Ski Touring News — Snowmobile Sales and more Tiny Houses

Post by blogger | October 12, 2016      

With the explosion in ski touring popularity, more basic educational content is always welcome. Along with that, it’s interesting to watch gear makers attempt to become publishers. I guess the power of information and reader service simply can not be denied — or so the PR folks think, anyway. The weird part of it is that our advertisers could become our competitors. Ho hum, the ins and outs of business…

Meanwhile, we don’t make gear here at WildSnow, we just write about it and take pictures, but that could change at any time. G3 and BCA come to mind, both have major publishing endeavors in the works. BCA tends to stick with well written white papers and other content that is becoming a significant body of work. Check out their “Success Stories” for a positive take on our sport.

G3 is going whole hog on the video route, with a variety of how-to shorts that I’d recommend showing to your newbie friend so you don’t have to be a “trail jerk” with your endless lectures. Heck, after watching these, that newbie will probably out climb and out ski you that first time out!

Snowmobiles. Yeah, sorry to mention. But the howling beasts are as much a fixture of the snow clad backcountry as we human powered adventurers. (And of course, sometimes we do both).

A couple of sled items. First, I got my fall issue of Snow West magazine. Inside, the editors put together an industry data report relating snowmobile sales for the U.S., Canada, Europe (and even Russia?!) broken down from the year 2002 to 2016. Interestingly, they show a decline in worldwide sales, with a small upsurge for the latest 2016 model year in North America.

Worldwide snowmobile sales:
2016 — 126,972 units, 16% lower than 2015
2015 — 150,713 units, 4% lower
2014 — 157,106 units, 9% up from 2013 (topping a 5 year growth spurt).

Snow West’s editorial take attributes the drop in sales to cheaper gasoline, which puts less disposable income in the hands of energy workers “who…tend to buy snowmobiles, especially in Canada and Russia.” I have a different theory. They all took up ski touring. Or in all seriousness, perhaps snowmobiles have gotten so good that people simply don’t buy new ones as often; has that not happened with ski touring boots and bindings?

Colorado snowmobile registration 2017.

Colorado snowmobile registration 2017.

Also about snowmobiles, we got our annual tags. My yearly reminder to siphon old gas out of the sled, and perhaps take it in for a checkup. I always enjoy paying the small “ATV” fee that we get dinged with in Colorado, as some of that money goes to support an excellent trail grooming program that benefits everyone from dog walkers to, yes, backcountry skiers using snowmobiles for approach.

On the other hand, the law of unintended consequences is alive and well. In the case of “ATVs” the large “side by sides” that have become all the rage still only require an ATV tag, but have become de facto jeeps that are often driven on roads that our normal vehicle tax goes to maintain. While I like the idea of staying one step ahead of excessive government, essentially eliminating our automobile registration tax just because a vehicle is an “ATV” seems unfair. Your thoughts?

Housing is in the news again. Specifically the type of housing issues that could affect mountain resort town housing in North America, and perhaps everywhere. This time, San Jose, California passed radical legislation that essentially bypasses their restrictive land use codes and building permit requirements, thus allowing people to live in tiny houses. While the effort is clearly aimed at housing the homeless, I see this as a trend. Frustrated government has caught the over-regulation pendulum and they’re throwing it back with a shout. Now, Crested Butte? Aspen? How about Whistler hiring a few carpenters, and taking six months to double their inventory of 1,900 price controlled units?

Apologies in advance to purists who will say, “Enough resort up hill skiing news Lou, enough!!!” It’s such an interesting phenomenon I’ll keep mentioning in news roundups, especially when I see mainstream coverage.

Example, check out this article in Pursuits, Bloomberg’s publication covering high end vacationing and recreation. The end-all “pursuit?” Go to Beaver Creek, Colorado where Park Hyatt Hotel is combining the latest adventure vacation trends into their “Ultimate Winter Experience.”

According to Bloomberg, “guests who sign up (with Hyatt program) don’t just get to go skinning into the North Vail Bowls — they also get to have a picnic in a snow cave, take an avalanche-training course, and spend a few hours ice climbing in the mountain’s remotest corners… they’ll help you hire a drone cinematographer to capture all the action. The package is available for the entire season and costs as much as $30,000.” They’ve already invited us for a press junket — time to get droned at Vail!


