November 08, 2012

Tough Four Years

Steve Janes Blog

I’ll be the first to admit it’s been a tough four years. Although I always try to maintain a positive attitude about business, frankly I’ve never had as bad of beating (financially in our business) in my 30 years at SnoWest as I have received during the past four years—with each of the four worse than the previous.


            Don’t even talk to me about hope and change.


            And the prospects for the next four years don’t look any better.


            Sadly, it seems that no matter what we do in the “fly-over” portion of this country, we always tend to be that area where the sewage from those jets flying over gets dropped. That’s not going to change.


            It would be nice if the snowmobile population had a little better say about the direction this country is headed in. I did a quick look to see how key areas voted. What I found is interesting.


            In Minnesota, a state you would think snowmobilers would have significant influence, President Obama won with 53 percent of the vote. Yet in the area where Arctic Cat reigns (Thief River Falls), Mitt Romney received 51 percent of the vote. Good job Cat. Up the road in Roseau, Romney received 62 percent of the vote. Great job Polaris


            Wisconsin also has a solid snowmobile presence with Ski-Doo having offices in Sturtevant and Yamaha having its R&D facility in Pleasant Prairie. Obama won Wisconsin with 53 percent of the vote. In Pleasant Prairie Obama took 56 percent of the vote while in Sturtevant he only received 51 percent of the vote. Apparently snowmobilers don’t have much influence in Wisconsin.


            Yamaha is also headquartered in Cypress, CA. Obviously, California went Obama with 53 percent of its vote. But in Orange County, where Cypress is located, Romney took 54 percent of the vote. Valiant effort Yamaha.


            If you’re curious how SnoWest handles the election, in Idaho Romney won with 65 percent of the vote. In Idaho Falls, that margin was 75 percent. Obviously, the snowmobile influence is pretty strong in our neck of the woods.


            Now for all you snowmobilers who may be celebrating an Obama victory … well, I hope your business is doing a lot better than mine. And if your business makes its money from the government … I hope China continues to finance your efforts.



Views 123
November 01, 2012

Looking at the silver lining

Steve Janes Blog

Although the devastation from Hurricane Sandy on the East Coast has headlined the news over the past several days, and this is not an attempt to minimize the overall destruction and loss of human life, I have to admit there are some side effects that have really caught my attention.

            Snow. And lots of snow.

So much snow that even a ski resort in West Virginia is complaining about getting “too much snow.” I didn’t know there was such a thing as too much snow. The resort was buried by 35 inches of dry fluffy powder … but apparently Nordic skiers feel that’s just too much to deal with.

But then, the Sugar Mountain ski resort in North Carolina didn’t have a problem with all the snow it got. It just fired up the lifts and opened its doors to business while the state proceeded to declare “state of emergency” for the state’s 24 mountain counties. (Maybe the state doesn’t have any mountain sleds in its motor vehicle fleet … which could be reason enough to panic when snow starts to stack.)

            Other reports include 26 inches in Redhouse, MD, 24 inches in Bowden WV, 24 inches in Wise, VA, 20 inches in Mt. Leconte, TN and 14 inches in Payne Gap, KY. We know the folks in upstate Pennsylvania and New York knew what to do with the snow they got.

            Although the tragedy occurring on the East Coast is heartbreaking, a less serious tragedy is the fact that most of this snow is going to melt without a single snowmobile track marking it up.

            This leaves many in the West wondering, with sleds loaded on trailers and ready to go, “Does Sandy have any sisters?”


Views 109
November 01, 2012

SnoWest Newsletter - November 1st, 2012

 Winter Enthusiasm

This past weekend the crew at SnoWest Magazine was busy running around at the Intermountain Snowmobile Show in South Jordan, UT, (the south side of Salt Lake City) where several thousand snowmobile enthusiasts had an opportunity to mingle with industry experts.


This two-day event allowed us to get a taste of winter. Venders offered great deals on snowmobile-related product and all the snowmobile manufacturers were there with their 2013 models so snowmobilers could shop and compare.


It was two great days. Old friends gathered, stories were exchanged and plans for this upcoming winter were made. A dusting of snow in the area the night prior to the show helped set the tone.


This looks to be a great winter.


View the Complete SnoWest Newsletter – November 1st  2012

Views 102
October 26, 2012

Are We There Yet?

Steve Janes Blog

          Sometimes trips can just be too long. You know, those quick 10-hour drives to an out-of-the-way snowmobile destination that ends up taking 15 hours because of weather, road construction or breakdowns

            Or how about family vacations where the children’s patience ends before your home is out of your rear view mirror.

            But the trip I’m talking about now is the one associated with this year’s presidential election—complete with polls, opinion pieces, solicitations and non-stop advertising. (And I don’t even live in a “swing” state.)

            This year’s trip to the November elections has been the longest I can ever remember. It seemed to begin about the time the last presidential election ended, even during his acceptance speech it appeared President Obama was making a stump speech for his re-election and it’s been all downhill since.

            It doesn’t matter whether you lean red or blue, anybody with any sanity is at the brink of losing it due to all of the insanity. But try to hold on. We’re only two weeks out from at least half the country being able to breathe a sigh of relief … and the other half either contemplating a move to Canada (not a bad option if you’re looking at snowmobile opportunities around Revelstoke), cutting their wrists (such a messy way to go), or spending the next four years in a drunken stupor (which incidentally seems to be how our politicians act after being elected).

            Actually, this trip tends to make one long for those quick 15-hour drives to an out-of-the-way snowmobile destination.


Views 107
October 26, 2012

SnoWest Newsletter - October 26th, 2012

Views 95
October 18, 2012

I Got Gas

Steve Janes Blog

           Talk about acid reflex … the other day I had my local fuel distributor deliver gas to my home and the invoice left me with major heartburn. We’re paying more than $4 for a gallon for premium (non-ethanol) gas this fall and when you fill a large tank, you practically need to take out a second mortgage on your home to cover the bill.

