Snowmobilers are eternal optimists

I don’t know if you’ve noticed this or not, but there is a fair amount of pessimism going on out there. Really.

You know, that economy thing that people are talking about? The layoffs and furlows that are bringing people down? The credit crunch? Seemingly unending wars in a couple of countries? Is any of this sounding familiar to any of you folks?

The reason for the sarcasm is this: snowmobilers are proving once again that they just don’t care about all of this crap. Well, they may care, but they need an outlet. They are tired of everybody looking at their shoetops and dwelling about how bad things are, so rather than stew, they are getting ready for a kick-butt winter.

You want proof? It started with the earliest of the fall snowmobile events, when the crowd was up in Michigan at the Nelson’s Speed Shop Sno-Motion 2010 event in late August. That’s right – in Michigan, a state that many pundits are quick to point out has about the highest unemployment rate in the country. If residents of any state have a right to forget about the greatest winter hobby, it’s Michiganders, but snowmobilers in that state showed they are amped up to go riding.

A couple of weeks later, the momentum continued at the sport’s largest event, the Haydays Grass Drags just north of Minnesota’s Twin Cities. The Saturday crowd in particular was robust, as overall attendance and sales at many booths took a notable uptick over the previous year.

Soon, the energy was spreading across the country. Our company’s own Big East Powersports Show in Syracuse, New York, posted a nice year-over-year gain in early October, while the Rocky Mountain Snowmobile Expo was jumping the following weekend near Denver. The Snowmobile USA show near Milwaukee, Wisconsin, also grew from the previous year, as Wisconsinites forgot about the Brett Favre fiasco for a weekend to think about snow-covered trails.

From Epping, New Hampshire, to Puyallup, Washington, and many places in between, snowmobilers showed up in droves this fall to check out the new machines, get deals on parts and gear, stock up on oil and plugs and generally hang out with other snowmobilers who share their love of the sport.

It brings me back to a conversation I was having last spring with a person at Bombardier Recreational Products. Apparently, a member of the board of directors from Bain Capital, a venture capital company that owns a good portion of BRP, was quizzing company officials over why snowmobile sales weren’t lagging as much as the automotive, recreational vehicle, boating, motorcycle or all-terrain vehicle sales in the recession. The BRP officials tried to explain to the Bain official, who was not a snowmobiler, how exciting our sport is, and how snowmobilers will find a way to get out and ride when there is snow.

The Bain official reportedly wasn’t satisfied with the answer, and again asked why snowmobile sales weren’t off 40 percent, 50 percent or more, like the other segments he mentioned. BRP officials explained at length how ours is an enthusiast sport that is so much fun and is such a great escape from all of the other worries in the world that hard-core snowmobilers value the experience more than boaters or RV owners, for example.

“The guy from Bain just shook his head in disbelief and said, ‘Those snowmobilers are crazy,’” my BRP contact reported to me.

Yes, it’s true, we’re crazy. We’re also optimists by nature, as we depend on such a weather-related sport for our joy. This winter, my fellow optimists, leave the pessimists behind and get out and ride.

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