As I write, there’s a large shakeup taking place in the snowmobile industry. Minnesota- based Arctic Cat, an industry leader, has been sold to the Rhode Island company Textron, which makes all sorts of specialized personal and commercial vehicles. Textron is known for E-Z-GO golf carts, Cushman vehicles and aviation brands like Bell Helicopter, Cessna and Beechcraft.

While the full impact of the $247 million-dollar sale will not be known for awhile, it is probably a good thing for Arctic Cat. The company recently reported that it had suffered a sharp decline in sales, and being backed by a financially stable company like Textron will allow them to innovate and compete with some of the other original equipment manufacturers. Chances are, Arctic Cat will bounce back better than ever with different sales tactics and innovative trends.

2017 is an intriguing year for snowmobile product. The four big companies (Arctic Cat, Polaris, Ski-Doo and Yamaha) are introducing more product this year than in any year since 2003. It may surprise you to learn just how big of an economic impact of snowmobiling has, generating $26 billion annually in the U.S. alone. Between manufacturing, dealerships and tourism, snowmobiling generates over 100,000 full-time jobs in North America. Large-scale competitive events like the X Games (Aspen, CO, Jan. 26-29) have brought a worldwide spotlight to the sport as well.

If you’re new to snowmobiling, a great place to start is GoSnowmobiling.org. They will give you all sorts of tips and tricks to get started, whether you like to ride across the open plains or into the mountains. They have great resources on where to rent sleds (snowmobiles) as well, so you can dip your toes in the water before diving in headfirst. You may also want to consider joining a snowmobile club, where you can meet people who share your interest (there are over 3,000 snowmobile clubs in the U.S.). Some places will require you to take safety classes as well, so be sure to check with your local snowmobile association for more information (safety classes are a good idea regardless of age or previous experience).

The Soo Line Trail near Lake Mille Lacs in Central Minnesota is a fantastic place to start your snowmobiling adventure. Offering hundreds of miles of groomed trails that weave through forests, farmlands and wetlands, the Soo Line Trail is a fantastic route for rookie and veteran riders alike. You can ride in seclusion, or rent snowmobiles for the whole family and make a weekend of it.
There are all sorts of snowmobiling events in winter 2017. January 21 – 29, for example, is International Snowmobile Safety Week. February 11 – 20 is the Take a Friend Snowmobiling Campaign. There are various competitions, conferences and symposiums throughout the year as well. Snowmobiling is a fun way to get outdoors in the winter, and is a great way to interact with nature, friends and family. It will give you a lifetime of winter recreation, and you’ll find that snowmobiling is more than just a sport, it’s a lifestyle. Happy sledding!

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