            The interesting thing about fuel prices is that it seems to peak every four years … right near election time. And we’re about as close to election time as it gets.

For diehard snowmobiles, whether we pay $2 or $4 for a gallon of fuel doesn’t stop us from snowmobiling. But it does tend to limit our traveling range to find the best snow. We’re more apt to stay reasonably close to home rather than drive to some of those great “out of the way” locations to ride. In other words, we’d rather put the gas in our sleds than in our trucks.

We are hoping that by the time the winter gets in full swing, this election cycle will be over and we will have chosen politicians who will not only talk the talk but walk the walk when it comes to a comprehensive energy program that will expend North America’s role in becoming energy efficient.

Until then, I’ll just sublet my basement out so I can afford to put premium fuel in my vehicles.


Views 146
October 18, 2012

SnoWest Newsletter - October 18th, 2012

Utah Snowmobile Show

Next weekend will be the Intermountain Snowmobile Show that is held in the Salt Lake County Events Center in South Jordan, UT … and for those trying to figure out where that is, just take I-15 South to Salt Lake, take the 11400 South exit, head west and ask someone where the horse barn is (Equestrian Center).

             Actually, the “Salt Lake County Events Center,” which is actually the Equestrian Center, makes for a good location for a snowmobile show. Think about it: What better place to display horsepower than at a horse barn?

            The folks at the Event Center go out of their way to make snowmobilers feel welcome. The Intermountain Snowmobile Show has been held at this facility for several years now and attendees are finally getting good at driving straight to it, although it seems like every year there’s a new section of construction going on.

So Oct. 26-26 would be a good time to plan a road trip to Salt Lake to take in the Intermountain Snowmobile Show. And it would be a good time to consider some good old fashion “horse trading” as you look at all the new products available for snowmobiles.

View the Complete SnoWest Newsletter – October 18th 2012


Views 133
October 11, 2012

Signs of the Times

Steve Janes Blog

The questions have been posed: Will this year be an early winter? Will we have abundant snow? Will there be record snow in the mountains?

            Although it’s somewhat difficult to prognosticate what the weather has in store for long term, there are a few indicators a person can look at to see what nature expects.

There are several signs that anyone can look for during the course of the day to tell if winter is coming. Here is our list of things you can look for:

Birds. Do they seem to  be lean and mean after exercising their wings during the summer, or are they fluffed up and huddled close together.

            Leafs. Are they clinging on the their brilliant summer green, or are they starting to shrivel into a dry, rustic color and fall from the trees.

            Squirrels. Are they still chasing each other around the trees and across power lines, or are the starting to stash acorns and pine cones in every possible void in a one-mile radius.

            Geese. Are they lounging around the rivers and golf courses acting as though they are annoyed by humans interrupting their social gatherings or are they forming those giant Victory formations and heading south.

            Caterpillars. Are you seeing the green clean-shaven kind, or do you see the ones with heavy fuzz

            So, have you seen any signs of winter?  Have you noticed it’s become darker when you’re driving to and from work? Has anyone actually checked to see if the calendar has been advanced from that nice photo of Miss July to the other one where Miss October is actually wearing a strategically placed shawl?


Views 115
October 11, 2012

SnoWest Newsletter - October 11th, 2012

'Tis The Season

With the Colorado Snowmobile Show this weekend, the Washington show the next and the Utah show the weekend after that, it’s obvious the snowmobile industry is amidst that busy time of season.

I just spoke with a friend who was back at the Syracuse Show in New York. 'Tis the season. Dealers are receiving inventory and consumers are shopping for the best buys.

Actually, this is a fun time of year. Although we're all impatiently waiting for snow to start accumulating in the mountains, it's nice to have opportunities to rub shoulders with fellow snowmobile enthusiasts. These snow shows are a perfect place to renew friendships and get caught up on the latest innovations in the industry.

Shows allow you to visit with resort owners from across the West, making it easier to plan winter vacations. It's a time you can talk to manufacturer reps and get questions answered about products. It's a time you can relax, wear your sled colors and be totally surrounded by things you love.

It’s the time that on any day there’s a possibility to waking up with snow. It’s a good time.

View the Complete SnoWest Newsletter – October 11th 2012


Views 107
October 04, 2012

Where’s my boots?

Steve Janes Blog

            It’s getting that time of year when at any given moment, snow could happen. That’s right. We can go to bed at night after a beautiful fall day, only to wake up to several inches of snow.

That’s right, snow. And snow means you can legally put away the lawnmower. It also means you can fire up the old sled and run it around the house a couple of times, just to make sure it works. (This also informs the wife that she no longer has the right to schedule your weekends with honey-dos.)

If there’s a little snow around your home, there’s got to be a bunch more snow up in the mountains. And we all know that snow is a delicate commodity that can be eradicated by just one day of warm sunshine. So you need to act fast before Mother Nature can change her mind on winter.

Acting fast means that following the second loop around the house (to inform the wife) you need to drive your sled right up onto the trailer and make haste for the mountains.

For those who are organized, your snowmobile gear should be hanging in your closet with everything together and ready to pack. For those who are super-organized, your gear is already in your bag from your previous ride last spring. And other than a strong smell and some mildew, you’re good to go.

But what sometimes happens is that after that ride last spring, you may have removed something from the bag, be it your boots, gloves or even helmet, because at the time you thought it would be a good idea to allow some item to dry out. And now, when you’re pressed for time because of the chances of warm weather is still great, your haste causes you to leave behind something that could come in useful on a ride.

So before we fall into that predicament, let’s take time now to locate our riding gear, change batteries in our Av beacons, and get things lined out for the first ride. Who knows, maybe cleaning things out of the gear bag now will save us some real headaches down the road … and reduce the chances that we smell like a wet dog for the first half of the season.

And to set the record straight, you really don’t need that first inch of snow on the ground to make a couple of passes around your house on a snowmobile. It’s time to let our wives know that for us, summer is officially over.