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17 Responses to “Ski Touring News — Snowmobile Sales and more Tiny Houses”

  1. JCoates October 12th, 2016 10:27 am

    Lou, re the Hyatt boondoggle…that sounds like an entirely greedy, awful attempt to take people with too much money and no common (mountain) sense out of their money. Nothing about that sounds remotely enticing and shouldn’t be associated with the word “press”–which assumes neutral reporting. I don’t care if you do it for a laugh, but I cant see how I wouldn’t lose a little respect for you and what you are trying to do with this website. Know what I mean??

  2. Lou Dawson 2 October 12th, 2016 11:46 am

    J, I was joking about the press trip, probably should have made that clear. I wrote it for a laugh, an no, haven’t been invited — yet (grin). Lou

  3. Charlie Hagedorn October 12th, 2016 12:10 pm

    For completeness, a quick vote for Outdoor Research’s education videos, too. It’s great to see manufacturers turning to quality education tools as an advertising approach.

  4. steve October 12th, 2016 12:28 pm

    Lou, do you put Stabil in your gas tank? I add some and fill it to the top with non-ethanol gas (which I always use) and my sled seems to run fine the following season.

  5. Lou Dawson 2 October 12th, 2016 12:48 pm

    I do use Stabil and non-ethanol, but I’ve had some problems starting and want every advantage, so I just take the old gas out and use it in our Nissan Versa, and put fresh winter blend non-ethanol gas in there. I was going to check today and see when the petrol shop switches over to winter blend. Probably a few weeks yet, but I’ll start on the process.

    I’m also going to start carrying a can of starter fluid, even though it’s risky to use. I’d rather cause a bit of extra engine wear then be stranded.


  6. Lou Dawson 2 October 12th, 2016 12:49 pm

    Charlie, always feel free to include a link to that sort of thing! Honestly, that was totally off my radar, but will be happy to ghost edit into the post. Lou

  7. Charlie Hagedorn October 12th, 2016 12:59 pm

    Here’s a link to a playlist of at least some of the OR/Wheeler/Ward/Smiley shorts:

    They have excellent older shorts, too. This one from a previous campaign with Volken is an example:

  8. XXX_er October 12th, 2016 7:24 pm

    I ALWAYS run premium in my small motors ( chainsaw/weedeater/lawnmower) and I always use Stabil at the end of a season, yeah it costs a little more $ but my engines always start SO its a good place to spend a few buck extra …for extra

  9. JCoates October 12th, 2016 10:06 pm

    Whew, thanks for clarifying that.

  10. Lou Dawson 2 October 13th, 2016 7:06 am

    Gasoline is actually a pretty big issue if you’re a DIY kind of person and run a lot of different machinery yourself — often the case for those of us skiers living the mountain lifestyle.

    Ethanol blends seems to run fine in all our engines, even the 1983 V6 I swapped into our Jeep, but the aging characteristics of ethanol blend are a nightmare as you just don’t know how long it’ll really hold up — and in our case we seem to always have some tool or vehicle that sits for a while. What is more, clearly the winter gasoline they switch over to in colder states is beneficial for easier starts and perhaps better running engines.

    One of my missions today or tomorrow here in Colorado is to find out when my local favorite petrol shop switches to winter blend, and if they indeed sell an ethanol free product. They used to sell ethanol free, just not sure if they still do.

    In terms of octane grade, our snowmobile has to have premium, while our Nissan Versa has to have at least mid grade or it knocks. To keep it simple I buy premium for the sled and run mid grade in everything else (chainsaws, Jeep, etc.)

    Our Chevy truck is diesel (Duramax). I use diesel additive in the winter as sometimes the truck gets cold soaked to below zero F, but I did notice that the diesel shop mixes the same additive into their bulk tank during winter, so I might be paying for something I don’t really need.

    A bit of web browsing indicates the confusion about ethanol in petrol is alive and well, and there are no easy answers.


  11. trollanski October 13th, 2016 7:58 am

    Continuing off topic for this thread…manufacturer’s recommendations may be to empty the fuel tank, run it dry until it quits from fuel starvation, empty the float bowls, fog the motor w/ fogging oil, turn over motor, then put spark plugs back in.

