May 05, 2013

Is Global Warming Cool?

Steve Janes

Now I don’t want to be a party pooper … but is global warming still cool? I mean, for the past decade there has been a movement that asserts that if you are anybody important, you have to assume that global warming is hot. And anyone who doesn’t agree with this philosophy is not.

After all, the ice caps are melting, polar bears are floating out to sea and civilization as we know it is near extinction.

Yet, this spring marks the second-coldest on record … just slightly warmer than the spring of 1975.

But if you’re in with this whole global warming thing, you understand that global warming can also mean global cooling. Actually, it tends to mean whatever is happening to the weather at the moment.

Bottom line, the combustion engine has caused our earth to turn into an out-of-control thermostat set on high. Translation: We’re all going to go to die. (I’m not sure if these environmental extremists were aware of the fact that since the beginning of time, we have all been destined to die.)

Al Gore made a movie about the disastrous consequences of global warming (he also made millions of dollars with this scam as well), so it must be true. The CIA opened an entire investigative branch as part of national security to monitor global warming (although they really didn’t monitor much … mainly sent their top-ranked agents and political appointees to some beach in the Caribbean  to work on their tans during two-week government paid “fact-finding” missions). (New York Times, 11/20/12)

Democratic lawmakers have even warned us that if we don’t give them authority to legislate global warming, then all our women will likely have to turn to transactional sex for survival. (The Hill, 4/29/13)

Oh, and for the record, when environmental extremists realized the phrase “global warming” was becoming a joke because anybody with any intelligence knew that the earth has always experienced climate change, these politically correct whack jobs hijacked the term “climate change” to adopt the meaning of global warming.

To lead the charge for the government to have control in everything we say and do, President Obama has invoked the name of God and science to call us to repentance. According to our president, science recognizes “climate change” (although that doesn’t necessarily separate the true definition that the earth goes through heating and cooling processes over time from the environmental extremist definition that the combustion engine has turned up the thermostat on the earth’s heating system). He also says that it is our responsibility to God to allow the government control to regulate our lives. (Obama Inauguration Speech 2013)

Perhaps if we were a more righteous nation, or a more righteous world, God would adjust the earth’s thermostat to be more moderate when it comes to weather patterns. Or perhaps we’re experiencing a cold spring because throughout the course of history some springs are warmer than others and some springs are colder than others. Fact is, there is no science that can separate facts from opinions. Environmental extremists have been predicting these meteoric conditions for the past 20 years … the Bible has predicted them for the past 2,000 years. Somehow the Johnny-come-latelies haven’t connected the dots with the words of God.

I just wish global warming (now known as the new climate change) wasn’t so cool. And that today’s “cold” isn’t the new hot. It’s just getting too hard to keep track of things.


Views 1195
One Last Ride | Snowmobile News
April 28, 2013

One Last Ride

Steve Janes Blog

Ever since I’ve returned from my snowmobiling trip to British Columbia, Lane
has been whining about wanting one last ride. Although he had a chance to head north to ride with Carl Kuster (I always offer Lane the best trips to keep him happy), he chose to head south to ride Kawasaki ATVs.

But all he could do once he returned from the “land of the sun” was sulk around
the office saying he needed just “one last ride” to finish up his winter season.
So Wednesday I obliged him, taking advantage of a bluebird day to slip up into
Mt. Jefferson for a quick ride.

Lane was like a child in a candy store—excited and giddy. Packing all his
camera equipment, he wanted to make the most of this ride. There’s nothing like full
documentation of one’s last ride of the season … and Lane was going to capture it with still shots and video.

Actually, it was a great day for shooting. A recent snow storm put a couple of
inches of soft, sticky snow on top and a solid base. It was the kind of snow that made it easy to steer your sled, providing the track with great hookup and eliminating the jolting vibrations that emanates from your skis making contact with frozen surfaces.

So with the blue skies and fresh snow (and did I mention there were no track
marks on any of the snow that day) we took full advantage of our opportunity to meander throughout the area, taking photos from almost every ridge top and shooting video through every open meadow. I figure there is about 25 square miles of riding in the high country surrounding Mt. Jefferson. We managed to put tracks in every one of the 25 square miles.

Perhaps the best part of the day, unlike many previous “one last ride” days, is we
managed to keep the rubber side down and cruise back to our trailer without any broken plastic or bent metal. And best of all, both “low fuel indicator lights” were flashing on Lane and my snowmobiles. Finishing with no fuel left to burn makes for a perfect riding day.

The satisfying look on Lane’s happy face at the end of the day made me feel good
inside. It was time well spent out of the office. It was a good day at work.
The following morning when I walked into my office Lane was already there
waiting for me. “Do you think we could go out again next week?” he pleaded. “You
know, so I can get one last ride before summer?”


Views 1098
It’s A Whole New Season | Snowmobile News
April 21, 2013

It’s A Whole New Season

Steve Janes Blog

The thing about spring snowmobiling is that the only things it has in common with regular snowmobiling are the actual snowmobile and the white surface. The white may be called snow, but it certainly isn’t what we were riding on in February.

The challenge with spring riding is finding easy access to the snow. This time of year, any southwest facing trails or slopes tend to be bare. Anything facing northeast tends to be winter. If you could spend your entire day riding the northeast trails and slopes, then life is sweet. But for most of us, that’s not always possible.

So that means somewhere along the way you have to fight with the lower elevation snow—either with your truck and trailer busting small drifts that haven’t melted, or with your snowmobile negotiating dirt patches, rocks and stumps. And when you do get to the point of the trail in the higher elevations where snow depth is adequate, then you have to deal with the back wrenching moguls until you get above timberline.

But once above timberline, life is good, snow is deep and winter lives on.

The benefits to spring riding are many. You have longer hours in the day, milder temperatures and less crowd. Many times you have the entire mountain to yourself. If you catch the right day following a good rain storm in the valley you can find great snow. But you better be quick, a couple of feet of powder on Monday can become rock hard by Wednesday. (Remember the part about the days being longer? That means the sun is working harder to settle everything down. Add that with cold clear nights and you have the recipe for ice.)

The downside is that mistakes tend to be magnified more during the spring. If your sled gets away from you, rather than rolling 10-15 feet and softly coming to a stop in deep snow, it can continue rolling 1,000-1,500 feet down the mountain … and usually its stop is most abrupt. (We tend to have the most expensive repairs to our sleds after spring rides.)

Usually at a certain elevation the snow base is so solid that you can go about anywhere you want. But keep in mind two things: The tops of mountains tend to have lots of different angles to them that can get you high-sided at any moment; and just because the traction is great climbing up a slope, it doesn’t mean you will have that same traction coming back down (say 500-pound bobsled with no brakes).

It’s a different kind of snowmobiling in the spring. But it’s still snowmobiling. And keep in mind, each time out may be your last ride for seven or eight months. Make it memorable.


Views 1065
Up North … Deep Snow | Snowmobile News
April 14, 2013

Up North … Deep Snow

Steve Janes

I don’t know what the rest of you guys are doing, but Patrick Wilson and I are
north of the border in two feet of powder snow.

Patrick was the winner of 12 Days of SnoWest and not only did he win a new
Ski-Doo Summit 800, he’s up at and undisclosed location near Sicamous, B.C., riding snowmobiles with Carl Kuster.

