Snowmobilers wait for snow

The snow may still be missing but VAST and snowmobiler dealers alike say the numbers don’t lie, the riders are ready.
Published: Jan. 10, 2023 at 7:39 AM EST
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ESSEX JCT. Vt. (WCAX) - The snow may still be missing but the Vermont Association of Snow Travelers and snowmobiler dealers alike say the numbers don’t lie -- the riders are ready.

“We’ve actually been sold out of snowmobiles for essentially -- for the past couple of years,” said Brad Erling of Land Air in Essex Junction.

He says snowmobile sales were already on an upward trajectory beginning in 2018. When the pandemic hit, -- like lots of other outdoor recreation -- snowmobile sales saw a boom and the supply chain is still playing catch up. He said getting supply this year is better than last, with most of their inventory coming in by the end of December, but they’re still waiting for about 20 sleds. “We’ve accumulated a fairly long waiting list. And then as that stuff comes available -- like a new snowmobile on the market -- we’re able to sell it pretty quickly,” said Erling.

“We saw growth from 2019 to 2021 of about 1,400 members, about a 6% growth,” said Jeffery Fay with the Vermont Association of Snow Travelers. With an uptick in snowmachine purchases comes an uptick in riders on the 4,500 miles of VAST trails. Fay said they’re about 7% below what they saw last year when it comes to members and he blames the weather and aspects of the economy like the high price of fuel. “I think it impacts those that are in a position where they need to prioritize family over recreation and not just don’t want to go.”

Fuel prices also impact trail maintenance. said VAST has set aside state funding to offset fuel costs for clubs but that maintaining trails is still expensive. “We spend somewhere in the neighborhood of $1.8 million just grooming the trails every year, and that’s broken out per mile basis for the clubs,” said Fay.

The trail network has a full-time staff of six and the rest of the maintenance is conducted by club volunteers. Fay said the weather this season, like the storm around Christmas, has been hard on volunteers. “Clubs out clearing the trails from all the downed trees. We had a few microbursts across the state which felled real full-sized trees that they aren’t used to dealing with. So, it’s been an extra effort on the holiday weekends getting the trails back ready for when we do get snow,” he said.

The VAST trail map shows only a handful of trails open in Southern Vermont but they said they’re hopeful for a snowy rest of the season.

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