  12. XXX_er October 13th, 2016 2:33 pm

    Shoulder season (like right now) is when you are most likely to get stuck with unwinterized fuel. I bought diesel down south late autumn, headed due north across an arctic front and no way my TDi would start at -20C, from then on I made sure to fillup when I get where I’m going and the fuel is more likely to be winterized.

    Also this time of year I don’t fillup completly instead I fillup often so what I buy is more likely to be treated, also if one needs to treat fuel they will be treating less fuel cuz the tank is half empty

    I think “fill it full” might have made sense when tanks were steel but aren’t most of them plastic nowadays?

    another trick that worked for me to get my TDi started (if you got 115V) was use a heat gun to pump hot air into the engine air intake, it started right away and I headed straight to the local gas station

  13. ptor October 13th, 2016 11:08 pm

    I want an e-sled and an anti-gravity towbar for Christmas.

  14. Aaron Mattix October 14th, 2016 8:33 am

    Side by sides have become 800 lb gorilla in the room of travel management. Compact enough to bulldoze their way down singletrack (or what used to be singletrack), but large & powerful enough to be a legit choice as a local street vehicle. I’ve heard land managers are getting complaints about the 50″ wide restrictions on ATV trails because the newer generation of side by sides can’t fit through the gates/bollards. My Toyota 4Runner on 35″x12.50″ tires is less than 50″ wide…

    The increasingly more powerful and capable OHV rigs are allowing people who are ever less conscientious & prepared to get ever further into the backcountry. It makes more sense to regulate side by sides the same as jeeps or other road-going vehicles. Currently, it is a bit like the loophole that allows anyone to purchase & drive a ginormous land yacht cruise ship of an RV without the basic medical screening & skills testing required for operating a similar size vehicle in anything vaguely resembling a “commercial” capacity. In other words, hauling firewood could get you nabbed by a sufficiently grumpy DOT officer, but Florence & Charles who just got out of the hospital for a diabetic coma are eligible to pilot a small space station on wheels down any road they like.

  15. b.fredlund October 14th, 2016 9:17 am

    I’m with P-tor and the idea of developing electronic snow machines.! Also should note the rapid rise the last couple years of Timbersleds/ snow bikes. That’s where the snowmobile industry appears to be headed.

  16. Lou Dawson 2 October 14th, 2016 9:35 am

    Aaron, exactly. I’m aware that the sidexsides are indeed fun, one of my good friends gets more fun out of his than should be allowed, but they’re overall a truly strange problem for land and road management. What’s weird for me personally, is that for 30 years I’ve watched our jeep trails get closed, and then here comes another petroltainment vehicle that gets to use all sorts of trails our jeep can’t really fit on and may not even be allowed legally to use! If I’d seen it coming I would have sold the jeep years ago and just run a big huge sidexside and been done with it, and we’ll probably still get some sort of ATV for use on our backcountry property and tooling around locally. But the whole thing, again, has gotten mighty strange.

    A local problem we have here is that the county decided to let the ATVs use the road our backcountry cabin is located on, while normally it would be closed to ATVs as a regular county road. So we have a local ATV rental outfit, and clearly they send people up here to basically use the road as a race track. All summer, they just drive up, then down, up, then down. Just like snowmobiles, if they were quieter I’d not be near as concerned, but their sphere of influence due to noise is way too large.

    I’d imagine all this will get sorted out. I just hope it doesn’t result in too much limiting of recreation, but that the recreation is done in a style that’s more fair to everyone. Perhaps beginning with the ATVs paying to use our county roads just like we do with our Jeep.


  17. Peter B October 18th, 2016 11:51 am

    I’m not sure whether those snowmobile statistics include Snow-bikes, but up here in North Ideeho I know people left and right who have traded in their sleds for snow-bikes. Polaris just bought TImbersled, out of Sandpoint, so the trend is more of them, I’m afraid.
    For backcountry skiers the bikes are far more trouble than sleds as they can go anywhere including fairly tight trees…They also prefer to cut diagonally up slopes rather than straight up like sled. Damn they can ruin a lot of turf fast!
    As for sidexsides, I have one with tracks for my wife & I to access the backcountry. I buy the ORV license and snow groomer license. I really only use mine on logging roads, groomed or not, then leave it all day while we tour and ski the local peaks. Takes about an hour to access any given touring spot around here. I see no problem as it is no different than each of us sledding to the location (IMHO)

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