Leah Switzer, executive director of the Saskatchewan Snowmobile Association, said outdoor enthusiasts have been taking advantage in the province with the ongoing pandemic.
“There definitely is more activity happening right now … I think that there are a great deal more users out there,” she said.
“Snowbirds, the ones that aren’t leaving the province (due to COVID-19 travel restrictions), those are people that maybe in years past had snowmobiles but in the last few years had been away for the winter. They’re back!
“As well as new families into it that maybe aren’t running with sports to the same degree and just have a little bit more time and want to get outside.”
Switzer said it’s hard to ballpark the number snowmobilers, which often fluctuates with snowfall totals.
“I anticipate there are many more sleds throughout the province than we have seen registered (with Saskatchewan Government Insurance) in the last few years … There’s usually about 20,000 registrations,” Switzer said.
“We’re definitely seeing more registrations so far this fall, through November and December (2020). A great portion of that could be that early snowfall we received … I know snowmobile sales have been high, both used and new.”
Axxis Motorsports, just south of Saskatoon, hasn’t seen sales like this in its 22 years of business.
“On an average year, you’d sell … 60-70 units,” sales representative Ron Graham said on Tuesday.
“We’re well over 100 now.”
Graham said the flood gates opened with the large snowfall Saskatchewan received in early November 2020 and just about any old sled became a hot commodity on the second-hand market.
“That big snowstorm we got … I think we had a lineup out the front door here. We probably had 15 used snowmobiles and then that snow hit and we sold them all in a week. And it’s pretty rare (now) that we even have a used snowmobile sitting here,” he said.
“Everyone that’s had that old snowmobile sitting in the back shed full of dust that they haven’t driven for three or four years decided, ‘oh, we should sell this,’ and which in turn has increased the market value for all of that stuff.
“We’re seeing people that bought machines two or three years ago that are selling them for more money this year. So I guess investment-wise if you would have bought something in the off-season a couple of years ago, you could probably would have sold it this year and made money on it.”
The Axxis Motorsports salesperson said a problem arose with the surge – they nearly sold out.
“When it snowed, well, then all hell broke loose … and we were one of the few dealerships that ordered a lot of product and was kind of ready for the surge,” Graham said.
“The issue we’re having is we could sell even more but it’s the supply chain … COVID kind of shutting things down in the U.S. So their manufacturing process was down, not completely shut down, but definitely impacted. And then with the increase of dealers wanting product, they just couldn’t keep up.
“We’ve pretty much ran out of inventory and we can’t get any more … we’ve got probably, 15 or 20 units that we’re still waiting on to come from the factory. At least 10 of them are spoken for.”
A sales specialist, Ryan Dalrymple, at Open Road Recreation in Regina had a similar response about the uptick.
“With regards to snowmobile sales, yes there’s certainly been an uptick as with all recreational sales in general since last March (when the pandemic hit the province),” Dalrymple said in a statement to Global News on Tuesday.
“A combination of manufacturing issues, logistics and the dire need for people to actually get outside of their homes has certainly caused record sales across the board.”
With the Saskatchewan Snowmobile Association entering its 50th year, Switzer said the activity is a great way to experience the province’s diverse terrain.
“It’s really cool to be able to say that we’ve had trails within the province for that long and to go through the history and see how it’s all developed and evolved over the years. There’s a lot of hard work by many volunteers into that,” she said.
“Honestly, we have a great difference in the terrain. So you’ve got some of your clubs, there’s a lot of open field that connects you to communities, that type of thing. You can also go up north into the forests and into the trees. There are valley trails … North Battleford is actually very scenic with their hills all the way down into the southern region.”
Switzer said it’s important for new and old snowmobilers to keep safety in mind when venturing out.
“We are trying to really make sure people are aware of the COVID guidelines and that they maintain those. It’s really important to our system to stay open is for everybody to be following the guidelines,” she said.
“All of our shelters have COVID guidelines. You need to maintain that social distancing, stay within your household … bring masks along with you as well as hand sanitizer.”
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