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Modular bridge improves popular snowmobile route spanning the Odelll River

Acrow Bridge, a leading international bridge engineering and supply company, recently designed and supplied a modular steel bridge for a vital crossing point on a popular section of New Brunswick’s recreational trail network near the Village of Plaster Rock. Located at the northern end of the Appalachian Mountain Range, the region is a year-round destination for outdoor activities. With more than 8,000 kilometers of groomed trails across the province, snowmobiling is a vital part of the region’s economy.

In the spring of 2019, an ice jam in the Tobique River caused the adjoining and smaller Odell River to back up. As a result, large sections of ice pushed the existing bridge off of its foundations. As the bridge was on a snowmobile trail and critical for crossing the Odell River, the owners of the bridge, New Brunswick’s Department of Energy and Resources, decided it would be most expeditious and more economical in the longer term to remove the old structure completely, rebuild the foundations and install a new bridge.

A modular steel Acrow structure was selected for the project, and design engineers Hilcon Limited devised innovative foundations which allow the bridge to be lifted in the event of future backups, thereby preventing it from being pushed out of position. A key design feature of the new bridge are specially modified transoms, which allow for up and down movements, but not lateral movement, enabling the bridge to slide up the sides of the extended curtain walls in high water and slide back down when the water level has dropped.

The new bridge replacement is 21.3-meters-long (70-feet) and 3.7-meters-wide (12-feet) to accommodate two lanes of snowmobiles or one groomer. Manufactured from high-strength, high-quality steel and galvanized to eliminate corrosion, Acrow’s bridges are virtually maintenance-free over a service life of 75 to 100 years, or more.

The project began in October 2020 and was completed in only a few weeks, rapidly restoring the crossing for the snowmobilers just in time for the first snowfall of the year.

“Acrow’s modular components allowed for easy transport of the structure to the remote jobsite,” said Benoit Forget, P.Eng, business development manager Quebec/New Brunswick at Acrow Bridge. “The bridge was quickly assembled and launched with the timber deck, saving both time and money over other bridge types.”

Gordon Scott, P.Eng., director of operations and sales, Acrow Bridge, said, “With installations across the province since 1972, Acrow bridges have proven themselves as effective, permanent infrastructure solutions. Assembled in days or weeks, our cost-effective, durable solutions are built to withstand even the harshest elements.”

 

NSAA releases skier visit numbers and other metrics for 2020-21 season

In June, the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) announced that skier visit numbers to U.S. areas totaled 59 million for the 2020-21 ski season, the fifth best season on record and a strong recovery from the pandemic-shortened 2019-20 season. A skier visit is counted every time a skiing or snowboarding guest visits a ski area or resort; these numbers are compiled annually as part of NSAA’s Kottke End-of-Season and Demographic Studies. NSAA began surveying visitation during the 1978-79 season.

“What a year it has been. From utter uncertainty to a top 10 season in terms of participation – it shows the wide spectrum that our industry bridged this year,” said Kelly Pawlak, NSAA president and CEO. “We are proud of the collaborative adoption of Covid-19 best practices that all ski areas implemented and diligently followed from opening to closing day. Americans yearned for safe outdoor recreation, and ski areas across the country delivered.

“We are very appreciative of the support and cooperation of our customers, and the tenacious and diligent work of our staff; the combination of which resulted in a successful season.”

Additional data shows that the average U.S. ski area was open for 112 days this past season, up from 99 days in the pandemic-shortened 2019-20 season. While forced closures impacted many ski areas last season, that was not the case this year as ski areas, for the most part, remained open for their planned season duration.

Small and medium-sized ski areas (defined by lift capacity) performed well this winter, with more guests choosing to stay close to home for ski trips, and increased local demand for outdoor recreation in general.

The pandemic affected both ski areas’ operations and guest behavior. Among responding ski areas, the most common Covid-19 adjustments were skier capacity limits (both indoor and on-mountain), advance purchase or reservation requirements for both lift access and rental equipment, and changes to or elimination of group lessons. Despite these challenges, 78 percent of ski area operators said this season exceeded their expectations.

“People had to change their habits during the pandemic, and ski areas were no different,” Pawlak said. “We tried new things and quickly learned that not only did they function as planned, but many of these ‘work arounds’ improved the experience for our guests and staff members. Ski area operators will use this experience to continue trying new techniques and technology.”

These new technologies included online reservation systems and updated e-commerce solutions as many ski areas required advance purchase of lift tickets to ensure compliance with local capacity restrictions. This resulted in the decline of window ticket sales from 46 percent in 2019-20 to 17 percent in 2020-21. As expected, the percentage of visits from season pass holders rose to 51 percent from 45 percent in the previous season.

