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Snowmobiles: The Pandemic's Latest Hot Item?


Winter started late this year in Northern Wisconsin, but you wouldn’t know that by looking at snowmobile sales.

Like other outdoor equipment, snowmobiles are in high demand this winter.

Snow finally arrived in the Northwoods last week, and snowmobilers took to the trails to celebrate.

But even before the ground was a blanket of white, snowmobiles were flying off the floors of local dealers.

Joe Yakey has been in the snowmobile business for more than 30 years, and he’s the general manager at Antigo Yamaha.

“Up through the end of December - unbelievable,” he said about snowmobile sales.

He said the spike in sales started with ATVs and UTVs in the summer.

“For ATVs, UTVs, 2019 was the best year we ever had," he said. "2020 was about 25 percent ahead of that. I mean literally off the charts here.”

The uptick in sales isn’t isolated to Northern Wisconsin.

The International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association estimates snowmobile sales will be up 15 to 20 percent this winter.

That would be the highest it’s been since the winter of 1995-96.

Lance Mueller is a sales manager at Erv’s Sales and Services in Tomahawk.

He said the dealership also had its best year in 2020.

He attributes that in part to the pandemic.

“People are really pushing to either explore new ways of getting outside or enjoying other things that they can’t do like go to restaurants and go on trips and all that,” he said.

Mueller said he thinks that’s pushed new riders into the off-road vehicle market.

More than 50,000 snowmobiles were sold in the United States last year, according to the ISMA.

The association says snowmobilers in Canada and the U.S. spend more than $36 billion on snowmobiling each year.

Erin Gottsacker worked at WXPR as a Morning Edition host and reporter from December 2020 to January 2023. During her time at the station, Erin reported on the issues that matter most in the Northwoods.
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