Snowmobile Enthusiast Psychographics and Trends

Goals

To develop a psychological profile of existing snowmobile enthusiasts and trends in the space for the purposes of developing an advertising campaign.

Early Findings

Preliminary research indicates that information regarding buying trends and psychographics of snowmobile riders is moderately available; however, detailing why people ride, what gets them excited to ride, what their sled means to them, and benefits they seek from riding will require additional research and possibly triangulation. Early findings include market information, some psychographic data, and significant environmental-snowmobile connection conclusions.

MARKET DATA AND BUYING BEHAVIOR

  • In 2018, a "long-lasting cold and snowy winter in much of the snowmobile community" led to a 5.2% increase in snowmobile sales worldwide, moving from 118,686 units in 2017 to 124,786 units in 2018.
  • The United States kept pace with the global increase with a 5% rise in sales, while Canada outpaced the global growth with a 6.4% rise in sales.
  • Snowmobilers in the Midwest hold the biggest share of snowmobile purchases for the U.S. at 42%. The Northeast and West tie for second at 29% each.
  • In Canada, the most sales are seen in the Northeast, which holds a 49% share of the country's sales, followed by the Midwest at 32% and the West at 19%.
  • Increases in snowmobile sales were also seen in Norway, Sweden, and Finland.
  • Snowmobile tourism is also increasing globally, which is a result of "riding conditions and improved and expanded riding areas and trail systems."
  • In North America, snowmobiling generates more than $30 billion of economic activity that provides jobs, investment opportunities, and tax revenue for local governments.
  • More than 73% of first-time snowmobilers purchase a used snowmobile. These are typically younger riders who eventually "move on to purchase a new snowmobile later in life."
  • In North America, more than 60% of snowmobilers belong to snowmobile clubs or associations and are actively involved in building trails and supporting snowmobile access.
  • In 2018, 40% of the 2.4 million visitors to the Go Snowmobiling website were new snowmobilers or people who did not own a snowmobile, but were looking to rent one on vacation.
  • Snowmobile organizations have reported that "new trails are being developed to support the positive economic impact of snowmobiling and job growth for the rural community."
  • Snow availability is the "most influential determinant of active ridership that propel new sleds sales."

PSYCHOGRAPHICS OF RIDERS

  • Snowmobilers who belong to official clubs and associations are likely to be involved in building snowmobile trails and advocating for snowmobile access.
  • Snowmobile club and association members raised over $3.5 million for national charities in 2017.
  • Snowmobilers are typically active in a variety of outdoor activities and are often also "boaters, motorcycle riders, camping enthusiasts, hunting enthusiasts and general outdoor recreationists."
  • According to 2017 survey results, snowmobilers participate in the following activities when they are not snowmobiling:
    • Camping: 56%
    • Boating: 55%
    • Fishing: 55%
    • ATV Riding: 54%
    • Hunting: 47%
    • Hiking: 30%
    • Motorcycle Riding: 29%
    • Golfing: 26%
    • Personal Watercraft Riding: 19%
    • Downhill Skiing: 17%
    • Other Recreational Activities: 14%
  • Reasons for snowmobiling include viewing the scenery, being with family and friends, getting away from the "usual demands of life and being close to nature.
  • In fact, 96% of snowmobile survey respondents stated they ride with family, friends, and club members.
  • Snowmobilers spend an average of $2,000 per year on snowmobiling (includes travel, food, gas, and lodging).
  • On day snowmobiling trips, riders travel between 30 and 75 miles to reach their riding area.
  • Overnight snowmobiling trips are typically between 100 and 150 miles away from a rider's residence.

CULTURAL TRENDS

  • The average age of a snowmobiler in North America is 45 and some areas, like Utah, that average increases to as high as 54.
  • As aging snowmobilers quit the sport, they are not being replaced by younger riders.
  • State park officials believe that these changing demographics are "driving a trend toward more social, less costly motorized recreation opportunities, unleashed by the sudden rise of side-by-side utility task vehicles, or UTVs, which can seat up to six."

ENVIRONMENTAL CONNECTIONS

  • The International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association has sponsored scientific studies that show there are "no detrimental effects of snowmobiling on soil, vegetation, or wildlife."
  • Snowmobile manufacturers are committed to developing clean snowmobile engines and new snowmobiles have EPA engines that "insure clean air and water and healthy recreation."
  • New exhaust systems have resulted in the decline of sound and emission levels and all snowmobiles must pass "a rigorous set of safety tests — including sound and emission testing" that are conducted by an "independent third-party testing laboratory."
  • A study published by WildEarthGuardians in 2017 shows that at current rates, the changes in the winter recreation season due to climate change will result in a loss of $5 billion annually for the snowmobiling industry.
  • The Rocky Mountain and Sierra regions are more "resilient to projected changes in temperature and precipitation," but sites that are at lower elevations (as in the upper Midwest and New England) are "more sensitive to climate change," and at current rates, these areas could lose snowmobiling as a recreation altogether by 2090.
  • Other environmental information regarding snowmobiling is summarized here.

Proposed next steps:

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As the initial research shows that directly available information regarding why people ride snowmobiles, what gets them excited to ride, what their sled means to them, and benefits they seek from riding is limited, we recommend continuing research into the psychographics of snowmobile enthusiasts to uncover additional insights. Directly-available information from surveys will be provided if available, but if it remains elusive, we will triangulate a psychological profile derived from multiple reliable sources (likely consisting of anecdotal evidence). This will also include information on whether owning a snowmobile is more of an experience or a material item to younger riders and whether benefits of riding are the same for all demographics of snowmobile riders or if there are differences.
Since only one cultural trend affecting the snowmobile industry was found during the initial research, we recommend focused research on this topic that provides details on 2-3 additional cultural and subcultural trends. Moreover, we recommend detailing 2-3 additional buying behavior trends for snowmobile enthusiasts that build on what was found here.
There is abundant information on the connection between snowmobiling and environmentalism so we recommend research into what the snowmobile industry has done to address environmental concerns and whether snowmobilers advocate for or against environmentalism.