In previous seasons, guests skied most often on weekends and holidays, making it a consistent challenge to fill the slopes midweek. This past season, weekday visitation was responsible for 48 percent of total visits, a 27 percent increase from the previous season. Capacity restrictions, remote work and school flexibility allowed more skiers and riders to visit ski areas midweek.

The implementation of public health best practices kept guests, staff and communities safe, but also posed challenges for the industry. Lessons decreased in number by 30 percent, owing to the prohibition of group lessons, which are traditionally popular. Conversely, participation in a solo activity like snowtubing – which can be enjoyed by a group, but in a single tube, distant from others – doubled.

These same public health practices led to the cancelation of large-scale events and imposed severe limitations on dining services. As a result, it is expected that revenues in these ancillary lines of business will be down in 2020-21; that data is still being analyzed. However, ski areas adapted to these changes with 41 percent implementing online ordering for food and beverage outlets.

Like many industries, ski areas struggled to find workers this season. Sixty percent of responding ski areas stated that they were not fully staffed this winter. The pause on J-1 and H-2b international worker visas was a contributing factor; the average ski area was short 55 employees, half of whom would have come on an international work visa.

For additional data and analysis from the 2020-21 U.S. ski season, please email Adrienne Saia Isaac, NSAA director of marketing and communications, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

New snowmobile sales data for winter 2020-21

The new snowmobile sales data for winter 2020-21 shows sales of new snowmobiles outperforming economic growth worldwide. The resilient economies of North America and northern Europe battled back from the international Covid-19 pandemic and brought many individuals outdoors to enjoy outdoor family recreation and good, healthy activity following social distancing. The winter of 2020-21 reported excellent snow conditions in some of North America and Europe, which helped to support the snowmobile community, manufacturers, dealers and suppliers.

This season, worldwide sales grew to 133,444 units sold, a 10 percent increase from the previous season. The sales increase was led by the U.S. and Canada. In the U.S., 59,234 new snowmobiles were sold for a 16 percent increase from the previous season. In Canada, 50,567 new snowmobiles were sold for a 16 percent increase from the previous season. The new sled sales recorded in the U.S. are the highest since 2008. In Canada, the new sled sales were the highest since 2000. The new snowmobile sales in Scandinavia and Russia were reported at 8,483 units sold in Sweden – an increase of five percent over last year, Norway sales were 4,126 new units sold – a one percent decline from last year, Finland had sales of 3,437 new units sold – a minor decline – and new sled sales in Russia totaled 5,309 units – down approximately 10 percent from last year. Sales throughout other markets in the world totaled 2,288 units – down 30 percent from last year. Overall, worldwide sales were strong.

In addition to the strong new sled sales, reports from dealers and individual sales reports across North America show that many new snowmobilers purchased used snowmobiles and entered the market.

The snowmobile industry is now realizing the lowest number of used or non-current models available in its history and is looking forward to a great 2021-22 season.

States and provinces also reported that there were over 1.9 million registered snowmobiles in North America. These registration numbers continue to increase steadily showing that snowmobiling continues to be an active, growing, healthy winter sport. 

The International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association recently conducted a snowmobile user survey, which showed that over 65 percent of all snowmobiling families own two snowmobiles that they register and ride. Thirty-four percent of the families report having three or more snowmobiles. Increased registration in northern Europe continues and there are now over 350,000 active snowmobilers in Scandinavia.

Snowmobile related tourism continues to increase in North America and beyond. This activity can be seen in recent economic impact studies conducted by major universities in conjunction with the state and provincial snowmobile associations. Over $38 billion in economic activity is generated by snowmobilers in North America.

Miles ridden by snowmobilers continues to be strong. The average snowmobiler reported riding their primary snowmobile 1,555 miles this past winter. Primary snowmobiles are considered to be 2017 models and newer.

The average age of a snowmobiler is 46 years old. Approximately 30 percent of all riders are aged 60 years or older. Eighty-eight percent of snowmobilers are male and 12 percent are female.

Surveys show that snowmobilers are active outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy snowmobiling with family and friends. Eighty-two percent of first-time snowmobile buyers purchased a used snowmobile and most plan to purchase a new snowmobile later in life.

Snowmobile tourism is a key component of the $788 billion tourism sector in the U.S. economy as it generates jobs for the rural economy during the winter months. Many jobs are generated by snowmobiling in the rural sectors of North America and northern Europe.

Snowmobilers are optimistic, fun-loving people who enjoy outdoor sports and are a vital component to the economy. 

 

 

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