I’m now sure if he’s having a good time, though. It’s hard to understand him
while he’s whooping and hollering and laying his snowmobile on its side, jumping
cornices and basically trying to put tracks all over Canada.

On Friday we spent the day riding with Darrell Trouton, mayor of Sicamous. He
wanted to show us the great trail system out of Sicamous … but there was just too much to show. It didn’t matter. All we could see was powder so we really didn’t care much to look around at all the other scenery.

I was unaware that April 12 is a holiday in British Columbia. It had to be …
because about everyone in the province was at the trailhead unloading sleds.

But what is unique about the area is that once you get out on the mountain, you
don’t see anybody. There’s more mountain than there are riders. So we spent the entire day busting through fresh snow. It was so fresh it was still being delivered from Heaven.

For Patrick, the snow was just a little deeper than where he calls home (McCall,
ID … where the snow is plenty deep for most people) and the mountain was a little
bigger. We kept climbing and climbing but we never did make it to the top.

Well, got to go. Still working out of our undisclosed location. Three days of
serious riding. Wow, Patrick’s thinking this might even be better than winning the


Views 30
Six Months Changes Attitudes | Snowmobile News
April 07, 2013

Six Months Changes Attitudes

Steve Janes Blog Apr. 7, 2013

            Six months really isn’t a very long time … but when it comes to attitude, it can seem like a lifetime.

            We all remember back to last October when everyone was religiously studying the SnoTel site on the Natural Resources Conservation Page website to see how much snow was accumulating at the higher elevations.

            We browsed various chat rooms and social pages to see who was riding and where. We posted the comments like “lucky dog” or “I wish my riding area could get that kind of snow” and we expressed our jealousies and vowed that when the first flake of snow fell, we were calling in sick and hitting the mountain.

            That was all six months ago. The most important thing in our life was snow. We wanted it, we searched for it, and we vowed that when it came we were going to be all over it.

            Well it came. We rode. We enjoyed. And then we did something very interesting: We quit riding.

            So what happened in those six months? What turned us from diehard sledders to lawnmower pushers?

            Did we just get sick of snowmobiling? Impossible. Did we ride so much that, like after a Thanksgiving feast, we just couldn’t stand another scoop of the mash potatoes? Improbable.

            Did we just forget about the snow once the roads in the valley dried up and the lingering drifts melted? More than likely.

            But if you take the time to go to those coveted SnoTel sites to check out the snow depths, you may find there is still more snow in the high country than there was in January during the heart of winter.

            So what’s the difference?

            Attitude. With weather getting warmer, you tend to forget about what you love to do during the winter and start looking at what you love to do during the summer … although you can’t quite do that because it’s not quite summer.

            And while we sit around waiting for summer, we’re wasting a lot of time that we could still be enjoying winter. And yet, in six months, we’ll likely be back to the routine of checking out SnoTel and searching out the social media to see who’s riding where.

            Hey, it’s April. There’s at least four more weeks of winter somewhere within a two hour drive (if you live in the West).  Let’s lose the attitude and find some altitude. After all, we really only need five months of summer.

Let’s ride.       


Views 1090
Way Up High | Snowmobile News
March 31, 2013

Way Up High

Steve Janes Blog

With this past week of pleasant weather, it appears if you want to find winter you’re
going to have to look up high … like on the tops of the mountains.

Pretty much everything lower than 6,000 feet in our part of the country is brown turning
green. You have to get above 7,500 feet elevation to find the snow depth. And then you find that  the snow is actually quite good.

The trouble with this time of year is that it’s hard to get the desire to go looking for snow,
especially when you’re just starting to walk around without a jacket. Although one still sees a sled in the back of a pickup or on a trailer around town, many times it’s in the process of being traded in to the dealer or to be placed into storage. But there are a few diehards still out there keeping winter alive.

This past week I was traveling by automobile through western Montana and it was hard
to keep my eyes focused on the road while there were so many snow-covered mountains all around. I couldn’t help but wonder how a person accessed the snow since most of the lower elevation was dry.

But as I drove, I found myself picking my route up a distant snowy ridge and working my
way back into some of the visible bowls. I was longing for a few extra hours in my day and a good snowmobile so I could do some exploring.

But like most during the spring, I had places to go and things to do. So I could only look
at the snow and dream. But one thing is for certain: I haven’t had my last ride of the season yet. I just need to prioritize my time a little better and get a few more days out on the snow. After all … that’s what I’m paid to do.


Views 635
Best Year Ever … Not | Snowmobile News
March 24, 2013

Best Year Ever … Not

Steve Janes Blog

            There’ve been better winters. No, this one wasn’t necessarily a bad one … it just wasn’t necessarily a good one either. On one hand, I was riding the best snowmobiles ever. But on the other hand, the snow was mostly less than average.

            Now, I’m not one to complain. I’m grateful for every opportunity I have to snowmobile. But over the past 30-plus years one tends to recognize good snow from not so good snow. And this year it was the latter.

            Some may point toward global warming. I don’t accept that premise because I believe in natural climate change—the kind that isn’t affected by what man does, but tends to follow natural cycles. And the natural cycle for the past few years has been somewhat dry.

            This year it was dry when it was cold, and wet when it was warm. In other words, the moisture we got came often in liquid form rather than the nice white fluffy form that can be measured in feet.

            The good news was that there were a few more days with blue skies and sunshine for snowmobiling. The bad news was that the snow wasn’t very deep and sometimes it took a couple of weeks just to cover up the tracks from a day’s ride. For some of us, there is something urgent in riding on clean untracked snow. Tracks leave you with the impression that you’re bellying up to a buffet after the fat people have already eaten—it’s slim pickings and the best stuff is gone.

            Now this time of year there usually are a few great rides just waiting to happen. But after a long winter of searching for snow, it’s kind of hard to create the desire to leave the warmth in the valleys to go up to the mountains looking for winter.

            But as long as Mother Nature keeps refreshing the higher elevations with a layer of snow, some of us will just leave our lawn mowers in winter storage and continue to do our best to beat the fat people to the buffet.

            There’ve been better winters. But we’ll still try to make the most out of the one we still have.


Views 703
March 23, 2013

Arctic Cat 2014: Mtn . Sled Loses 20 lbs .

Staff Report

We were that close (imagine right here our thumb and index finger very close together). We were right on our hunch that Arctic Cat would unveil a new 600cc engine for model year 2014. However, we were thinking (hoping, actually) that the new made-in-the-U.S.-by-Cat engine would be in a mountain sled. That’s where we missed the mark.

We’d be lying if we didn’t say we were a little bummed Cat’s new 600cc powerplant isn’t in M skin for this season. But we were quickly distracted when we heard about the weight loss in the 2014 mountain sleds. That’s quite a drop in poundage.

While that weight loss is big news for Arctic Cat, just a little more about the 600 powerplant first. Our hunch was actually somewhat of an educated guess. We remember when Cat dropped the Suzuki 600 from its lineup a couple of years ago (model year 2012), the same season the company unveiled its new ProClimb chassis. We came away from that new snowmobile unveiling with a pretty strong feeling that the 600 hadn’t gone away forever. And it wasn’t too much of a stretch to think Cat could build its own snowmobile engine, as it has been producing ATV engines at its plant in St. Cloud, MN, since February 2007.

And it’s really not going out on a limb to say we’re pretty confident that this 600, officially called the 600 C-Tec2, will be in a mountain chassis next season. We’ll give more details on the Cat 600, but first let’s talk weight loss.