Views 102
October 04, 2012

SnoWest Newsletter - October 4th, 2012

Paying Attention

Last week there was a news story posted on that looked at the EPA’s four-gallon minimum mandate at the gas stations. The intent of the mandate was to avoid a situation where someone pumping E10 fuel in a small container doesn’t get stuck with E15 fuel that is left in the gas hose.


There are a couple of issues that gets swept under the rug with this EPA proposal.


First, does the EPA have a right to mandate a minimum amount of fuel purchased? Could they mandate that you only fuel your vehicle with 10 gallons of fuel? Or 18 gallons? Maybe they can mandate a maximum amount you can purchase. Is it even any business of the EPA how much fuel you want to purchase?


Second, if E15 is harmful to small engines, why is the EPA pushing so hard to put more ethanol in the fuel? Why mandate a type of fuel that ruins certain engines? Why not just let the marketplace decide what types of fuel should be sold.


Perhaps the EPA is one of those federal agencies that over-step its power and authority in an effort to expand its bureaucracy.


Sometimes it’s these little stories that shed light on bad things that lay in store.  


View the Complete SnoWest Newsletter – October 4th 2012

Views 93
September 27, 2012

I’ll Vote For That

Steve Janes Blog

           There’s about 40 days before we find out whether we’re going to get serious about getting out of a recession or whether we all prepare to go on welfare.

I haven’t necessarily ruled out that welfare thing … but I’m a little concerned whether I can expect enough Obamabucks to buy a new snowmobile every year. I like the fact that I would be able to eat like a pig (until Michelle mandates that I only eat stuff you feed sheep) and that I wouldn’t have to work sounds attractive (giving more time to do important things like eat and snowmobile). But what happens if our President decides the only types of sleds we’re allowed are those hybrids that run on electric power … or worse, gravity.

In 40 days we’re going to see if global warming is indeed going to eliminate winter altogether or if we’re going to accept the fact that Mother Nature determines whether it’s going to snow.

This is going to be an important election. It will determine whether government works for us or whether we work for government. Or worse, whether only those who work actually do work for government—work for government … isn’t that an oxymoron? And if our tax base is made up of only those who work for government, wouldn’t it just make sense not to pay those guys and eliminate the middle man (the tax man)?

Could it be that we’re about ready to re-introduce slavery—especially if we all becomes slaves to government.

Anyway, we only have 40 days until we vote. I sure hope it doesn’t snow on Nov. 6. I’d hate to have my first ride be my last due to election results.


Views 87
September 27, 2012

SnoWest Newsletter - September 27th, 2012

Making Tracks (Part 2)

There has been a longstanding argument between which track length is the best. For some (like Ted George in Jackson who has built a 201-inch track), longer is always better. For others, it’s not the length but how you use it.

Even within the offices at SnoWest we have mixed opinions on track lengths. The politically correct (and manly) answer is to say longer tracks are always better. But the reality is that our staff tends to take out the 153-155 length sleds more often than the longer ones. (Maybe track speed has its merits.)


Although nobody has every figured out whether you get stuck more often on the 153-155 sleds, there’s always that lingering thought that when you do get stuck, maybe the longer tracks would not have. Yet, there’s never that thought when you get stuck on a longer track that the shorter tracks would have make it past that particular spot.


So is longer better?


The beauty of living in a free society is twofold: first, you can participate in an exciting pastime like snowmobiling; second, you can buy whatever track length you desire. Throw in the bonus of free speech and you can argue with anyone you want about the merits of a longer track.


Good riders on shorter tracks can do some very impressive things. Good riders on long tracks can do some very impressive things. Conclusion: Good riders are good riders regardless of what they ride. Chances are bad riders are bad riders regardless of what they ride. Perhaps what’s most important is that we spend more time on the snow practicing so we can all become better riders.


Anyone wants to join me?


View the Complete SnoWest Newsletter – September 27th 2012

Views 144
September 24, 2012

CMX Gives Updates On Sleds

CMX SledsIn business since 1991, CMX continues to be the only aftermarket sled builder that is still producing unique snowmobiles for the mountain rider. CMX owner Mark Hoffman says that longevity is because of CMX’s relentless dedication to perfection.

“We are now building the machines that we have always dreamed of building,” Hoffman said. “The thing that makes this possible is the continued evolution of technology and its implementation in the snowmobile industry.”

CMX-X sleds are built from the ground up, or in other words, the company doesn’t start with an existing factory sled and try to recreate what already exists. The company focuses on what it wants to accomplish with regards to light weight, reliability, handling and overall performance.

CMX Sleds“We use some factory Polaris parts, such as the cast aluminum bulkhead and over structure,” Hoffman said, because “It would be cost prohibitive to create these parts when they are mass-produced and this is great technology that would be very hard to improve upon. The CMX billet aluminum side plates are then attached to the CMX modified cast aluminum bulkhead. From this point on the chassis is all CMX.

The CMX-X ride height is a little higher than most other sleds. This gives more clearance to the snow, which means less drag. The way this is accomplished is by changing the front and rear suspensions’ relationship to the chassis. The Crazy Mountain Xtreme Drive System (CMXDS), standard on all CMX sleds since 1999, is one inch longer than a stock Polaris Pro, which moves the drive shaft down an inch and back an inch. This improves the attack angle, which makes the sled get up on the snow better.

CMX uses larger drivers (2.86 pitch, 9-tooth vs. the stock Pro RMK’s 8-tooth), which helps the track roll easier over the larger diameter.

Hoffman also pointed out that CMX has been building, selling and riding CMX Turbo Rockets since 2008. CMX uses the Aerocharger T66 turbo to boost CFI Polaris engines, producing approximately 260 hp on 10 lbs. of boost. Power delivery is smooth and consistent at any throttle position, making boondocking as fun and easy as what you’d find on a naturally aspirated sled. With the turboed CMX-X, when you need that extra 100 hp to get you out of a bad situation, you have it. Hoffman says he has had zero engine problems and zero turbo problems. Dobeck Performance builds CMX’s private label tuning boxes, allowing Hoffman to fuel the engine properly in all conditions, both on and off boost.

