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Snowmobile dealers starting year with a bang

The New Year is starting with a bang for Wisconsin snowmobile dealers.

They were blessed by the near-record snowfalls from last month, after their sales suffered for a decade from the relatively dry winters.

Mike Eidenberger, who sells Yamaha snowmobiles in Port Washington, said his sales are up 60 percent from a year ago. He had to buy 100 extra machines to keep up with the demand.

Worldwide snowmobile sales have dropped steadily in the last nine years.

Slightly more than 160,000 machines were sold last year, down from 258,000 in 1998.

Randy Hughes, Oak Creek dealer, said folks were getting rid of their snowmobiles and buying ATVs since they can be enjoyed year round.

Wisconsin has the nation's third-highest number of registered snowmobiles, about 232,000.

Michigan is first with 302,000. Minnesota is second with 277,000.

The northern half of Wisconsin has anywhere from 6 inches to 2 feet of snow on the ground. Some of it could melt starting on Friday, when highs in the 30s are expected statewide.