Handling, Ergonomics

Troy Halverson, Cat’s new Mountain Team Manager, said one of the big goals for model year 2014 was “We wanted to work on handling and ergonomics.” So whether the weight loss was part of that equation or simply a byproduct of all the changes, it really doesn’t matter. The end result looks impressive and we’re anxious to ride the new 2014 mountain lineup from Cat.

One area where weight was shaved was by using a new snowmobile seat, which is 5 inches shorter in length and 1.5 inches shorter in height. It features new foam and once again comes with a storage area. The shorter in length part of the seat will make it easier to swing a leg around when you’re jumping from side to side while off-trail riding. The new seat comes on all M8000 (Cat has a new designation for its models--the 8000 is an 800cc sled) Sno Pro, Limited (non-ES) and HCR models.

Other weight savings come in little areas like drilling out the brake disc (Sno Pro, Limited models only), lightening up the drive shaft and drive sprockets, changing the bottom gear to aluminum (Sno Pro, Limited models only), changing the hardware on the shocks by reducing the size of the hardware, drilling some parts to make them lighter while maintaining their strength, and replacing the rear heat exchanger on the M models to the one presently used on the HCR (Sno Pro, Limited models only). The heat exchanger swap saves 4 lbs. alone and is a single, front-mounted unit only. To ensure the cooling capacity of the sled is still maintained, Cat has installed a coolant tank on those sleds with the HCR-type heat exchanger. Models with the HCR-style exchanger come standard with ice scratchers.

Cat shaved nearly a pound by using lighter weight ski spindles, which are a one-piece forged unit.

Additionally, the down spars and cross spars on the Sno Pro and Limited model chassis are now aluminum (as opposed to steel) and the spindles are machined out. All 2014 M8000 models get the aluminum chassis spars.

“Ounces add up to pounds,” Halverson pointed out.

While all those changes were made to save weight and, in some cases, improve the ergonomics and handling as well, there are even more changes on the 2014 Cat mountain machines. This one is subtle but will be appreciated by aggressive riders. At the rear of the tunnel where the running board attaches, Cat has machined the rear tunnel gusset to open it up so the rider can put his foot farther back on the running board.

Putting On The Brakes

Another change is to the brake guard at the front on the tunnel on the left side of the sled in the footwell. Halverson said some riders were denting the guard when they were trying to kick snow out of the front of the running board on that side so Cat made it stronger to prevent that from happening.

Cat also changed the gearing on the M sleds from 21/49 to 19/50, which should help in a number of ways, most notably improving the performance of the sled in certain conditions. Halverson pointed out that Cat is changing clutch performance for next season so that the sleds will backshift better and offer a little more consistent rpm, all while helping keep the belt temps a little cooler.

While on the subject clutching, Cat has redesigned the driven clutch so that the fin height on the face of the clutch is deeper, which helps it run cooler by dissipating the heat better. Cat also went to a fixed clutch guard so that it’s easier for the rider (or whomever) to get to the clutches and change the belt.

Hang on, there’s more. The skid frame has been moved down and back; Halverson pointed out that the company “has seen better results with less trenching.” The ski shocks are new, having been replaced by Fox Float 3 shocks (they were Fox Float 2 shocks), which offer easier access to the air valve. Additionally, the Fox Float 3 uses “negative” spring technology to deliver a more plush ride during initial travel and faster, stiffer cornering while maintaining big-hit control. The front arm shock is now an Arctic Cat shock (vs. the Fox Zero Pro on some ‘13 models). Why the change to the Arctic IFP rebuildable gas shock? Halverson said it allows Cat more flexibility to change calibrations and make those changes quicker with less lead time.

Up on the handlebars, the piston in the master brake cylinder is smaller for 2014. That means it will take less force at the lever to get the same amount of force at the brake. The disc goes from 5/8-inch to 9/16-inch. The dual piston caliper is mounted on the rear portion of the rotor so that any chassis flex won’t knock back the pistons.

New Classifications

Another fairly noticeable change for 2014 is the change in name or classification on the models themselves. Here’s the Cat lineup for 2014:

• M 8000 153 (Suzuki 794cc twin)

• M 9000 153 (Suzuki 1056cc four-stroke turbo)

• M 8000 153 Sno Pro (Suzuki 794cc twin)

• M 8000 153 Limited (Suzuki 794cc twin)

• M 8000 153 Limited ES (Suzuki 794cc twin w/electric start)

• M 8000 162 Sno Pro (Suzuki 794cc twin)

• M 8000 162 Limited (Suzuki 794cc twin)

• M 8000 162 Limited ES (Suzuki 794cc twin w/electric start)

• M 8000 153 HCR (Suzuki 794cc twin)

• M 9000 162 HCR (Suzuki 1056cc four-stroke turbo)

• M 9000 162 Sno Pro (Suzuki 1056cc four-stroke turbo)

• M 9000 162 Limited (Suzuki 1056cc four-stroke turbo)

As you can see, basically there are the 800cc and 1100cc turbo powerplants.

Now to the new Arctic Cat C-Tec2 600, which fits in the 125 hp class. We really just don’t have the room to talk about all the features of this new engine so we’re going to just hit the highlights. For starters the engine features a very unique dual-stage injection system which utilizes a slotted piston. At lower engine loads, the system injects fuel directly into the combustion chamber on top of the piston. At higher engine loads fuel is also injected into the crankcase area and into the transfer ports, improving the fuel/air transfer time for added efficiency while also lubricating vital engine components.

As for the slotted piston, a unique open-window/slotted design allows the fuel/oil mix to be injected into the crankcase area and then into the transfer ports as part of the dual-stage injection design. Essentially, the slotted piston increases the time the fuel/oil mix can be injected.

The oil is mixed with the fuel in the injector rail so it can lubricate and cool vital parts such as the rod pin bearing and other key engine components.

In comparing the new Arctic Cat C-Tec 2 600 with the old Suzuki 600 EFI (“It’s night and day different than our old 600,” Cat engine guru Greg Spaulding said), the new engine is 10 lbs. lighter than the old 600 and has more horsepower (123 vs. 118). The mpg is “greatly improved” in the new Cat 600 and it’s cleaner, Spaulding said. “We achieved our emission goals and this engine generates credits,” he said. In fact, Cat claims the C-Tec 2 has lower CO emissions and is lighter weight than Ski-Doo’s 600 E-Tec engine.

It’s recommended sledders use 91 octane non-ethanol fuel for maximum performance of the new Cat 600. If 91 non-ethanol is not available, the fuel management system along with the knock sensor is able to sense detonation in the cylinder head and make the necessary adjustments. That will reduce performance and mpg, which is why the higher octane is recommended.

Other really interesting engine news from Arctic Cat for model year 2014 is the use of Yamaha’s 1049cc 4-stroke engine in Cat’s 7000 sleds (135 hp). Cat has signed an agreement to purchase the 3-cylinder engine from Yamaha but will be using its own fuel management system. Also, the exhaust/muffler has been designed to exit in the rear of the engine and turns to the traditional right side of the snowmobile. The engine will be used in select Cat trail machines, not its mountain sleds. As noted above, Cat will continue to use a Suzuki 4-stroke for its mountain machines.

