying sleds. It’s amazing what a taste of capitalism will do. But they have money and they have snow.”
All in all, Klim says he remains optimistic about the U.S. snowmobile industry during 2004. “I’ve been in the business long enough to know that if we get good snow, we get it fairly early and it gets cold, we’ll see the push,” he said.

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