The CMX-X features a 16-inch wide track. Hoffman said his experience shows that a one-inch wider track has a greater positive effect on flotation versus a longer track. The common misconception is that a 16-inch wide track makes a sled harder to sidehill, Hoffman said. “There are many factors that affect how a sled handles,” he said. “We have created the proper geometry and ergonomics to make the CMX-X with a 16-inch wide track the easiest sled you will ever ride to lay over, carve and sidehill with.”

CMX Skinz Airframe Running Boards are one inch wider than stock running boards, which gives the rider more leverage, making it easier to use your weight to tip the sled. The custom seat on the CMX-X is built by Skinz and is very easy to do crossover maneuvers on in challenging, technical terrain.

For more information, visit

Views 144
September 24, 2012

Grand Prize Riding

Cashing In on 12 Days of SnoWest

by Steve Janes. Photos by Mikael Berntsson

12 Days of SnoWest WinnerIt could have been the all expense-paid trip to Canada, or spending three days snowmobiling in some of the most exciting locations in North America, or winning a 2013 Ski-Doo Summit 800, or even just being selected from the thousands of snowmobilers who participated in the 12 Days of SnoWest contest.

But for Dan Merritt, just being able to witness a great rider attack extreme terrain was the highlight of his trip to the Carl Kuster Mountain Camp last April.

“I really enjoyed watching good riders,” Merritt explained. “I will never be that good … but I hope I can take away enough to make me a better rider.”

For three days Merritt received personal instruction from Kuster—just part of his grand prize in the 12 Days of SnoWest contest. Although hundreds of snowmobilers received more than $50,000 worth of prizes, it was the grand prize that featured not only winning a 2013 Ski-Doo Summit 800, but having one of the West’s premier snowmobilers offer personal instruction on how to get the maximum performance out of it ... not to mention the all-expense paid trip to the Habanero Lodge in Malakwa, BC.

Kuster’s riding camp is designed to provide a unique one-on-one instruction experience for snowmobilers. Kuster tailors his riding course to the level of those he’s teaching, pushing them just beyond their comfort zone. For three days Merritt was able to receive non-stop insight to make him mentally and physically better prepared for extreme riding.

For three days Merritt rode with Kuster, studying his riding techniques and learning first-hand from one of the industry’s top terrain rider/instructors. Merritt found that riding in terrain can be somewhat intimidating … but also that once you start breaking the technical riding down into segments, what once appeared impossible is now something that can become somewhat routine.

Another great thing about Merritt’s experience is that all of his riding was done on a 2013 Ski-Doo Summit—much like the new snowmobile he will be picking up this fall.

Merritt is a 49-year-old battalion chief for the Missoula Rural Fire District and has been a snowmobiler since 2004.

Dan Merritt (left) and Carl Kuster (right)Oh Canada

CKMP is located in the Monashee Mountain Range of British Columbia. With an annual snowfall of more than 60 feet, this area is considered British Columbia’s top snowmobiling destination.

Kuster purchased a large portion of land with a small lodge to provide a staging area for his commercial snowmobile training business. With a history in snowmobile racing (Kuster has won two gold medals at the Winter X Games) Kuster uses his vast knowledge and experience in snowmobiling to provide a higher level of rider training. His idea for a “Mountain Park” stemmed from his passion for the backcountry and his love for recreational motorized vehicles.

The Habanero Lodge is located about 90 miles north of Kelowna, 50 miles southwest of Revelstoke. He also uses two other locations depending on the snow season.

The mystic about Canada is in the height of the mountains (not necessarily elevation). Where most western snowmobilers are used to starting at 6,000 feet in elevation and riding up to 10,000 feet, British Columbia is an area where the base of the mountains starts at about 1,500 feet elevation and climbs up over 10,000 feet. Thus, the mountains are not just 4,000 feet tall, but more than doubled.

When snowmobiling began to become a popular recreation activity in the 1970s, most riding started in the lower elevations. Due to snow depths, most of the riding was restricted to trails. But once the technology finally caught up to the snowmobile industry (read more power and deep profile tracks), then the riding climbed out of the treeline and onto the steep slopes.

The country near Revelstoke, BC, is vast and endless. From any given mountain peak you can see unlimited riding possibilities. Although there are those popular areas where snowmobilers tend to congregate, there are so many little drainages and play areas where you can go to find fresh untracked snow.

For Merritt, his first experience riding in British Columbia was well beyond his expectations. As he mildly put it after three days of riding, this country just goes on forever. It can be very intimidating, very daunting.

(left to right) Steve Janes, Dan Merritt, and Carl KusterDay 1

Although Kuster was eager to offer instruction, he wanted to get a feel of the riding level of this small group consisting of himself, Merritt, Steve Janes (SnoWest Magazine) and Mikael Berntsson (photographer).

About midway between Malakwa and Revelstoke on highway BC-1 is an area just south of Three Valley that features a very scenic ride.

As with most “locals,” Kuster treats this particular location as one of his secret play areas and wouldn’t offer detailed information about its location. But let’s just say it offers a great look down on Revelstoke and puts you up next to some of the various glaciers that are scattered across British Columbia.

Most of the first day’s ride was designed to see some country. It was a mellow ride to allow Merritt to get familiar with the Ski-Doo … after all, that’s what he will be riding this winter.

The group would ride a ways, then Kuster would take the time to point out features in the area that made it unique. He would also explain how to read the snow conditions and what to look for to avoid dangerous situations. He would also show Merrit the features of the new Ski-Doo—adjustments that could be made to fine-tune handling and performance.

Kuster made it a point not to overwhelm Merritt with information—just a little here and a little there. In fact, prior to the ride Kuster only offered two riding keys: 1) Take time when riding into a new area to look around and make a mental map of the terrain layout (notice terrain features that you may want to explore … and terrain features you certainly want to avoid); 2) Always maintain momentum (a moving sled is less likely to spin out than a stopped sled).