Views 21
March 23, 2013

Shifting Into High Gear

Staff Report

Not many will argue that Ski-Doo is on a roll in the mountains, thanks to its new Rev XM platform unveiled in the Summit lineup last season. That along with the tMotion rear suspension has literally—and figuratively—helped propel Ski-Doo to greater heights in the mountains.

The new chassis and suspension helped the Summit X 800R become the best-selling sled in model year 2013 (through the middle of January, 2013) and seriously challenge the Polaris 800 Pro RMK as King of the Hill.

“2013 was one of our greatest years—significantly,” Philippe Normand, Ski-Doo marketing director, said. No doubt Ski-Doo is on a roll as we get ready to close out this winter and look to model year 2014, which marks the 20th anniversary of the first Summit snowmobile.

With the success of its XM platform in the 800cc class, isn’t it logical that Ski-Doo would next set its sights on the 600cc class and also the freeride class? Consider it done.

Ski-Doo has expanded its Rev XM chassis offering to its 2014 Freeride sleds (137, 146, 154-inch track) and the Summit SP 600 E-Tec. That means for 2014, the only Summits not in the XM chassis are the Sport 600 carb and Sport PowerT.E.K. 800R. Along with the expansion of the XM platform to the additional models, Ski-Doo is including as standard fare the revised Pilot DS 2 skis and ski spindle.

Use Of Pilot DS 2 Skis Expanded

The Pilot DS 2 skis feature a single keel for better sidehilling and are relatively narrow and thin. Another key to the success of the skis is that the distance behind the spindle to the back of the ski has been shortened while the rear of the ski has a flat tail for easier counter-steering and sidehilling.

The XM platform has a number of features that have helped transform the Summits (and now Freerides) into backcountry dominators. Those features include the narrow seat, minimalist-designed handlebar controls, narrow ski stance, tapered aluminum handlebar with rigid grab strap, much improved running boards with large holes so snow won’t build up and 1-gallon glove box. All those features are now spread across more of the Summit line so that more riders can enjoy the features that only a few could on select model year 2013 sleds.

You can add to the expansion of the XM chassis the inclusion of the tMotion rear suspension (which allows the suspension to flex laterally in the tunnel) on more models, including all Summits (even the Sport 600 carb and Sport PowerT.E.K. 800R) for 2014. The Freeride 146 and 154 also get the tMotion while the 137 gets the rMotion. The third part of the package that has really improved the maneuverability of the Summit--the FlexEdge track--will also be included in all Summits and Freerides except the Freeride 137. You might remember that the FlexEdge track allows the outer two inches of the track to bend, improving sidehilling and being able to roll the machine up on its side.

We’re especially excited about the Summit SP 600. Now the mountain 600cc class is that much more competitive.

Running Through The Lineup

Let’s look at each version of the Summit and Freeride for 2014.

The Summit X, targeted at those riders who favor the steep and deep, returns much the same for 2014 with three track options--146-, 154- and 163-inch--and one engine, the powerful and ultra-smooth liquid-cooled Rotax 800 E-Tec. The track is the PowderMax II, which is 16 inches wide and has 2.5-inch deep lugs.

At 36 inches, the ski stance is narrow, narrow, narrow. That’s two inches narrower than the Arctic Cat M 800 Sno Pro and three inches narrower than the Polaris 800 Pro RMK. You can adjust the ski stance from 35.7 to 37.4 inches.

The gauges have been updated to include a couple of cool new features. Those are a “Rev limiter” warning that displays when the rpm reaches 8,300 to alert the driver to change the clutch setting and a start-up screen that indicates the percentage of engine break-in remaining. Once the break-in period is past, the message disappears. The message is displayed when the sled is started.

Another feature of the new gauge is the parking brake pilot light. How that works is if you try to drive the sled with the parking brake still engaged, the sled will “beep” and a light will flash on the gauge to alert you of the problem.

The standard gauge on Rev XM models include a new indicator for hand and thumb warmer intensity and the parking brake pilot light.

Of course, the X also offers a higher end shock package, which includes HPG Plus shocks on the front and rear suspensions.

Summit XP

Moving on to the Summit SP models, again, the big news is the move to the XM platform for the 600 E-Tec, one of two engine options for the SP. The other engine option is the 800R E-Tec, which in model year 2013 was already in the XM chassis. Track options vary for each model. Three track lengths are available in SP skin: 146, 154 or 163 inches, all 16 inches wide, for the 800. The PowderMax II track with FlexEdge on the 800 SP has 2.5-inch deep lugs. On the 600 the lugs are 2.25 inches deep and come in 146 or 154 inches. The SP models have good shocks—HPG—just not the HPG Plus like on the X. The SP still has a great ride, though.

Next in the Summit lineup are the Sport models, which are seen as price-point sleds. The engines are more basic—600cc carbureted or 800cc PowerT.E.K. (with a claimed 151 hp) powerplants—and the shock packages are more basic as well with a mix of Motion Control and HPG shocks. That’s part of the reason these vehicles are as much as $2,000 less than SP models. The Sport models do get some upgrades for 2014, including, as mentioned, the tMotion rear suspension and Pilot DS 2 skis. Track lengths for these two Sport models are 16x146x2.25 inches (600 carb) or 16x154x2.25 inches (800 PowerT.E.K.). The Sport models are still housed in the Rev XP chassis, the same platform all other Summits were in before going to the XM chassis.

In the Freeride lineup are sleds specifically designed and built for aggressive off-trail riders, mostly mountain riders who frequent the western U.S. and Canada. Aggressive flatland riders might argue, though, that the Freeride 137 is ideal for them to pound through the woods in the Midwest and eastern portions of the U.S. and Canada. Regardless, all Freerides get the Rev XM RS platform which will make riding off-trail that much easier and more fun.

The RS part of the XM platform means the Freeride is using the same strong and lightweight chassis that is used on the MX Zx 600RS race sled, which includes most reinforcements (riders of the Freeride tend to like to jump and reinforcements are handy for this type of riding) and wide, strong running boards with an extruded edge. This platform uses the XM running board pattern of holes to help the snow drop out more easily.

In addition to the 137-inch Freeride, other tracks are the 146- and 154-inch. We’ve already mentioned the tMotion and rMotion rear suspensions and FlexEdge track but we shouldn’t discount how those features will affect (read: improve) the Freerides. It will allow aggressive riders to be just that much more aggressive in the backcountry with the added confidence of knowing exactly how the sled will react in certain conditions, especially when sidehilling and boondocking through the trees.

The Freerides also use KYB Pro 40 piggyback shocks for easy adjustment and better durability under aggressive riding conditions. Ski-Doo is also using the Pilot DS 2 skis on the Freerides.

The Freerides’ powerplant is the Rotax E-Tec 800R.

Another Freeride exclusive is the multi-function digital gauge with display and a five-minute of high sampling rate record mode.

One change Ski-Doo made on all E-Tec equipped models (not just Summits and Freerides) is new 32W (vs. previous 28W) hand warmers which crank out 15 percent more heating power and have 50 percent more warming power while the sled is idling.

Views 26
March 23, 2013

All Quiet On The Western Front

Staff Report

That headline might be a little misleading when it comes to Polaris’ 2014 lineup for the mountains, but it’s not too far off. Considering Polaris is still riding a wave that carried it to the top of the mountain when it comes to unit sales (and performance), maybe the company deserves a bit of a break after being on the throttle hard for the past two or three years.

