Snowmachine sales hit brakes from lack of snow

Posted: Tuesday, January 03, 2006

The dismally thin snow blanket covering the Kenai Peninsula has left dealerships struggling to sell the latest and greatest in snowmachines this winter.

Each year current snowmachine models improve upon the previous year’s models significantly, but avid snowmachiners hesitate to buy a current model unless they can get a lot of miles out of it in the first winter.

“Think I’ll wait until next year to buy one,” said Wes Chapman, an avid snowmachiner from Kenai. “The number one sled this year will be the number two sled next year.”

Chapman has been eying a new snowmachine that has been marked down to $9,000, $2,500 cheaper than its original price. But despite the attractive price tag, Chapman is reluctant to buy.

“Honestly, I don’t think it’s going to snow,” he said. “And if it does, I think it’s going to warm up fast and melt ... . It won’t stay around long.”

Although sales for noncurrent snowmachines have remained strong, they have not offset sales lost on current models, said Bob Walker, a sales representative at River and Sea Marine in Soldotna.

“We are definitely down this year from last,” Walker said.

But he said a good snowfall could turn things around quickly.

“There’s still some optimism here,” Walker said.

In addition, snowmachine manufactures are offering extra incentives to make current models more attractive, such as extended warranties and interest rates as low as 2.9 percent, Walker said.

“Two-point-nine percent is the lowest I’ve ever, ever, seen it,” he said.

Snowmachine prices are dictated by what models are hot, but snowfall plays a role in just how hot they become, said Brian Alexander, owner of A-1 Enterprises Inc. in Soldotna.

“If you’re looking for a bargain, now is the time to buy,” Alexander said. “If you’ve been around here, you know that we’ll eventually get snow.”

But so far this season, snowmachining on the peninsula has disappointed Chapman.

“Our first time in the (Caribou) Hills we put a total of 12 miles on our sleds and went back home because there was just no snow up there,” he said. “Seemed like we were road-pounding more than we were riding in the snow.”

Normally snowmachiners avoid roads since road-pounding produces a lot of wear and tear on a snowmachine’s track and skis.

Chapman said there is enough snow to ride trails on the peninsula, but trail riding does not match his definition of an exciting ride.

“You only ride on the trail to get to somewhere to play,” he said. “It’s all about off trail.”

And a winter of trail riding is not enough to persuade Chapman to invest in the latest snowmachine model.

“I’d rather buy a four-wheeler now,” he said.

Apparently other snowmachiners share Chapman’s sentiment. Both Walker and Alexander reported an increase in all-terrain vehicle sales for this time of year.

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