As the day progressed and as Merritt became more familiar with his sled, Kuster started taking more aggressive lines and climbs—forcing Merritt a little bit out of his comfort zone and allowing him to build more confidence in riding in more extreme terrain.

To avoid overwhelming Merritt with continuous white-knuckle riding, Kuster found areas throughout the day where Merritt could park and rest while Kuster and the others could play around on the terrain features. And Kuster would put on a show by creating jumps from any and every bump in the snow—sending his sled soaring through the air like a guided missile, only to gracefully land several dozen feet away as though it was a scripted event.

It was a great day for photos, a great day for riding and a perfect day for this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

A view from a British Columbia ridge topDay 2

Although you would always want clear blue skies for snowmobiling, there is a reason British Columbia boast such an impressive snow depth … it snows. And the second day fell upon a new storm front moving into the area which would last through the remainder of the trip.

With a low cloud cover which hovered throughout the area, Kuster knew that the best option for riding would be in the trees. Eagle Pass is a very popular destination that features a combination of steep terrain and open hills. In previous years, forest fires had burnt a large area in Eagle Pass, leaving behind an area scattered with charred trees, stripped mostly of their branches, that serve as a stark contrast with the pure white snow.

In other words, Eagle Pass represents the perfect riding location in flat light. You have contrast with the darkened trees. You don’t have to fight tree branches as you choose lines up the slopes.

The trailhead for Eagle Pass is off BC 1 at a highway maintenance gravel pit area on the East Perry River forest service road. The trail in is about 15 miles which dumps out at a place called Gas Drop. Since it was a Thursday, we were the only ones to drop our gas cans prior to heading cross country through the trees and into the various meadows and snow-covered lakes of the area.

For Day 2 riding keys, Kuster instructed Merritt to “break things down into steps.”

Kuster said to always try to square up to the slope, especially if you don’t know the area, so you don’t shoot over a ride and fall 1000 feet off a cornice. Also, you want to see where parts of the hill levels out. That way you can ride from one level area to the next—allowing you an opportunity to stop, regroup and reassess your line.

Kuster said the same holds true in descending a steep slope.

By midway through the second day, Kuster was offering a little more advanced training, such as how to drop off cornices. The reason for this, as Kuster explained, is sometimes you may find yourself in a position where the only way out is off something steep. It’s better if you have a comfort level of knowing that you’re capable of making such a drop.

“I think the one thing that really made a lot of sense to me was to break up the terrain into segments,” Merritt explained. “Always leave yourself with some outs. Let the terrain work to your advantage.”

At first, the cornice drop was something that challenged Merritt a little farther than he was willing to go. Although the cornice Kuster selected was relatively safe—more of a vertical face than a curled face and with a gentle roll-out at the bottom—the flat light gave it the impression that you were dropping off the face of the earth.

“When it came time to go off the cornice, all I could think about was my three kids and the fact that I have to be at work Monday,” Merritt explained. This would have to be a lesson that would be pushed back to the third day of riding.

Dan Merritt, grand prize winner, 12 Days of SnoWestDay 3

On the final morning of the third day of riding, Kuster chose to return again to Eagle Pass because of the visibility. It had rained most of the previous day and night in the lower elevations, taking its toll on snow levels near the trailhead.

The lower end of the East Perry River trail had patches of dirt, mud and solid ice blended into the snowmobile trail. Since it was late in the season (mid-April), the grooming had ceased and moguls were starting to multiply, making the ride more of an obstacle course.

What made the 15 miles bearable was the knowledge of the deep snow and great riding that await at the top end of the trail. By the third day, Merritt had improved his confidence on the Ski-Doo and was becoming much more aggressive, even through the bumpy trails.

Again, when the group reached Gas Drop, ours were the only cans tucked off the trail. On the trip out later in the day, Gas Drop showed why it acquired such a name. There were more than two dozen red plastic fuel containers littering both sides of the trail.

On Day 3, once again Kuster worked with Merritt to improve his riding techniques and increase his ability to recognize and read the terrain. More challenging lines were followed. A lot more sidehilling was required. And ultimately, a cornice was dropped.

By the time Merritt headed out, he was confident that he would be ready to take his new Ski-Doo Summit 800 out this coming season and continue to expand his riding abilities.

In all, Merritt logged about 135 miles in the three days. But his experience wasn’t just limited to the time he spent on the snow.

For three days Kuster and his small staff at the Habanero Lodge were most gracious and accommodating. Kuster brought in a professional chef, Dana Root, to do all cooking for the group throughout the three days. And it must be noted that the meals where as impressive as any five-star restaurant.

Kelly Grant serves as Kuster’s assistant and makes certain the snowmobiles are all in prime condition for each ride. Tony Parisi was also brought in on the third day to assist in guiding.

Indeed for Merritt, it was an opportunity of a lifetime … sort of like a Christmas wish come true. And he’s already envious of this year’s 12 Days of SnoWest winner. And you can bet he’ll have his entry card filled out … just in case lightning strikes twice.

Views 121
September 24, 2012

Product Test: EVS Sports

EVS Sports SV1 Trail Protective Snow Vest

SV1 Trail Protective Snow VestRiding a motorized toy without core protection is risky business. Throw in the fact that handlebars are in the belly button to sternum region during stand-up riding on today’s snowmobiles and it’s obvious how important torso protection is.

And if you have ever experienced a rib injury you are well aware of how excruciatingly painful it is. This is where the SV1 Trail Protective Snow Vest comes into play, exponentially reducing the possible injury—and resulting pain—and recovery time inflicted by sudden impact to the rib, sternum and clavicle areas of your body’s core.

