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February 18, 2021

Thomas student's startup aims to modernize Maine snowmobile tourism

Snowmobilers generate about $600 million a year for Maine's economy, with about a third of them coming from out of state.

Now a Thomas College student thinks Maine can do more to attract out-of-state snowmobilers. He's created a website that modernizes trip planning for sledders from in-state and away., a website developed by Thomas junior Jake Warn, aims to remove barriers to identifying routes and finding amenities and points of interest along the state's more than 10,000 miles of trails.

Warn, of Winslow, is a snowmobiler who is often frustrated with the old-fashioned and non-connected information available. He created SledTRX, which launched in December, to simplify trip-planning and make Maine’s snowmobile trails more attractive to resident and non-resident riders.

The interactive map on the site not only shows the trail network, with links to trails and specific maps, but also locations for food and gas, lodging, gear shops and snowmobile clubs.

Nearly 30% of Maine’s 85,000 registered snowmobiles belong to residents of other states, who contribute a significant portion of the $210 million in direct spending that supports more than 3,000 jobs in Maine, according to the Maine Snowmobile Association. With indirect spending included, the industry is estimated to generate $600 million.

Despite the numbers, the industry still relies on traditional mail to distribute paper maps to riders looking to take advantage of Maine's trails. Maine’s approximately 280 volunteer-based clubs maintain their own trails, requiring riders to contact multiple clubs to plan a trip. Snowmobilers get trail maps from club websites, via mail for a small fee or find them posted at the trailhead. The inconsistent time-consuming process can deter even veteran resident riders, Warn said.

Combining trail information with amenities and points of interest in one online place positions the industry to attract more out-of-state riders and expand the economic impact across Maine as riders both in and out of state explore new regions, he said.

"I’d spend six hours planning a trip to a new region," Warn said. "It’s really important to support snowmobile clubs all over Maine, and I wanted to make it easier for veteran and first-time riders to explore new areas across our state."

A map of maine has many trails and some points of interest icons and, to the right, info on the Spillover Inn in Stratton
Courtesy /
The new SledTRX website, not only has an interactive trail map, but also provides information on lodging, gas and phone, gear shops and more.

Snowmobile passion, tech entrepreneur

Warn was inspired by fellow student entrepreneur Dylan Veilleux, who built Tree Free Heat, a startup that's working on using hemp stalks to provide heating fuel. While Warn has a passion for snowmobiling, he has little technical expertise, so he connected with Mike Duguay, executive director of the Harold Alfond Institute for Business Innovation at Thomas, who encouraged him to enroll in a free Tortoise Labs course to learn how to turn his idea into a business.

Warn enrolled in the course in July and was able to launch by December. His consumer research, conducted as part of the course, found that industry experts and longtime riders agree it's a challenge to gather accurate trail information, and that snowmobile clubs and related businesses would get significant value from a statewide consolidated online trail map.

“The snowmobile community is in need of an innovative change,” said John Raymond, president of the Northern Timber Cruisers Snowmobile & Crosscountry Ski Club in Millinocket. “Snowmobiling has such a big impact on our communities, and it has needed something like this to help preserve this seasonal pastime."

Warn said the online presence will also help clubs expand their membership, and seasonal businesses can connect directly with a large customer base.

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