sat down with Ed Klim, president of the International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association (ISMA), Haslett, Mich., to get his views on current conditions in the snowmobile market, and what we can expect on the horizon. The snowmobile industry seems to be enduring some tough times. For example, Artic Cat is offsetting declining snowmobile sales with growing business in ATVs and UTVs. In your opinion, how healthy is the snowmobile industry these days?

Klim: The industry is very healthy. Snowmobiling is obviously dependent on snow and cold weather, and Mother Nature has not necessarily been kind to us in the Great Lakes region or the northeastern United States. However, there has been good snow in the western US and Canada. In the West, snowmobile sales are up, use is up. The sales reaction to snowmobiles can easily be seen when looking at data from last year. We had good snow in the Great Lakes region in February, and sales for the month of February 2007 were up 31% from the same month in 2006. Sales of used products continue to be strong and sales for parts and accessories continues to expand. The number of registered sleds remains at 1.6 million in the US. How do you see OEM shipments, sales and the hobby in general trending over the next two years? Three to five years?

Klim: OEM shipments and sales should realize a general improvement over the next two years. We believe there is considerable demand for replacement vehicles in the marketplace, and there is a growing interest on behalf of the customers to go snowmobiling. What are the major factors affecting the industry?

Klim: Weather. Our consumer research shows that there is a high level of interest amongst non-snowmobilers to go snowmobiling, and the only thing holding them back from making a purchase is lack of snowfall. What more could the industry, the manufacturers, do to advance the health of the snowmobiling industry?

Klim: The manufacturers are working diligently with the snowmobile community in developing and promoting the Go Snowmobiling campaign. We have also initiated a new campaign titled ‘Take a Friend Snowmobiling.’ We are aware that once people go snowmobiling, they enjoy it and often follow up with a purchase. What more could government do to help?

Klim: The government is an excellent partner with the snowmobile community. We work closely with all land management agencies to ensure that responsible snowmobiling continues. The government at all levels over the last few years have been helpful partners in promoting responsible recreational snowmobiling and all of the economic spin-offs that result. What geographical areas represent opportunities for growth in snowmobiling?

Klim: The geographical areas that represent great opportunities for the snowmobile industry are the developing economies of Russia, Poland and other Eastern European countries, where snowmobiling is just now being enjoyed. There is very low inventory of product in the marketplace and customers in that part of the world are realizing economic gains and, in general, doing quite well financially and have the ability to pay for and enjoy a snowmobile. The dealer and distribution network in the developing part of northern Europe and Russia is growing quickly. What product areas, as in machine classes, represent opportunities for growth?

Klim: We believe that all product areas and/or machine classes represent opportunities for growth in snowmobiling. There are varying niche markets throughout North America and the world, and all of them, with the proper related product (snow) should expand and prosper. Despite all the public education, every year there seems to be snowmobile accidents involving alcohol or unsafe riding across lakes. Why do you think that is?

Klim: Snowmobile accidents and deaths over the last six years have fallen by more than 33 per cent. This decline in accidents and fatalities is the direct result of strong enforcement and education, which is supported by the ‘Safe Riders! You Make Snowmobiling Safe’ campaign. What do you think is the most exciting part of the snowmobiling business or hobby right now?

Klim: The opportunity to see places that few people ever see and enjoy the outdoor winter splendor that Mother Nature offers. Being outside in the winter on a snowmobile is an experience people can’t really explain and isn’t fully realized until they actually get out and ride.