We learned this firsthand at the new snowmobile evaluations last March in West Yellowstone, MT, when one of our test jockeys became partially separated from his ride and then came back to it. Fortunately for him, he was wearing the SV1 as his newfound but unwanted riding position had his rib cage matched up with the running board roll edge. Without the SV1 in place, this little adventure would have resulted in a guaranteed trip to the hospital and a shortened riding season. We know of another unfortunate soul who experienced our same fate the next day and was obviously not wearing a protective vest.

As for the SnoWest tester, he was able to shake off enough pain and regain his breath in around 15 minutes to climb back on his pony and continue on.

The SV1 Trail Protective Snow Vest construction utilizes a durable Ballistic nylon and Ballistic mesh outer shell, matched up with puncture resistant internal EVA and PP armor. The compact and lightweight design of the SV1 includes a zippered front closure to accommodate easy on/off, adjustable side straps for a precise torso adjustment fit and a removable wind stopper fleece collar to keep the light fluff and frigid air out on those particular days.

Other goodies included with the attractive red on black styling are the Hi-Vis reflective piping along with a RECCO Avalanche Rescue System transmitter and an ignition kill tether attachment loop.

The SV1 is available in three size ranges including: extra small/small (up to 125-pound rider); medium/large (125-175-pound rider); extra large/XX L (175 lbs. and up) and is very competitively priced at $200 retail.

Company: EVS Sports

Views 146
September 20, 2012

Tis’ The Season

Steve Janes Blog

           Fall is a great time of year for outdoor enthusiasts. The weather is outstanding (especially in eastern Idaho where fall weather is unquestionably the most pleasant time of the year). The kids are back in school so everyone’s schedule becomes much more predictable.

            It’s hunting time. The end of yard work is approaching. Some of the world’s best fishing is happening. And the snowmobile season is just around the corner.

Although it’s not officially “riding” season … it’s close enough to winter that we can start polishing up the sled and making any modifications for this year.

Fall is the time of year when men traditionally do men things—watching football, killing elk, and letting the grass grow. It’s harvest time. It’s when men proclaim the work is done and play begins.

It’s the season for snowmobile shows—whether it be in Washington, Colorado, Utah, Idaho or a number of other locations across the snowbelt; where we can spend a day or two looking at what’s new and rubbing shoulders with other enthusiasts.

It’s a time when the days get shorter, the football flies farther and the nights get colder. Life slows down a bit, allowing us to reflect on the past, and anticipate the future.

It’s fall. Do you know where your snowmobile is?


Views 128
September 20, 2012

SnoWest Newsletter - Sept. 20th, 2012

Making Tracks

Just how long is too long? When it comes to powering through deep mountain powder, just how much track can you run on a snowmobile?

That's always the 100 dollar question for sled designers. Track length has to be balanced with the ability to steer the snowmobile with the power to turn the track. And over the years, as technology improved in engine performance and suspension, the length of snowmobile tracks extended.

Ted George, friend in Jackson, WY, has toyed with this concept for several years. For the past two winters he has ridden his Polaris Pro RMK 800 with his own designed 189-inch track. And he has been very satisfied with the results.

This season he's toying with a 201-inch track. He's excited to test it. We're excited to see what he finds. It's always refreshing to see the innovations that come from the unique individuals within the snowmobile industry.

Just how long is too long? We're not sure we've gotten to that point yet.

View the Complete SnoWest Newsletter – Sept. 20th 2012

Views 133
September 18, 2012

And The Award Goes To...

SnoWest Magazine names its favorite features

the SnoWest Staff

Not that anyone has been keeping track, but it’s been 10 years since we last gave out awards of any kind in SnoWest Magazine.

Oh, we’ve talked about our favorite sled or favorite this or that part, but nothing where we’ve placed the official “award” moniker to it.

Well, we’re back in the award biz—sort of. We’re not going to tell you what the sled of the year is—we’ll wait until the snow dust settles from the Deep Powder Challenge later this winter to do that. But there is some excellent hardware on the western slopes these days with unique innovations. We wanted to highlight the little things that make snowmobiles work so well in extreme conditions, and some not-so-little things. You’ll agree with some while others might get your dander up a bit. That’s okay. Not even all of the SnoWest SnowTest staff agreed on everything but it was fun to “discuss” it as we generally settled on the major highlights of various mountain sleds.

We have created 28 awards that are likely overlooked by those other publications that like giving awards.

So here is what we think of various pieces and parts of each snowmobile manufacturer’s mountain machines.

Cat Awards

Vertical SteeringVertical: The New Horizontal Award: Vertical Steering

Back in the day, most snowmobilers kept their butts firmly planted on the seat and “drove” snowmobiles. But somewhere along the way riders started getting up off the seat and began riding their sleds. Cat realized that vertical steering allowed a rider to move around the sled more easily and provided more consistent handling in turning. So by moving the steering post more upright, it allowed a more consistent horizontal turn for the bars … unless of course you were pointing straight up a mountain, which then turned the post horizontal and the bars vertical … if you get the picture.

4-Stroke TurboTower Of Power Award: 4-Stroke Turbo

Arctic Cat features the strongest stock engine in the industry with the 4-stroke turbo. This monster produces 177 hp at 7850 rpm with 121-ft-lbs. of torque at 7300 rpm—regardless of elevation or temperature. The intercooled turbo works off 9 psi of boost while a waste gate control valve regulates intake pressure to reduce turbo lag.



PowerClaw TrackRiverboat Casino Award: PowerClaw Track

The 2.6-inch PowerClaw Track offers the thrust of a riverboat paddle … but once you point it up a mountain, the rest of your ride you’re gambling with gravity. This track works to get you up on top of the snow and up on top of the mountain. It’s like you’re gambling with gravity every time you point it up.



ProClimb ChassisHolding The Line Award: ProClimb Chassis

There is nothing like the balance of the Cat. You pull it on its side and you can keep it there all day. The ProClimb chassis features a neutrally-balanced rider position on an ultra-rigid and strong platform. There is no unpredictability in this chassis. It is responsive and consistent. You pick the line and it will stay where you want it.

