A pandemic is snow problem for passionate snowmobilers

  • At right, Bob Sabola, president of the Greater Whately Snowmobile Club, with club members at a snowmobile trail in Whately. STAFF PHOTO/MAX MARCUS

  • A snowmobile used by the Greater Whately Snowmobile Club for grooming trails. STAFF PHOTO/MAX MARCUS

  • Members of the Greater Whately Snowmobile Club at a trail in Whately. STAFF PHOTO/MAX MARCUS

  • Members of the Greater Whately Snowmobile Club at a trail in Whately. STAFF PHOTO/MAX MARCUS

  • Snowmobile gear at Ray’s Cycle Center at 332 Wells St. in Greenfield. Tim Pydych, who co-owns the business with his brother, Mike, said sales and service of snowmobiles has increased 10 to 20 percent since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Pydych and others credit the increased interest to a spike in the number of people working from home and the ability for people to snowmobile together on trails while practicing social distancing. STAFF PHOTO/DOMENIC POLI

  • A Yamaha SRViper snowmobile outside Ray’s Cycle Center at 332 Wells St. in Greenfield. Tim Pydych, who co-owns the business with his brother, Mike, said sales and service of snowmobiles has increased 10 to 20 percent since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Pydych and others credit the increased interest to a spike in the number of people working from home and the ability for people to snowmobile together on trails while practicing social distancing. STAFF PHOTO/DOMENIC POLI

  • Tim Pydych sits on a Yamaha SRViper snowmobile outside Ray’s Cycle Center, which he co-owns with his brother, Mike, at 332 Wells St. in Greenfield. Pydych said sales and service of snowmobiles has increased 10 to 20 percent since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Pydych and others credit the increased interest to a spike in the number of people working from home and the ability for people to snowmobile together on trails while practicing social distancing. STAFF PHOTO/DOMENIC POLI

Staff Writer
Published: 2/28/2021 4:20:42 PM
Modified: 2/28/2021 4:20:40 PM

There’s little need to mask up when you’re wearing a snowmobile helmet.

That seems to have been in many people’s consciousness in the past year, as snowmobile sales and ridership have increased sharply due to a combination of the COVID-19 pandemic and quality snowfall.

“We wear face coverings, and we’re staying far apart from each other,” Jeff Miller, president of the Conway-based Snowmobile Association of Massachusetts, said this week, joking that it appears as though his community was “ahead of our time” before the pandemic stuck.

Miller also said the past 12 months have been “such a good snow year” — snow came relatively early, and low temperatures have preserved it for longer periods of time. He said he has been taking advantage the opportunity, regularly snowmobiling with his wife and granddaughters.

“I’ve been having a lot of fun with a lot of friends,” the Leyden resident said. “It is just a great year for riding, that’s for sure.”

Bob Sabola, president of the Greater Whately Snowmobile Club, said snowmobiling allows people to get together while staying far enough away from one another.

“It’s a great way to social distance,” he said, adding that he often rides with his son, club Secretary Matt Sabola. “This year we’ve been out more than we ever have, and it’s a great opportunity to bond. We just enjoy getting outside. We work hard yearlong to get to this point, so we try to make it our business to get out there and ride.”

The elder Sabola, who lives in Sunderland, made it a point to thank private landowners and state governments for allowing trails to go through their property. Without their permission, “snowmobiling would be something of the past,” he said.

Volunteer trail maintenance virtually never ends throughout the year. Snowmobile clubs, and the Snowmobile Association of Massachusetts, run on membership dues and donations. Revenue is also generated from mandatory trail passes. Miller said the importance of trail maintenance has become more appreciated over the years and, as a result, snowmobiling improves in quality each year.

Orange resident Jeffrey Thompson, who belongs to the Cold Brook Snowmobile Club, said the only negative impact the public health crisis has had on the snowmobiling community is the cancellation of the large snowmobile show at the Eastern States Exposition in West Springfield. Aside from that, the sport has flourished because people who are stuck at home are champing at the bit to get outdoors.

“Compared to last year, this has been a banner year, really,” Thompson said.

He mentioned he has already been to Laurel Lake in Erving twice, Conway once, New Hampshire twice, the Lake Dennison area in Winchendon, and he is thinking about going to Wendell State Forest.

“Every chance, I go out,” he said.

Thompson also said the snowmobile industry pumps a great deal of money into the economy through sales, service, parts and accessories. And business appears to be booming.

“A lot of sleds being sold, as far as I know,” he said.

Tim Pydych, who co-owns Ray’s Cycle Center at 332 Wells St. in Greenfield with his brother, Mike, confirmed Thompson’s belief, saying that business is up 10 to 20 percent across the board in the past year. He said people are spending more time riding and they come in frequently to buy oil, ski runners, helmets, gloves and other items.

“This year has been great for anything off-road,” Pydych said, including ATVs and adventure bikes.

As far as snowmobiling is concerned, Pydych said the pandemic shares plenty of responsibility for the increased interest along with snowfall. He said unusually good snow came right before Christmas, and though January wasn’t quite as good, February has been a solid month as well.

“The snow is the key ingredient first,” he said, “and then demand and desire always seem to follow that.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or
413-772-0261, ext. 262.


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