Polaris returns with three models and three different track lengths (for a total of seven different models) for 2014: the flagship 800 Pro RMK 155, 800 Pro RMK 163, 800 RMK 155, 600 Pro RMK 155, 600 RMK 144, 600 RMK 155 and 800 RMK Assault 155.

As not much has changed with any of these models for 2014, the big news comes in a couple of different areas, Polaris’ SnowCheck program and “fixes” to a couple of problems specific 2013 RMKs experienced.

First let’s talk SnowCheck. Polaris is offering a bigger SnowCheck Select program for the 2014 models. The program ends April 23. As you know, SnowCheck gives consumers a chance at purchasing versions of sleds that aren’t available any other time of the year.

A rider can configure dream sleds online at and save them in a personal online “garage.” The rider can take a printout of his dream sled’s configuration to his Polaris dealer to place a SnowCheck Select order by the date mentioned above.

Several Choices

RMK LE models available during SnowCheck Select include the 800 Pro RMK 155 LE and 800 Pro RMK 163 LE, each available in several configurations. Choices include windshield height, storage, side panel color and whether to add electric start. The 800 Pro RMK 155/163 LE is available with black rear skid rails or with red rails.

Windshield options include low (with hand guards) or mid-height while storage options include a handlebar bag, underseat bag and Burandt Lock & Ride Tunnel Bag. Side panel options include five different colors (on the RMK LE with black rails) and five different color options on the RMK LE with red rails.

You can also get an 800 RMK Assault 155 LE during Polaris’ SnowCheck event. It’s available with painted rails, the low windshield (again, with hand guards) or mid-height windshield, handlebar bag, underseat bag and Burandt Lock & Ride Tunnel Bag and either the Competition Track or Powder Track.

Now on to the “fixes” we mentioned. There were instances of broken drive shafts on a limited number of 2013 600 and 800 Pro RMK sleds. “This condition,” Polaris reports, “has been caused by a manufacturing process variation resulting in insufficient press fit and strength between the drive shaft and sprocket-side hub insert.” Or as Polaris’ Director of Snowmobiles Chris Wolf said, the problem arose because of a “dimensional variation between parts.”


To remedy the problem, a Drive Shaft Collar Kit was put together and installed on affected 2013 models and will be stock on 2014 models. It really was a quick fix as Polaris allotted its dealers 30 minutes’ warranty time to fix the issue and install the collar kit.

You might have also read on about a recall Polaris issued on a few Pro RMKs last December due to a faulty front, lower left shock bolt that could possibly fail. That affected a small number of 2013 Polaris Pro RMK 600 and 800s and was a relatively easy fix as well.

All those features that helped the Polaris RMK rise to the top as the No. 1 selling snowmobile (not just in the West but the entire snowbelt) for MY13 return for 2014, including the Pro Ride chassis on its entire mountain lineup. More specifically, the Pro RMK, the lightest stock mountain sled you can buy, once again features the QuickDrive Low Inertia Drive System, Pro-Lite Seat, Walker Evans Coil-Over Shocks, Adhesive Bonded Suspension Components, lightweight silencer and a carbon fiber overstructure. Those standard-equipment features help the 2014 Pro RMK 155 weigh 417 lbs. dry, the same as the 2013 model.

The 800 RMK Assault returns basically the same as well

The New Trail RMK?

There is one other new Polaris that caught our eye at Polaris’ 2014 unveil. Make that two new models: the 600 Indy Voyager 144 and 550 Indy Voyager 144. The reason these two machines piqued our interest is that they come in the Pro Ride chassis; yea, the same one as the RMK. The 550 Indy Voyager somewhat hearkens back to the days of the Trail RMK, which was last seen in MY2010 (seems longer than that). Combing through the specs comparing the two models, the Indy Voyager definitely is an upgrade and could very well be considered an entry level mountain snowmobile with the option of the liquid-cooled Liberty 600 twin or Polaris 550 fan-cooled twin. Other upgrade differences between the Trail RMK (which was in the old Escape chassis) and the Indy Voyager are, as mentioned, the Pro Ride chassis, RydeFX shocks (as opposed to the very basic Nitrex shocks on the old Trail), Indy Pro-Ride Seat, adjustable ski stance (39, 40 and 41 inches as opposed to non adjustable on the Trail), 9 inches of travel on the front (Trail: 7.6 inches), 15x144x2.0 Series 4 track (on the 600 Indy Voyager) or 15x144x1.35 Cobra track (on the 550 Indy Voyager) vs. the 15x136x1.25-inch track on the Trail and a more plush suspension (RMK Rear on the 600 and coil-over rear on the 550).

There are enough changes that anyone who is looking at the sport of snowmobiling or wants a decent second sled for their kids or is a rental agency might want to consider either of these Indy Voyagers.

Views 24
March 23, 2013

Yamaha Pulls A Surprise For 2014—Part II

Staff Report

In last season’s March issue of SnoWest Magazine, we wrote, “Yamaha caught pretty much everyone by surprise when the Japanese company unveiled one of its newest snowmobiles for model year 2013.

“Nobody expected this.”

Then we told you about the new SRX 120 sled, aimed at the youngest of sledders. The SRX 120 is built by Arctic Cat with a Yamaha engine.

Now fast forward to model year 2014 and we say, “Wow, Yamaha really pulled a surprise for next season.”

What started out small--quite literally with the SRX 120--has morphed into something really big, bigger actually than just the five new SR Viper sleds that Yamaha unveiled. Bigger as in that the sleds are being built in North America by Arctic Cat using an Arctic Cat chassis with Yamaha’s Nytro engine (Genesis 3-cylinder liquid-cooled 1049cc). How about that?


There were rumblings over the past few months such a move was going to take place but nobody really knew for sure what was going down until Yamaha unveiled its SR Viper lineup to the media in mid-January.

Just to be crystal clear, the SR Viper is a Yamaha snowmobile that will be sold at Yamaha dealerships.

That makes us think perhaps the most interesting meeting that took place this winter was the Yamaha dealer meeting in Minneapolis, MN, in February. By the time you read this the meeting will be over and we’ll have taken a test ride on the new Yamahas.

So is Yamaha crazy like a fox or just crazy? Certainly time will tell.

With that kind of news, there won’t be much talk about Yamaha’s mountain sleds, which return relatively unchanged for 2014. In fact, the only change to the FX Nytro MTX 153 and 162 is that both sleds get the powder skis as well as a new color scheme. The Phazer MTX comes to 2014 with no changes.

Yamaha is offering a crossover sled—the SR Viper XTX SE—in the Arctic Cat chassis. That instantly makes the Yamaha crossover more competitive as it has a mountain strap and will be lighter and more nimble. More on that in a bit.

How About Us?

Doesn’t all this beg the question, “What’s next for Yamaha’s mountain lineup?” We asked that very question during the sneak peek and were told to be patient. That at least indicates that something may be in the works. Whether that’s next season or not, we’re not sure. We’ll stay on it though, and give updates as we find out any additional information.

What we do know is that the Yamaha-Arctic Cat accord is a “mutual supply agreement,” according to Yamaha officials. As we told you in the Arctic Cat story in this issue, Cat is using the Nytro (Genesis 3-cylinder liquid-cooled 1049cc engine but “renamed” by Cat the 7000 Series C-Tec4 1049) in a small number of its sleds.