Tall SpindlesSears Tower Award: Tall Spindles

Spindles are as tall as the Sears Tower (especially when compared to industry norms). But the new design replaces the two-mounting-hole design with one mounting hole that is located 15mm closer to the spindle for a 15 percent increase in turning radius. The one-piece forged spindles are designed to reduce force/load transfer by allowing a longer distance between the upper and lower A-arms.

Telescopic SteeringReach For The Sky Award: Telescopic Steering

Whether you are tall or short, the telescopic steering post puts the handlebars right where you want them. The M 800 Sno Pro and HCR models feature a quick-adjusting Telescoping Steering system that allows you to position your bars exactly where you want them at that moment and quickly readjust them to the changing conditions. There are a dozen different setting locations (in 3/8-inch increments) accessible by a simple hand-operated locking collar.


Front-Only Heat ExchangerThe Heat Is On Award: Front-Only Heat Exchanger

Cat’s cooling system is designed to not only effectively cool the engine, but to create enough heat to eliminate ice buildup in the tunnel. The HCR-style front-only heat exchanger eliminates 5 lbs. of dry weight while potentially preventing up to 50 lbs. of ice build-up weight. This is like using a problem to solve a problem; efficiency in engineering.


Yamaha Awards

Ascent TrackOther Side Of The Tracks Award: Ascent Track

While the competition is based in the 2-stroke world, Yamaha designed the Ascent Track to deal with the power of a 4-stroke. The tips of the track lugs flex enough to allow the Ascent Track to get up on top of the snow. The lower two-thirds of the lug are designed to provide the thrust necessary to propel the sled forward, even when the track is powered on boost. Throw in a pair of single-piece extrovert drive sprockets and you have less rotating mass and decreased vibration.

ClutchingCool Under Pressure Award: Clutching

Yamaha doesn’t just put a clutch on its 4-stroke engines. Engineers literally match the clutch to the power of the engine to make them more efficient. By designing a clutch to operate at lower rpm, Yamaha has reduced heat and stress created between the clutches and drive belt. So you end up with better belt wear, better belt life and less engine heat build-up..


DurabilityClean, One Owner Award: Durability

No other sled allows you to the kind of dependability like Yamaha does. Putting 30,000 to 50,000 miles on the sled isn’t a problem with the sled … but it may be a problem with you if you don’t get out and ride. A powerful 4-stroke engine with advanced fuel injection provides spot-on power response when you flick the throttle. This sled was built to last. You don’t see many used 4-stroke Yamahas on the market, but when you do you know they are likely clean, one owner … who may or may not have only driven them on Sundays to church.

ProMountain Air Rear SuspensionCalling In Air Support Award: ProMountain Air Rear Suspension

The Nytro MTX features a totally redesigned rear suspension that is highlighted with Fox Float shocks for lightweight performance. The front suspension also features Fox Floats which eliminates steel coil springs, making the entire suspension cleaner and lighter. Once you figure out your own personal optimum setting, you feel like you’re flying through the air just looking for moguls or snow drifts to attack.

Yamaha Extended ServiceSatisfaction Guaranteed Award: Yamaha Extended Service

Does Yamaha offer the best service package in the industry? Say YES—Yamaha Extended Service. This package is designed to cover repair costs, towing fees, even replacement rental costs so you are never out any time on the snow. It’s a transferable protection service which increases the resale value of your snowmobile over the life of the sled. You can’t beat that.

Electric StartGentlemen: Start Your Engines Award: Electric Start

It’s nice to have a “turn key” operation. Every Yamaha snowmobile comes with electric start … which means they don’t come with a rope on a handle. Yamaha’s fuel injection system is designed to provide superior starting performance, even in extreme cold temperatures where a rich air/fuel mixture is necessary for instantaneous ignition.


Excellent Resale ValueBlue Light Special Award: Excellent Resale Value

No other snowmobile holds its resale value like a Yamaha. Since 2002, Yamaha has offered advances in 4-stroke engine design technology, just one of the reasons that Yamaha snowmobiles have maintained high resale values. Something as simple as Yamaha’s 3-cylinder low-pressure casting upper case and closed-deck type cylinder structure offers a functional lightweight design while accommodating a complex high tech powerplant.

Polaris Top Features

Pro Ride ChassisSide Show Award: Pro Ride Chassis

Backcountry mountain riding isn’t about cruising down the trail to an open hillside and climbing it 30 times. It’s about pointing the front bumper in one direction and conquering any terrain you come across in the next 30 miles. The Polaris Pro Ride chassis is as comfortable on its side as it is flat on its skis. That means you can sidehill it for miles, through ruts, across hard ridges, over rocks and rotten snow … we’ve tried it all and if you’ve got a three-mile canyon with a nasty V-bottom to avoid, the Polaris will stick to the sidehill like a moth to a TV screen.

PowderTrac Running BoardsWhat's Missing Award: PowderTrac Running Boards

What’s missing is the annoying and heavy buildup of snow and ice on the running board. Half of the area on Polaris’ new extruded aluminum running boards is open for maximum snow evacuation. What’s not missing is the squishy feel of a flexible running board thanks to the PowderTrac’s rigid design. Careful here: jump the seat and miss the boards with your boot once and you’ll be giving it the Shredded Shins award.

Pro RMKConfidence Booster Award: Pro RMK

We’ve all been there: a weak moment on the rider’s part puts the sled in a sticky situation. It seems like it’s easiest to get out of a jam when you’re on the Pro RMK. The combination of its rigid chassis, smooth power delivery, throttle response and quick reaction to rider input make it go where it’s told to go, leaving the rider feeling like he can conquer anything. Almost anything.

