Rider Surveys Provide Valuable Insight for Organized Snowmobiling in Ontario

OFSC Shares Key Rider Preference Results With Snowmobilers For The First Time

(Barrie, ON: January 7, 2021) – To improve our trail riding experience for snowmobilers, the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs (OFSC) conducts our Rider Opinion & Preference Survey every other spring to learn more from riders while the past season is still top of mind. To our knowledge, no other snowmobile association in North America does anything similar or as frequently. Today, we are sharing some of our results from our most recent survey, Spring 2020, to give you another glimpse into the broad range of activities we undertake every year.

About The Surveys: These anonymous surveys repeat previous questions so we can compare answers and identify trends important to all of us. Each time, we also add new questions to address emerging issues or clarify your previous responses. Our results from survey to survey remain remarkably consistent, regardless of weather, snow cover, or season length.

We promote survey participation through our social media and OFSC newsletter. Typically, 6,000 to 10,000 riders complete each survey. This is a remarkable number of responses that would be the envy of any polling company or survey marketer, and it is certainly an irrefutable testament to the passion and enthusiasm of our snowmobilers.

Predominantly Male Respondents: Respondents to our surveys are consistently about 90% male. This is somewhat surprising, because the International Snowmobile Manufacturer’s Association (ISMA) generally pegs the male/female participation ratio among North American snowmobilers as high as 70/30, a number more in line with what we actually see on OFSC trails. Interestingly, this ratio is also reflected in the students graduating from OFSC Online Driver Training during the past year, which was 68% male and 32% female. Going forward, we encourage more female participation in our survey, so we can get a better representation from everyone.

OFSC Survey Use: Your responses still provide a valuable portrait of today’s Ontario snowmobiler. The data offers interesting and informative insights as a reality check on how we’re doing and to assist us in identifying trends, developing plans, tweaking existing programs and introducing new ones as warranted. For this article, we’ve rounded off the percentages for easier reading, and it should also be noted that they may not necessarily add up to 100%, because our survey often offers an “Other” choice or provides the option for multiple responses. That said, do you see yourself in any of these results? How do you compare?

Older Demographic: One characteristic of respondents is that almost 87% say they have been snowmobiling for 10 years or more, which certainly is more than enough experience to provide valuable feedback. Also not surprising, given that ISMA publishes the average age of snowmobilers as 45 years. So we’re generally dealing with an older demographic in our survey, at least in part because folks of a certain age may have more disposable income, more time, and are perhaps more familiar with organized snowmobiling. That said, we are exploring new avenues to solicit responses from newer and younger riders in future surveys.

Who Respondents Are: Meanwhile, these riders self-identify as being 62% “Avid”, 33% “Casual”, with “Newbies” at 5%. About 84% of respondents also reported having more than 1 sled in their household. So presumably in most cases, that means they also represent multiple riders, which speaks to snowmobiling as a family activity.

Volunteering: Regardless, many of the results are instructive. For example, almost 78% of respondents do not volunteer for a snowmobile club. This finding certainly supports the observation that clubs are chronically short of volunteer help. Given that organized snowmobiling depends on volunteers, this also begs the question: What can be done to help recruit more snowmobilers to lend a hand, even occasionally? If only 22% of riders are willing to volunteer, what does that mean for our collective future in snowmobiling?

Where & When Respondents Ride: Meanwhile, survey respondents said this about their trail riding – 64% do their snowmobiling in Southern Ontario, while 36% ride in Northern Ontario (Parry Sound and north). Interestingly when asked when they ride, respondents came in at just over 39% for each of our “Weekends” or “Anytime” choices, with strictly “Weekdays” at 21%.

Who Respondents Ride With: About half the snowmobilers ride primarily with their buddies, just over 28% with family members and 16% with spouses, while they go with other couples only 5% of the time. When it comes to seasonal mileage, 80% of respondents put on 3,000 kilometres or less, and only 4% rack up 5,000 or more. Almost 67% primarily ride day trips, with 25% opting mostly for multi-day trips, and just 2.5% for backcountry riding.

Trailering: To get to the trails, ownership of a snowmobile trailer has grown from just over 50% a decade ago. 77% of respondents now own a snowmobile trailer, probably reflecting changing snow patterns. Of these owners, 76% or so use their trailer half the time or more whenever they go snowmobiling. But 62% of these snow chasers won’t haul their sleds more than 4 hours from home, while 28% will tow for 5 to 9 hours to get to snow, but only 9% are up for driving more than 10 hours. This makes destinations relatively close to home the sweet spot for many snowmobilers, while snowbelt locations in Southern Ontario remain the most popular among those who reside along the 401 corridor.

Winter Vacations: For many, short term getaways like long weekends are more a part of their normal snowmobile season, rather than longer term holidays on the snow. In fact, 60% of respondents report not taking a week or longer for a snowmobile vacation each winter. Among those who do take more time off, 75% travelled within Ontario and 20% visited Quebec.

Hopefully, you found this survey report interesting. It’s just one more tool we use to manage the complex business of organized snowmobiling in Ontario. We want to sincerely thank all previous survey respondents and invite everyone to participate for our next survey. Now, stay tuned, because next week we’ll share “Snowmobiling By The Numbers” information about how important organized snowmobiling is to Ontario.

The Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs (OFSC) is a volunteer led, not for profit association that provides the voice for organized snowmobiling in Ontario. OFSC snowmobile trails managed by 200 community based, member clubs generate up to $3.3 billion in economic activity in the province each year.