Since Wednesday, the New York State Snowmobile Association has added 8,000 members to its system, according to NYSSA Executive Director Dominic Jacangelo. The reason is obvious — there’s finally some snow on the ground.
“We’re very excited about the snow,” he said. “What most people do is they register with a local club first, and then join the association.”
In the Capital Region there are 26 separate clubs, some of which serve multiple counties.
Spokespersons from the Schenectady County clerk’s office and the departments of Motor Vehicles in Fulton and Montgomery counties all indicated that state snowmobile registrations have spiked recently.
“It’s always like that after a snowstorm,” said a spokesperson from the Montgomery County DMV.
Schenectady County Clerk John Woodward agreed. “The last couple of days have been really busy. The snow gets everyone really thinking about that,” he said referring to snowmobile registrations. “Usually a lot of people wait until January first … People are kind of excited this year, especially since the last few winters were not very good.”
Jacangelo is also excited about the snow. “We like to call last year the ‘Year Without Snow.’ Our registration numbers were down a good 30 or 40 percent.”
Poor snowmobile registration numbers can negatively affect the state economy. Jacangelo said that according to a study conducted by the SUNY Potsdam Institute for Applied Research, snowmobile registrations and associated spending contribute $868 million to the state economy.
“It’s such a big sport in New York, I don’t think people realize that,” said Woodward. “It’s a big tourist attraction, too.”
David Toborg, 52, of Schoharie, is a rider who likes to stay local. He said snowmobiling provides a good boost to local economies, as well as the larger state economy.
“A system of local trails brings business into the smaller restaurants and shops outside of the big towns, and it generates sales tax, too, which is good for all of us.”
He said that if he wanted to make a day trip, he could ride to Sharon Springs, have lunch with some friends at a restaurant, and then ride back home.
“Or if I really wanted to make a day of it, I could go to Richmond Springs.”
Jacangelo said that according to the SUNY Potsdam study, snowmobilers on average ride 1,100 miles per year and spend more than $3,000 in ancillary items like fuel, hotel stays and food. On average, they own 2.4 snowmobiles.
Woodward said he has seen people renew registrations for up to five vehicles at a time.
Jacangelo said, “On average, snowmobile riders make seven overnight trips per season and three of those are at paid lodgings … It’s the changing nature of the sport, it’s more of a touring sport now … and it’s a family sport. A lot of couples sled together.”
Toborg has been riding since he was 10 years old. He goes into the Adirondack Mountains about once a year, he said.
He noted that snowmobile trails can be quite intricate.
“The trails in New York connect with some of the trails that go up to Vermont and Quebec. If I wanted to, I could ride all the way from my house to Quebec, up through Canada, down and around back through Maine and Vermont.”
Having a local club to join helps snowmobilers, too. Woodward said the state is encouraging snowmobile riders to join clubs by offering them discounts on registrations.
According to Jacangelo, registering a sled, slang for a snowmobile, usually costs $100. Of that amount, $10 goes to the state general fund and $90 goes to maintaining the trails. It usually costs about $25 to join a club, which earns a $55 discount on the state registration. This is because clubs maintain their own trails on a volunteer basis and eliminate the need for money to be contributed to a fund, Woodward explained.
“People who join clubs groom the trails and make it a better sport, which makes it a better tourist attraction, too,” said Woodward.
Toborg said local clubs keep their trails well-mapped and organized with proper signage, markings and grooming. “That way, nobody gets lost or goes where they aren’t supposed to go,” he said. It also helps out-of-towners who might not be familiar with local trails.
For Toborg, going out on a sled is about the sights.
“It’s about seeing new territory that few people get to see — the scenic hilltops, the views of the countryside.”