The idea for the SnoCaps product started in 1992. Our founder, Duane Smith, had just bought a new snowmobile and was headed to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for a long weekend of riding. As he drove, he looked back in the rearview mirror and thought about how happy he was that the dealer had thrown in a new cover for his sled. Unfortunately, he found out firsthand that covers don’t do much to protect sleds from the roads.
When Duane arrived in Michigan, his brand new sled was COVERED in road slush and sand; salt and corrosive chemicals were all over it! This experience led him to create SnoCaps.
As a former parachute rigger in the U.S. Navy, Duane knew that a fabric-covered trailer would work to protect his snowmobile because the early airplanes used a wood-braced wing covered in fabric to stay aloft. The planes achieved speeds in excess of 200 mph, not including their dives, so he believed traveling down the road at 60-70 mph wouldn’t be a problem. He just had to figure out the specifics.
It took Duane awhile to get everything down and work out the bugs while creating different models of SnoCaps to explore options and problems. After two years, he finally created the original SnoCaps Trailer Enclosure. Some of Duane’s original prototypes and original SnoCaps are still on the road today! After finalizing the design, Canvasworks applied for (and were granted) a patent and trademark.
After all that, it took some time to sell the first SnoCaps Trailer Enclosure. People didn’t want to believe that a fabric cover could do the work of a traditional trailer enclosure. Then one day, C.J. Ramstad drove by our shop and saw our SnoCaps sitting in the lot. He was intrigued and stopped in to talk about the product. C.J. loved the SnoCaps, and with him and Midwest Sports Publishing Network (MSPN) pulling our SnoCaps, we were able to break into the industry. From that point on, the SnoCaps Trailer Enclosures product started selling – and selling well.
Several years later at HayDays, Duane met a buyer from the largest distributor in the Powersports industry and asked how to get a product into their catalog. The distributor gave Duane some names to call, and he managed to land an appointment to show them the SnoCaps. When the time came for the appointment, a buyer came down to look at the trailer enclosure and find out the specifics. He wanted to know if there was a speed rating, how many Canvasworks had made, and if we had any references. Duane told him we regularly hauled our SnoCaps down the road at 75-plus mph in high winds, and that we had sold about 900 SnoCaps around the country, mostly in the Midwest. Duane also told him C.J. Ramstad and MSPN had been a great sounding board for Canvasworks while developing the final product. Finally, the senior buyer came down and said that they would like to discuss buying 500 units.
Once everyone was in the office, the fun started. The buyer wanted to know what the retail cost was for a 10-foot tilt trailer. Duane told him it was $999, but that he could sell it to him for $680, drop ship them, and give 30 days to pay. To Duane’s surprise, the buyer told him that it wasn’t done that way and proceeded to explain the normal procedure. According to the buyer, their company would get the first 33 percent, the dealer would get the next 33 percent, and the manufacturer would secure the remaining 34 percent.
Duane told the buyer that those numbers would work out to Canvasworks making the product for $390, but at the time, we had $460 in materials going into each SnoCaps – before any sewing, bending, or welding. Duane could see the deal falling apart in front of him, so he asked the buyer how other manufacturers made it work. The buyer told Duane quality materials had to be replaced and work exported. Basically, he said the product had to be made in a foreign country with cheap materials, then imported and sold for the same price as the original, higher quality product.
Duane knew that a SnoCaps wouldn’t be able to go down the road at 75-plus mph during high winds or take a 20-inch snow load if Canvasworks used .090 wall aluminum tubing or .058, like one of the national sewing companies tried; their tops came off going down the road. Duane wasn’t willing to downgrade his patented idea in such a manner. Our SnoCaps stay put protecting your sleds. Our skins are made from road-tested materials and are designed to withstand the test of time. You aren’t going to find that kind of quality cheap. So Duane decided he would keep making SnoCaps his way – and we still are today.