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December 3, 2009
Erik Woog of VOHK
Builder of the pros
Erik Woog opened Alpine Motor Sports in 1987 in the small
town of Kremmling, CO. At first glance, Alpine Motor Sports
looks like a typical Arctic Cat dealership. The showroom floor is
filled with retail displays, snowmobile gear and the newest line of
On closer inspection, AMS offers much more in the way of
aftermarket products than most shops, from companies like
Boondocker Performance, Speedwerx, BDX and many others. If
you keep looking around and manage to find the garage behind
the dealership, you will realize that this is no ordinary snowmobile
shop by any stretch of the imagination.
VOHK is the performance wing of Alpine Motor Sports and is
where Woog spends most of his time. Inside, there are enough
tools, fabrication equipment, diagnostics and machine tools to
turn Woog’s project visions into reality. The shop is filled with
new product designs and demos that are waiting to be tested as
soon as the snow flies. Countless innovations have come from
this little garage in the mountains of Colorado.
Woog’s obsession with modifying snowmobiles stems from
his lifelong passion for the sport. He was bouncing through trees
and boondocking the high country of Colorado long before the
industry even recognized this type of riding. In a way, the sport
has always been trying to catch up with guys like Woog. This
progressive style of riding constantly demands more performance
and reliability than stock machines provide and, as a result, VOHK
VOHK is about more than bolting on a few extra horsepower.
Woog designs and builds sleds to meet the demands of mountain
riders. He looks at the complete sled and re-thinks everything
from the ground up. I had the chance to catch up with Woog at
the Denver snowmobile show. In between talking turbos, suspension
setups and everything in between with customers, he took
the time to answer a few questions about life and his love for
When did you start snowmobiling?
Surprisingly, as a flatlander in Wisconsin, but
when I moved to Colorado at the age of 13 I quit
skiing and got serious about riding.
When did you open up your own shop?
Officially in 1987 in a shed on the back of my
house until God blessed me with a suitable property
in 1990 which has since remained my principal
location. I still glance at those old photos and shake
How did you start working on sleds?
That was an obvious consequence of riding
snowmobiles back then. Most of the equipment
from the late 70s, early 80s wasn’t known for stellar
reliability or performance. That, coupled with the
denial of my request for a new sled from my parents
transformed into my first bank loan (dad was the VP)
to buy a used rental machine with 1.5 zillion miles
on it. It subsequently required some technical skills
to keep the otherwise snow-bound grenade running
long enough to get a ride in.
Have you always modified your sleds?
I’m not sure about always; however, certainly
since I could hold a wrench [chuckles]. Truth is I
grew up with an apparent tendency to attempt
performance enhancements as a child; nothing was
safe in our house. I am just sure I was able to make
big performance gains by porting mom’s blow
dryer and vacuum cleaner so sleds were a natural
progression. From my 1981 Panther with flexi cleats,
a tuner, twin carbs, ported cylinders and a tapered
tunnel, to our new 2010 Turbo mods—it’s safe to
say we’ve covered some ground as an industry. The
fact that Dad raced Arctic Cats in the 70s and was all about performance
may have had something to do with it also.
Where does the name “VOHK” come from?
(Laughs) Seriously, VOHK is a phonetic spelling for Woog—it’s
German. I honestly thought it would create less confusion, perhaps
save me the trouble of correcting improper pronunciation
or worse yet, thinking Woog is a typo and inserting the missing
consonant “n” like my spell check does, assuming Asian
descent. Not certain how effective that was but it did ultimately
give you something to tease me about.
What is your favorite style of riding?
Snowmobiling is such a unique sport in the sense that it can
be so many different things to so many different people. The
standout for me is the freedom to explore, the thrill of seeing
creation from a new perspective atop a 13,000-foot mountain
and the challenges that arise in getting there. That is the force
that drove my early sled mods, to make the sleds faster and more
capable, to reach that next ridge or see what the next valley has
That transitioned into a new style loosely described as “boondocking,”
but far more technical than what the average rider
equates that to. My style of riding finds me on some obscure,
tree-riddled, north-facing slope surrounded by boulders and no
clear way out with the sun fading, no cell service (quite possibly
intentional), needle bouncing just above E, and my 7th set of
bent A-arms for the year hanging on by the powdercoat, all the
while uncertain as to the whereabouts of the remaining portion of
what started that morning as my group. I am not sure what to call
that style yet.
You have been building Chris Burandt’s sleds since he first
appeared in the Slednecks videos. How did you meet Chris
and what led to you sponsoring him?
One afternoon while riding in one of my favorite obscure
locations, I nearly ran into Chris. What are the odds, right? With
the balance of our groups stuck somewhere in the surrounding
trees we both took a double take and then stopped and wondered,
“Who’s that?” He, no doubt confused as to what I was
doing there and me, wondering the same thing about him. This
transpired into a conversation about why anyone would want to
ride there, why with trees so tight, snow so deep, so far from the
trail … As you can imagine neither one of us did a particularly
great job scaring the other away from our secret spot and thus
lead to the realization that there was quite literally some common
ground. The rest, as they say, is history.
