When the ESPN franchise X Games decided to include snowmobile events starting in 1998, the decision was almost universally met with great joy by snowmobiling insiders.
What an awesome way to expose our sport to the public in general, and specifically target a younger generation, many folks enthusiastically stated. Optimists predicted a massive boom in both snowmobile racing and in snowmobile sales in general. The sky was the limit!
Of course, the X Games was just one of many factors that were affecting the snowmobiling world at the time. A couple of particularly warm/dry winters across much of the Snowbelt, some economic challenges, the echo effect of the 9/11 attacks and other issues were also at hand. And thus, snowmobile sales were actually at their modern peak in 1996 through 1998 and would fall off dramatically over the next dozen years, despite continued X Games exposure. (Worldwide snowmobile sales went from 231,444 units in 1998 to just 86,269 in 2010. Since then they’ve stabilized at about 100,000 units per year.)
So did the X Games do anything to help snowmobile sales? We’ll never know the real effect.
Either way, when scanning roughly 2.74 billion (?!) old slides over the summer with the help of former Polaris, Scorpion and Yamaha corporate big shot Greg Marier, we stumbled across some photos our staff at the time took during practice at the 1998 X Games 1998 event. Most are from the same angle because the zealots who controlled the grounds at X Games severely limited where photographers could stand.
That said, they still bring back great memories from a really fun era. Enjoy.