“We needed to look forward,” Peter Smallman-Tew, Yamaha Motor Canada vice president and North American snowmobile leader, said in January of the agreement between Yamaha and Cat. “Today you’ll see just the tip of the iceberg.”

Then, sensing there might be some question as to the future of Yamaha snowmobiles, Smallman-Tew said, “We are more committed today than we have ever been.”

Rob Powers, Yamaha snowmobile product manager, also commented, “Arctic Cat has their plan and we have our plan.”

Later during Yamaha’s 2014 lineup unveiling, Smallman-Tew said, “We want to reinvent ourselves. For us to survive we had to think outside the box. We’re challenging the normal.” Then, backing up what Powers said earlier in the morning, Smallman-Tew said, “We have our business strategy, they (Arctic Cat) have their business strategy. We are still competitors.”

Includes Yamaha DNA

In an effort to refocus the media on Yamaha’s side of the “mutual supply agreement,” Chris Reid, Yamaha’s snowmobile product planning manager, said, referring to the SR Viper, “There’s still DNA in this snowmobile that’s Yamaha.”

Another question, among many, that arose during Yamaha’s media intro was whether consumers would see a two-stroke Yamaha again. To that, Reid said, “We still are committed to 4-stroke engines.”

In talking more in-depth about the SR Viper models, Yamaha officials pointed out that in addition to using the Yamaha Genesis powerplant (with electric start and EBRS system-reducing compression braking), Yamaha clutches will be stock on this sled although Yamaha and Arctic Cat are working together on the clutching, gearing and mapping. One noticeable change riders will appreciate is the electronic reverse system on the new Yamaha, offering servo-controlled, push button actuated shifting. No more manually trying to get the sled in reverse with a handle that was somewhat temperamental at times—at least on the SR Viper sleds.

The rear suspension, which again is a Cat suspension, will be calibrated the same as what you would find on a similar Cat version of the sled. The SR Viper will also use Arctic Cat skis “at least for the first year.”

Here’s an interesting twist, pun intended: On the SR Viper there is no rear-exiting exhaust, which had become a trademark element of Yamaha and its four-stroke engines. Instead, the SR Viper will have a bent pipe, with the exhaust exiting out on the side of the machine where traditional two-stroke engines’ exhaust exits.

The SR Viper will also be using a Hayes Brake system, which is what you find on Cat sleds, too. Other features Yamaha riders will get with the Cat chassis is the seat, bigger gas tank (10.6 gallons vs. 7.3 gallons on the Nytro), adjustable ski stance, open running boards so snow won’t build up (definitely an issue on the Yamaha running boards), more ergonomic steering and easy-to-use hand/thumb warmers and reverse button. The sled also features new gauges with mph, temp, altimeter, hours, fuel, intake air temp, voltage meter, oil pressure, rpm, clock and trip meter readings.

Crossover SR Viper

The crossover SR Viper XTX SE includes most all the features of the trail version SR Viper with some additional features like a performance-tuned dual shock SR 141 rear suspension and a 15x141x2.6-inch Cobra track. On the front there are Fox Float 2 shocks and plastic mountain skis. The tall riser bar comes with a mountain strap for sidehilling ease.

Yamaha is also heading into the 2014 winter season with a Phazer XTX, a crossover model with a 14x144x1.5-inch Freeride track. The engine is the same as what you’ll find in the Phazer MTX.

We think all this—from the “mutual supply agreement” to the actual new Yamaha snowmobiles—might take a while for sledders to digest. So while you’re mulling all that over, we also learned that Yamaha is moving its chassis engineering to Minoqua, WI, from Japan. Honestly, that’s a great move and probably long overdue. The sleds are “on the ground” so to speak in Wisconsin and the feedback and turnaround on development will be much quicker, allowing Yamaha to more quickly develop new product.

Our fingers are crossed that the new product includes something for the mountains.

Views 24
March 23, 2013

Mountain Sled Geometry

Here is where the rider forward movement has put us. Forward on the sled, body above the steering post, feet close to the driveshaft. This geometry is what lets mountain riders cut extreme sidehill lines through trees without having to sit down, aim and start again.

We lined each of the three 800 test sleds up in the exact same position to see what each sled’s subtle nuances are.

Each sled is lined up on the ski spindle bolt. That’s the reference point, and that’s the spot that matters on the mountain—your body position relative to the spindle.

Polaris Pro RMK 155

The oldest platform becomes the benchmark. The rider’s feet are a little farther back compared to the Cat and Summit, but the rider’s body can get just as far over the front of the sled without the bars interfering. And the true vertical steering post keeps the bars on a fairly level plane when the rider counter steers. The skid’s rear mounting point is forward of the Summit’s but not as far forward as the Cat’s, contributing to its flickable feel. The Pro also has a shallow approach with a very gradual transition angle at the bottom of the rails. That definitely contributes to its ability to get on top of snow and stay there. The Pro has the lowest-profile seat of the group. It’s interesting to note that all three sleds’ handlebars are about the same height from the footboards, yet look how each sled’s cowling is designed differently and how much lower the Pro and Summit’s cowlings are compared to the M. The Pro has the lowest cg feel and it’s easy to extrapolate why.

Ski-Doo Summit X 154

The XM platform did amazing things for the Summit, changing it from the worst sidehilling sled to one of the best ever. The Summit’s rider position is the farthest forward of the three, and the rider’s feet can get significantly farther forward than the other two sleds. However, due to the laid-down steering design (the post under the cowling), the rider’s upper body is restricted in how far forward it can really get. You’ll see studio photos of the sled with the riser block adjusted vertically, but riding like that creates all sorts of ill mannerisms. The riser block must be adjusted inline with the steering post to get this sled to boondock well—which it does. This sled’s skid is mounted further rearward in the chassis, with the rear mounting arm and rear axle noticeably back compared to the Cat and Pro. This makes the sled longer overall. It also makes whipping the nose around on a sidehill 180-degree uphill turn tougher than the other two.

Arctic Cat ProClimb M800 SnoPro 153

The ProClimb M has the shortest ‘wheelbase’ of the three, with the skid rear arm mount being the closest relative to the spindle. The spindle-to-rear-axle length is also shortest among the three. That adds up to a maneuverable feel in the trees. The rider’s upper body can get over the front end due to the sled’s vertical steering post. The M’s approach angle is not necessarily steep, but deep. The amount of track exposed on the approach is long, and the radius to the rail beam is pretty tight. That can make the sled trench and fight getting back on top of deep snow if it loses plane. But the 2.6 track seems to make up for that. It’s also interesting to note the approach on the three sleds’ nose pans. The M has the steepest and the most narrow nose pan of the three, with the skinniest skis. Also note where the rear of the running boards end on each sled. The M has the shortest boards followed by the Pro and Summit. However, the Summit doesn’t have a brace/foot block. The Cat can definitely dig a deeper trench without hanging up, which gives it a better chance of digging through without getting stuck (or, getting stuck in a deeper hole, depending how you look at it).

Dragging Bodies

Again, we lined up each test sled on the same spot at the same angle to compare the side profiles. You can see for yourself how much the body work design plays into sidehilling a sled. The Summit has the narrowest ski stance and the widest track, so that’s a factor. It also has the widest footbed platform measured from outer edges of the running boards at the bottom of the footwells. The M sits second in that measurement, with the Pro having the narrowest measurement. You can see how the Pro is more likely to keep the sled’s body out of the snow on a sidehill where the Summit and M will have more bodywork dragging. One thing we’ve noticed on the M—the tall spindle may increase drag when it’s submerged in the snow on a sidehill, but it provides the best downhill slide control on steep decents with the sled on its side. Pay attention to the running board angles, tunnel taper and rear bumper height on this view, too.