What has it been like to watch Burandt take his career so far?
Were you there for his X-Games gold?
I knew from our first meeting Chris was of that quality—his
genuine demeanor, his passion for the sport. I couldn’t be more
proud of him. It’s been an awesome journey thus far and is most
certainly not over yet. I cannot wait to see what God has in store
for us next. I was there for his X Games gold, along with many
other of his career highlights. I’ve also been there for the not so
shiny moments (still really sorry for forgetting to tighten those
carbs in that one X Games qualifier). It has truly been an honor
to work with somebody as skilled, driven and talented as Chris.
It would be impossible to overstate the respect and admiration I
have for him, even when he roosts me in the trees. Besides Chris,
how many riders have you sponsored over the years?
I have been blessed to have worked with many of the best
athletes in the sport, from top level snocrossers to world champion
hillclimbers, ramp rats to boondockers; there are simply too
many to list. Some have carried on, becoming stars, while others
continue to fight. These relationships, both past and present;
have endowed me with a skill to communicate with the rider and
transcend that into a package that exemplifies their talents while
simultaneously showcasing mine. A key part of that success is
born out of the fact that I am rider, not just a builder. This has
allowed me to better understand the end user and to speak their
How do you build and set up sleds for guys like Chris?
With an emphasis on understanding their particular use
demand and balancing that with various design and calibration
aspects, then affirming a commitment to a build direction.
Essentially, by asking the proverbial question, “What do you want
this thing to do?” Then after that question has been answered I
somehow, inside the parameters of what we have to work with,
make the sled capable of doing those things.
When a customer walks in the door and tells you they want
more out of their snowmobile, where do you take it from
The process begins with a consultation to determine answers
to a myriad of questions, “How do you ride?” “Where do you
ride?” “What do you expect from your sled?” The rider’s desire
with regard to performance, riding style, and handling—all
must be discovered, talked about and completely understood.
As must the ever irritating but nevertheless important issue of
budget (evidently not everyone believes as I do: “They’re snowmobiles
… money doesn’t apply, besides she’ll, or in some cases
he’ll, eventually forgive you”). This is the only way to effectively
move forward. Once that’s done, we start building.
Why do you think interest in turbos has increased so much in
the last couple years?
Since my first M7 turbo build in October, 2004, it became
apparent the drawbacks were largely related to proper fuel control
relative to boost. Sounds like a simple enough problem to
solve if only technology hadn’t left me stranded. However, what
became surprisingly clear was the unbelievable amount of power
gain. I recall telling Chris that I had just smoked the 1150 on
Nos. He thought I was lying. Unfortunately I couldn’t keep the
unit running correctly long enough to do much else. Eventually
I began hearing about a bunch of purists in Utah and Idaho who
had the things working. Turns out Boondocker Performance had
sorted out a functional fuel control, so we promptly ditched our
big bores and strokers and joined forces with Boondocker to
change the world of high altitude snowmobiling altogether. The
progression has yielded the recent pump gas offerings that
embody everything most hardcore western riders need.
aren’t really interested in hillclimbing, but love to ride powder,
get technical in the trees or boondock?
Really? Have you even watched Burandt’s latest video?
The real merit of the turbo two-strokes wasn’t truly realized or
appreciated until they were put in the hands of a skilled backcountry
technician. All bets were off with regard to what you
formerly thought possible on a sled. From controlled pirouettes
to functional loopouts and ridiculous track-walking directional
changes—a ballet of sorts ensued and the bar continues to
rise. What are the advantages? With the stock-like runability of
the current turbo sleds and the proven reliability, I can’t think of
Where do you see the aftermarket side of snowmobiling
going over the next five years?
I believe anyone who rides a naturally aspirated sled is sadly
committing an act of cruelty without even knowing it. Let me put
that a little more bluntly—TURBO.
Can you tell us what you will be running on your personal
machine this winter?
I ride a basically stock M8 SnoPro (laughs) with a Boondocker
Intercooled Race Gas Turbo onboard the Speedwerx 925 big
bore with a few other trinkets like an EZ Ryde suspension, ARS/
FX front end, Fox Float Evol XIs, Black Diamond Light Drive/
Shaft/Rotor, a throng of VOHK lightweight components and
other unmentionable enhancements. Sorry, any more and well,
you know the saying, if I tell you I’ll have to … never mind.
Where do you do most of your riding?
In that rock-strewn, tree-riddled box canyon off the dark side
just above Lost Lake on the other side of Forgotten Creek at
the foot of Neversummer Peak, etc., etc. Come on, want to tag
along? I promise we’ll be back by dark … tomorrow … hopefully.
Oh yeah, would you carry my tool pack and siphon hose? By
the way, take it easy on your fuel, you never know when someone
might need it (sorry about that Jer).
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