NORTH BAY -- With the sudden shift in weather, winter activities probably aren’t top-of-mind for most people. However, for those thinking about buying a snowmobile for this winter, the race is on.

Sales of snowmobiles and other recreational machines are on the rise, according to local dealers.

Mark Giesler, owner of Giesler Marine in Powassan, said about 90% of the dealership's inventory is already sold.

"It’s been a tremendous increase in sales at the beginning of the season," said Giesler. “Normally, we sell the allotment of product we have between the end of Sept. and the end of March. This year, we’re trying to pack a whole season into two months – Nov. and Dec. -- because everything is sold."

Right now, North Bay and the surrounding area is seeing double-digital temperatures, melting what little snow was on the ground. However, those who are planning to hit the trails this winter seem to be planning ahead this year.

"We kind of saw that throughout the summer, and people, if they learned anything through the pandemic in the summertime, it's that you better get it early," said Dan Carlson, CEO of Carlson Sports RV. "So we’re seeing a lot earlier interest in the snowmobiles and the ATVs with the tracks."

He also said that it might be now or never for those interested in buying this winter.

"If you’re thinking about it, do it early or you’re probably not going to have a chance," said Carlson.

Officials at both dealerships said they’ve seen all types of customers coming in this year, but snowbirds are more numerous this year than in the past.

"All of our normal customers, plus the added ones that are coming in because of the situation, they can’t travel south for the winter," said Giesler.

Carlson said he is seeing a lot of people planning to get into snow machines for the first time this season.

"There’s a lot of people who just can’t travel or are deciding not to travel because it’s not safe anymore, and they’re saying 'what can we do in northern Ontario?' And what we have to offer is the answer,” he said.

Although the high demand should be a positive, local dealers are now facing a major supply shortage.

"We just don’t have enough," said Carlson. "Would it ever be awesome if we could supply what everyone is asking for, for sure? But the manufacturers with social distancing, they aren’t manufacturing at their main level what they were before the pandemic and just the demand overall."

Giesler said the supply shortage will only get worse.

"There will be a huge shortage of product this winter, unfortunately," he said. “We experienced this in the spring with Sea-Doo products. They actually shut down, they didn’t build as many. We have a little bit more product, but everything is slow coming in. We don’t have the product availability that we would normally have."

However, the increased sales and short supply isn’t only a problem in northern Ontario.

"I was talking to some other dealers in Quebec about a month ago and they were already sold out for the season for snowmobiles," said Carlson. "They had no inventory and there’s none to get."

The dealers said a similar problem occurred during the spring and summer when the pandemic started and this is why people are shopping so early this winter.