Views 30
March 21, 2013

Speedkit Budget Tool Kit

Speedkit Budget Tool KitCruzTOOLS has introduced its new Speedkit compact tool kits, with three variants that cover virtually all makes and models of powersports vehicles. Designed to fit into most OEM tool cavities, all provide technician-grade tools and considerable capability. Included are wrenches, nut drivers, a two-in-one spark plug socket with lever, multi-bit screwdriver, star bits, hex wrenches, tire pressure gauge and slip-joint pliers—all housed in a durable zip-up pouch.

Three versions are available: the SKJAS for Japanese motorcycles and all makes of ATVs, UTVs, snowmobiles and personal watercraft; SKEU for European motorcycles; and SKHD for Harley-Davidsons. Each retails for $32.95. 

Since every vehicle has a unique tool kit part number, retailers are reluctant to stock dozens of tool kits for prospective resale. With Speedkits, dealers can address the OEM tool kit aftermarket with just a few part numbers at attractive price points.

Contact CruzTOOLS 909-8665 or

Views 22
March 21, 2013

Curve XS/XSM Skis

Curve XS/XSM SkisThrash the roughest trail, hold a line on the most challenging sidehills and blast through the fastest ditches in total control. With Curve skis and Curve bolt-ons you can do it all with no compromises.

In an era where people want control of everything from shock pressure to turbo boost, Curve Industries allows riders to have that same control with their skis. The Curve XSM is a modular ski system that controls any terrain.

The Crossover ski gives you either the Standard or Mountain Thruster options for improved off-trail performance. The Mountain ski comes with the Mountain Thruster option for superior flotation and perfectly balanced sidehilling. Each ski gives you the option of choosing your own carbides.

Contact Curve Industries (315) 841-8730 or

Views 20
March 21, 2013

Women’s Elevation Tech T

Elevation Tech TKlim’s Casual Intelligence pieces blur the line of casual sports shirts and performance riding apparel and are great performers in either base (next-to-skin) or mid-layer roles. The Women’s Elevation Tech T is highly redesigned for 2012-13 to offer more comfort, durability and versatility than ever before. An all-new hyper-wicking micro grid polyester fabric makes up the main body while massive stretch zones under the arms have been added to provide greater mobility as well as anti-microbial performance (meaning less stink).

The T retails for $59.99.

Contact Klim (208) 552-7433 or

Views 20
March 21, 2013

Big Chute Suspension System

Big Chute Suspension System Evolution Powersports’ upgraded mountain suspension system has been specifically designed and tuned for the higher horsepower sleds to help transfer the power properly for optimal straight line speed, hillclimbing traction, technical riding while boondocking or sucking up the bumps on a hard-packed trail or short course.

A tremendous amount of time has been dedicated to tuning this suspension system specifically for the massive power being generated by EVOPS’ turbo systems for all riding styles.

This completely redesigned, built-to-order rear coupling suspension system eliminates trenching, rider fatigue and overall control issues. It drastically improves overall handling while allowing the power of the sled to be properly transmitted to the snow for unmatched power delivery, optimized climbing characteristics and an overall more compliant sled.

The Big Chute suspension includes aluminum rails with hifax, anti-stab kit, billet aluminum cross shafts, upper idler wheels, ice scratchers, front and rear arms with grease fittings, Fox Float/Evol shocks, billet aluminum shock cross shafts, limiter straps, four-position billet aluminum coupling block assembly, billet aluminum two-wheel axle with 8-inch tri-hub axle wheels, Delrin bushings throughout and high quality cad plated hardware.

The limited edition Big Chute Black Series suspension system comes fully anodized and powdercoated in black.

Contact Evolution Powersports (970) 680-3861 or

Views 21
Elevation Waist Pant | Snowmobile News
March 21, 2013

Elevation Waist Pant

Elevation Waist PantThis is a perfect match for the Elevation jacket riding style with all of the same features and benefits. Hardcore riders will appreciate the freedom of movement, total waterproof breathability, style and comfort. The “best of both worlds” does exist.

The newly-designed version of a lightweight mountain pant, the elevation Waist Pant is engineered for a rider who’s looking for a clean style and an aggressive cut with maximum mobility. FXR has added 3/4 length two-way heavy duty waterproof leg zippers with an improved lower leg storm cuff and bold FXR embroidery that allows for access and an edge that’s tough to beat.

Contact FXR Racing (204) 832-2556 or

Views 72
March 21, 2013



Steve Janes

Whether you’re looking for that first sled, trying to update to the latest technology or determining what the most capable snowmobile is in extreme conditions, this year’s Deep Powder Challenge created lots of opinion and not so much domination.

But after 200 miles of busting powder, boondocking through the backcountry and blowing down trails, the Ski-Doo Summit 800 prevailed as the sled of choice for most riders.

This wasn’t a decisive and dominating decision. In certain conditions with certain riders, the Polaris 800 Pro RMK certainly stood out above the competition. In other conditions, the Arctic Cat M 800 Sno Pro proved to have the power and performance to prevail. But at the end of the day, there was something about the consistency of the Summit that most everyone liked.

Each year we look at different ways to test the three 800s. And over the years this has been a very solid battle. This year we thought we would combine the input from four groups.

First, we went to a group of riders who could be considered novice to western riding and had no experience on the new snowmobiles. The second group consisted of three riders who have snowmobiling experience, but not on the new style sleds. The third group consisted of hard-core mountain riders who have been on all three brands in the past, but perhaps not on the same day. Finally, the SnoWest SnowTest staff went out and formed their opinions.

So basically we were looking to see what stood out in the minds of those who are new to the sport, not up-to-date with the technology or live for deep powder—a pretty broad and interesting mix. And our snow conditions varied about as much as our riders.

The SnoWest SnowTest staff had the luxury of riding the three 800s in the most variety of terrain and conditions. And naturally, the most weight of the collected opinions was given to this group or riders (Steve Janes, Lane Lindstrom and Ryan Harris). And there certainly wasn’t a unanimous choice from the group. All three sleds seemed to have certain strengths and weaknesses. But this year’s refinements to the Summit, particularly with the tMotion rear suspension, made it more capable in most conditions.

For those who found the new style snowmobiles totally unique to their previous riding experiences, the Ski-Doo was always the easiest to handle. And for the SnoWest crew who ride all three brands often, the refinements to the Ski-Doo make it work well in all conditions.

But for riders who have spent more time on one brand (Cat or Polaris), the Ski-Doo’s ease in rolling from side to side caused them problems in handling—too often they over-steered and found themselves a little out of position.

A few interesting observations: The Cat odometer tends to read about 10 percent more than the other two sleds. It finished out reading over 20 miles farther than the other two sleds even though all three went virtually the same places. It also had the highest fuel consumption—7.5 miles per gallon compared to Polaris at 8.2 mpg and Ski-Doo at 9.8 mpg.

Also, there was no consensus from any group as to what snowmobile dominated any given category. What one rider liked in one category, another rider’s view was totally different. This tells us that all three snowmobiles are highly competitive, yet deliver a unique feel.

