Despite having hardly any snow on the ground this winter, many local businesses that sell winter gear and machinery are still going strong. The habits of outdoor enthusiasts have adapted, leading to consistent business.
As of Friday, the Clarion has measured 9.9 inches of snowfall — considerably less than the 31.6 inches measured this time last year. Robert Walker, motor sports sales manager at River and Sea Marine in Soldotna, said that despite the lack of snow, people are still coming in and buying equipment.
“I’m very surprised,” Walker said. “We’re blessed.”
Walker said that while snowmachines aren’t selling as much as previous years, the company is selling a lot more ATVs and side-by-sides. He said that because the winters have been mild recently, people who still want to enjoy the outdoors have turned to other vehicles that don’t require snow.
Walker said that there is some worry about the weather, but business isn’t as bad as some people would imagine.
While sales of vehicles have been good at River and Sea Marine, some sales, such as snowmachine parts, haven’t proved as lucrative.
“If they’re not riding, they’re not buying oil, they’re not buying belts, they’re not buying spark plugs,” said Mark Hordemann, parts and accessories manager at River and Sea Marine.
Hordemann said that people are impulse buyers during the holidays, so the lack of snow doesn’t affect some people’s decision to purchase snow machines.
Hordemann said that he follows the Farmer’s Almanac and long-range forecasts and believes that it will eventually snow enough to allow for snowmachining.
At Peninsula Powersports, general manager Nathan Titus said business has also been good despite the warmer conditions. Titus said that people are putting studded tires on their ATVs and riding them instead of snowmachines.
“Sleds sales are down, but ATVs, RZRs and outboards are way up, so we’re coping,” Titus said. “It’s not that bad.”
Titus said that when customers come in, he doesn’t have his staff push customers to buy ATVs or other warm weather machines.
“People know what they want,” Titus said. “They come in here and the (machines) sell themselves.”
While snowmachine sales are down, Titus said that he isn’t worried about the snow.
“It will (snow),” Titus said. “It always does. It’s Alaska.”
Skiing has also been hampered by the unusual weather.
“The skiers are really whining, right now,” said Steve Beeson, the owner of Beemun’s Bike and Ski Loft in Soldotna. “For people who want to be out and active it’s pretty tough.”
Beeson said that instead of skis, he’s seen more and more people be interested in fat tire bikes that have four-inch-wide tires that allow people to ride all year round on a variety of surfaces. He said the all-season bikes are great for people who still want to get out and enjoy the outdoors.
Despite the current decline in skiing opportunities, Beeson still thinks that the typical Alaskan winter will come.
“I’m an optimist,” he said. “We’ll get some snow eventually.”
Reach Ian Foley at firstname.lastname@example.org.