LOGAN — The number of Utah snowmobilers is declining despite an increase in the state's population, a report by Utah State University has found.
The analysis by the university's Institute of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism found a 15 percent decrease in the number of households that reported owning a snowmobile between February 2017 and 1998, The Herald-Journal newspaper in Logan reported recently.
Utah's population, meanwhile, grew 77 percent over the same period.
The decline could be due to a loss of interest in the recreational activity among the younger generation, a statement about the report prepared for the nonprofit Utah Snowmobilers Associationsays. It's a trend that researchers are seeing in other states as well, said Jordan Smith, director of the university's Institute for Outdoor Recreation and Tourism.
A snowmobile, a trailer and a vehicle to haul it can also get expensive.
As machines have gotten more powerful, their price tags have also grown. Snowmobiler Kelly Leishman estimated the machines cost about $6,000 in 1996, but have since more than doubled to some $13,000.
Also working against the sport is the relatively short season that's been further hampered by lackluster snowfall in recent years.8 comments on this story
"If you do have a poor season, like we're starting out today, and you've invested $13,000, and maybe you only get a three-month window, sometimes that discourages people," Leishman said. "They sell them and try a different sport."
He's still confident in the "addicting" sport's ability to draw in new riders.
While Smith does not think the activity will completely disappear, he is worried about the slow rate of new people entering the sport that accounts for more than 1,300 jobs in state and contributed $138.2 million in local industry sales, according to the report.
In Cache County, snowmobilers spent $2.8 million on snowmobiling expenses. Trips can average more than $200 for a day trip or over $500 overnight.