We were actually surprised with how solid Cat showed throughout the tests. Even though it was the heaviest of the three, it often was viewed as the lightest handling of the three. Also, more riders noted how it continued to feel better the more time they spent on it.

Although the decision to pick Ski-Doo over the other two rests completely on the SnoWest staff, you may want to match up your own riding style and ability to the other guest riders to see what sled might best suit your needs.

Group 1
—Talk about having the wrong group on the wrong day, although most of these schedules are worked out without the knowledge of what Mother Nature has in store. We took three riders who had limited experience in snowmobiling (mostly trail riding or on older equipment) and got them into the mountains and into 2-4 feet of fresh untracked powder.

Needless to say, there were a lot of “stucks” happening … and within a couple of hours there was more steam rising from their bodies than from Old Faithful.

At first they didn’t mind—they were on some great sleds doing something that others only dreamed about. And one unique thing about this group was that it consisted of several department heads in the Idaho Falls (Idaho) Parks and Recreation division. (When they left the office that morning, they jokingly told their secretaries they were taking a “working day” to explore recreation opportunities. Little did they know how much “work” was actually in store.)

The lower trails in eastern Idaho had about six inches of powder, making them smooth and slick. It was a good warm-up to get comfortable on the new snowmobiles.

Once we got up to about 7,000 feet in elevation and into the national forest, there was about two feet of snow on the trails, making them somewhat challenging for novice riders and off the trail there was twice that amount.

After a while, the group collectively decided not to get too adventuresome and keep the “stucks” to a minimum. But during this same time, they were figuring out how to adapt to the snowmobiles and they managed to eliminate most of the inexperienced “stucks” and actually did quite well.

By the end of the day they were tired, wet and couldn’t wipe the smiles from their face.

Group 2—The snow was very smushy—the kind that brings out the worst in snowmobiles. Since the snow depths in the Brockman area of east Idaho are still quite marginal (two to three feet), there weren’t the kind of conditions where you could cut into a side of the slope for serious sidehilling. And with the smushy snow, the tendency for the sled is to always dive on the downhill ski.

But the snow is what it is. Unless you are only going to ride on those bluebird days following snowstorms (maybe three or four times a season) you have to take the snow conditions as they are … and for at least two months during the season they will likely be very similar to the conditions on this day.

Our three riders were Clint Wheeler, Chad Egbert and Christopher Parrett. This was a group of snowmobilers you would classify as intermediate riders.

Wheeler was a one-time cross country racer who in recent years has only been getting out a couple times per winter. Egbert is at that awkward age in life where paying bills and raising a family trumps buying new snowmobiles. Parrett, on the other hand, administers the SnoWest Forums and spends his days eating, drinking and sleeping snowmobiles. However, he rides a Yamaha 4-stroke turbo and has no preconceived notions in the battle of the 800 two-strokes.

Group 3— There are years when the “Deep Powder” doesn’t always show up for the Challenge. But by luck or design, our backyard riding areas were dead center of this season’s heavy snowfall. And for the three days before Group 3’s ride, it snowed some more.

The powder was about 2-3 feet deep on top of a great base. We stuck to tree-covered terrain and drainages with very steep side walls.

The group consists of three very seasoned and proficient backcountry riders who excel in this type of terrain. We found ourselves going up canyons with creek bottoms you really wanted to avoid. That meant long technical sidehills, maneuvering around obstacles, dodging rocks and sudden uphill turns … all impromptu.

The snow was ideal, maxing out each sled’s engine and clutching. You couldn’t just rely on horsepower to get you where you wanted to go—you had to get the most out of the chassis, suspension, approach angle and weight transfer on each sled.

Rhett Clark has ridden Polaris the last two years and Cat prior to that. Bruce Kerbs owns a new Cat currently and has experience with Polaris. Brad Ball has a Summit XM and a turbo Polaris currently and has a pretty vast history with all sled makes.

But from their six-hour backcountry ride in these snow conditions, what each test rider found himself most comfortable on might surprise you.

Views 26
March 20, 2013

Beard Lightweight Snowmobile Seat

Beard Lightweight Snowmobile SeatSince its launch in 1977, Beard has been leading the industry with its collection of premium performance seating designed to provide drivers with improved ergonomics and increased control.

These same principles have been employed in the development of the all-new Beard Lightweight Snowmobile Seat designed specifically to meet the demands of the ever-growing mountain segment. By raising the seat height and combining natural ergonomics, weight-saving performance materials and superior workmanship, this seat provides unequaled rider control and leverage, greater comfort and less fatigue—resulting in much quicker transitions.

The Beard Lightweight Snowmobile Seat is manufactured in the USA and is available for 2005-2011 Arctic Cat M Series and 2006-2011 Arctic Cat CrossFire models (including CF and CFR). Seats retail for $349.95.

Contact Beard Seats (320) 243-3555 or

Views 29
March 20, 2013

Face Plants

Something’s Missing Here

Ryan Harris

The 2014s are here. There’s not a ton of new stuff for mountain riders to drool over. But after three straight years of new platforms (Pro RMK—’11, ProClimb M—’12, Summit XM—’13) that’s not a shocker.

Not that we really need another all-new platform or new engine or new anything really. We’ve gotten so used to that over the last few years we’ve become spoiled. So I’m not suggesting that a new platform is what’s missing.

There’s a huge void in the industry that has me concerned. There are just not a whole lot of options for a cheap mountain sled that can serve to keep teens who grew up on 120s interested long enough to get them back after high school sports are out of the picture. No SnoScoot or SnoSport. Nothing much to get a newbie started in mountain sledding, either.

I’ve taken friends riding and they absolutely love it. The freedom, the scenery, the adrenaline rush… and then they start asking how much. You almost hear their interest in the sport leave their head. Ten grand for a sled, $1,000 for gear, trailer, belts, fuel…

I’m sure you all remember the past couple decades (because it seems all the sport consists of is the same die-hard snowmobilers who just get a little older each season). You used to see people buy three or four sleds at a time. When they went riding, they took anyone who was up for a ride. Guys at the dealership I worked for in high school would pull up with an empty four-place trailer and drive away with four (or five if the salesman was good) XLTs.

Obviously more has changed since then than the faded Norman Rockwell painting on the wall. For one, EPA regulations have directly inflated the cost of engine technology and the final price tag of new sleds. Lightweight parts cost more than heavy parts. Re-tooling presses and assembly jigs for minor year-to-year updates add up quickly.

We’re partly to blame, too. We’re specialized, technical mountain riders now. We expect the best equipment, the lightest weight and the most horsepower. We want titanium, magnesium and carbon fiber. Anything less and we rip it to shreds in every discussion that comes up on Facebook and on forums. And we’re apparently willing to spend as much on one snowmobile as we did on two snowmobiles 15 years ago.

But you can’t buy what isn’t built.

It seems the manufacturers kind of narrowed their focus to the chunk of the market that buys the big-cc sleds. We can’t fault them for that. It’s good business to target the core audience and go after the market with the big profit margins (mountain sleds). And we realize that each OEM has had to tighten the belt over the past five years.

But now we’re left with a lineup where the cheapest mountain sled starts out at just under 10 grand.

Is it impossible to build a $7,000 500cc mountain sled? Would we even buy it if one of the OEMs built it? Will we ever see one?

My guess is probably not before we see more new engines, new platforms and more carbon fiber.

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