Help Grow Snowmobiling, Or Pay The Price!

Minnesota snowmobile trailFor years, some folks in the snowmobile market have been trying to grow (or, at the very least, maintain) the number of people who are active snowmobilers. From Invitation to Snowmobiling to Take a Friend Snowmobiling, and from targeted events to direct advertising and promotional campaigns, there have been varying efforts made over the years to grow the sport.

And, while that’s been happening, there have been varying levels of support for such programs from Joe Average Snowmobiler. I’ve heard from some of them (or, it is “some of you?”) over the years with answers like, “Why would I want more people out on the trails making them bumpy, and more people competing for hotel rooms? Yeah, I can see why the factories want more riders, but to folks like me, there’s no upside.”

Folks like me, though, have always made counter arguments that include (1) the prices of snowmobiles wouldn’t raise so fast if the factories had higher volumes upon which to spread their costs; (2) more snowmobilers hopefully results in more snowmobile club members to help maintain our trails; and (3) for land access and other battles, more snowmobilers means more political clout, and we need that clout.

Well, the most recent issue of Minnesota Snowmobiling provides yet another reason. On page 13 of the March 2017 issue is an article that states that the Minnesota Governor’s budget proposal for the next two-year cycle includes requests from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to increase snowmobile registration charges by $10 per year (from $75 for a three-year registration to $105), and to increase the annual out-of-state trail permit cost from $35 to $50.

Ouch! Why would they do such a thing? Well, this isn’t a money grab, it’s a numbers game. The decreasing number of registered snowmobiles in the state has resulted in a deficit in the dedicated account that helps to fund trail maintenance.

Specifically, according to the article which quotes a DNR report, in 2006 there were 277,000 registered snowmobiles in Minnesota. In 2016, that number was 196,000. So, doing the math, when 277,000 snowmobiles were registered for three years at $75 each, that created $20,775,000 to support the 21,000 miles of Grant-in-Aid trails in Minnesota around 2006 (though, remember, this is for a three-year registration). When that number decreased to 196,000 registered snowmobiles, the revenue drops to $14,700,000 (196,000 x $75) – a $6 million decrease. And, trust me, the cost of groomers, grooming equipment and groomer maintenance hasn’t decreased in that time! Increasing the fee to $105 for a three-year registration – multiplied by the current 196,000 registrations – merely brings the number back up to $20,580,000, still below the 2006 level.

Nobody likes to pay more for registrations fees or trail permits, certainly including me – those who know me well know that I’m cheaper than a used, worn-out, out-of-style sport jacket on the clearance rack at the Goodwill store! But, as snowmobilers if we don’t all realize our role in growing our sport, we’re doomed to – at the very least – each of us paying higher fees for the activity we love. And that’s on top of the other reasons we should all try to grow and protect the great sport of snowmobiling.

Yes, please, introduce a friend, relative, neighbor, co-worker, etc. to snowmobiling. You’ll be doing them a huge favor by introducing them to such an awesome winter pastime, and you’ll be doing the rest of us a favor as well.

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