QuickDrive Low Inertia Drive SystemYanking My Chain Award: QuickDrive Low Inertia Drive System

Polaris is yanking your chain for 2013—yanking it right off of the Pro RMK. The chain and chaincase are replaced with the QuickDrive Low Inertia Drive System, which is a lot of words for saying belt drive. The result is a 21 percent reduction in inertia which, according to Polaris, translates to 5 lbs. less effort the rider has to exert to flick the sled around. The QuickDrive includes the extruded drive shaft, lightweight brake disc and maintenance-free belt drive.


Pro Lite SeatBest-Designed, Least-Used Feature Award: Pro Lite Seat

Least-used feature? If you’re using the seat as a chair while you ride the western Rockies, you’re doing it wrong. Mountain sled seat design is changing to keep it out of the way as you hop from side to side and swing your leg across. The 2013 Pro RMK’s Pro Lite seat is shorter (lengthwise) by 5.5 inches, allowing you to easily swing a leg from one side to the other. It’s also 3.75-inches wider with a flatter area for more comfortable sitting. Ok, we get tired at the end of the day, too.

2013 Pro RMK 155Lightest Sled On The Mountain Award: 2013 Pro RMK 155

We’ve been demanding lighter mountain snowmobiles since … well, since the first one. Weights have fluctuated for decades, but Polaris has managed to keep its Pro RMK weight numbers headed in the right direction without any major compromise in durability. For that Polaris deserves credit. We’ve always wanted a 400-pound dry weight mountain sled and the 2013 Pro RMK 800 155 is within 17 lbs. of that.

Carbon Fiber OverstructureHigh Carbon Fiber Diet Award: Carbon Fiber Overstructure

Polaris feels that a rider exerts less energy and therefore rides better longer into the day if the chassis is both rigid and lightweight. Then the company put its money where its mouth is and designed a carbon fiber overstructure to lighten up the Pro Ride chassis while maintaining its rigidity. It’s a diet plan we can stick with.


Ski-Doo Awards

Ski-Doo Summit Rev XMGame Changer Award: Ski-Doo Summit Rev XM

The widely-heralded King of the Mountain—the Polaris Pro RMK—might just be looking over its shoulder this winter as the Summit X will be breathing down its snow flap and hot on its trail. The Summit X is that good and should challenge the RMK’s western dominance. It’s going to be a fun battle to watch—and participate in.



FlexEdge TrackFlexible Rate Award: FlexEdge Trade

Just like a flexible rate mortgage allows you to control and manage your monthly payments, Ski-Doo’s innovative new track gives you the flexibility to do what you want to do when you want to do it and how you want to do it. You are in control of the sled in all kinds of terrain and in all kinds of conditions from deep powder to hard pack.

The track, which is still 16 inches wide, uses fiberglass reinforcing rods that are only 12 inches wide, which means the outside two inches on each side of the track flexes, allowing easier roll-up and giving the sled some “bite” while sidehilling. Think of it as having the maneuverability of a narrow track and the flotation of a wide track.

Rotax E-Tec 800R EngineMr. Clean Award: Rotax E-Tec 800R Engine

There’s a reason you don’t hear any arguments as to which sled manufacturer has the cleanest 2-stroke engine. Plain and simple, it’s Ski-Doo. Not only is the E-Tec the cleanest two-stroke on the snow, it’s the most powerful in the 800cc class with a claimed 163.9 hp.

There is virtually no smoke or smell, even when firing the sled up or while the sled is idling and the E-Tec has the lowest emissions of any 800 on the market. E-Tec technology also helps the engine to be a leader in low oil consumption.

Ergonomics on the Rev XMLocation, Location, Location Award: New Sled Ergonomics On The Rev XM

Wow, where to start. Much of mountain riding has to do with where the rider is on the machine. Body position makes a lot of difference in deep powder riding, sidehilling, hillclimbing. To get the rider farther forward on the Rev XM chassis, Ski-Doo made changes to the area at the front of the running boards. Riders can now put their feet 8 inches farther forward on the running boards compared to the Rev XP chassis. Speaking of running boards, Ski-Doo has redesigned those as well, giving 87 percent more surface opening to allow the snow to fall through and your feet stay planted instead of slipping around. The extrusions are taller on the edges and three times stronger than the Rev XP extrusion.

The days of planting your butt in the seat for lengthy periods of time are long gone as mountain riders want a seat to be there for an occasional rest and not be in the way when jumping from one side to the other. The seat on the Rev XM is shorter by a whopping six inches and a half-inch shorter height-wise. Bonus: there’s still a small storage compartment.

tMotion Rear SuspensionMotion To Recess Award: tMotion Rear Suspension

Recess as in taking the work out of mountain riding. Rolling the Summit up on its side to play in the powder or sidehill has never been easier and is just about as simple as shifting your body weight to the uphill side. Keeping it up is just as easy. No more does the sled want to lay flat on the snow and the rider struggling to keep the sled tipped up.

The tMotion uses an inventive mix of features to accomplish this, including a ball joint on the rear scissor arm and split front arm that allow the skid frame to flex laterally while allowing four degrees rotation movement of the whole rear skid for easy sidehilling.

Pilot DS 2 SkisSki No Evil Award: Pilot DS 2 Skis

We’ve had plenty of evil (that’s kind of strong, but probably true) things to say about previous Ski-Doo skis but with the new DS 2 skis you will hear no evil from us. The DS 2 skis have a deeper keel while the back of the ski is now flat rather than tipped up like the DS. The flat back helps cure the Summit of wanting to creep up a hill when you’re sidehilling. The skis are also shorter behind the spindle, which helps in countersteering. The skis are a nice complement to the tMotion Rear Suspension and FlexEdge Track.

Engine Throttle ResponseFirst Responder Award: Engine Throttle Response

We must be pretty impressed with the Rotax E-Tec engine to give it two awards. Darn impressed. We already crowed about it having the most power on the snow but what’s equally as impressive is its smooth-as-butter throttle response and broad powerband. The E-Tec power flat-out gets you where you want to go regardless of whether you need to blast up a mountainside or feather it through the trees.

Views 739
September 18, 2012

What's The Real Story?

Sal Caccavallo, Gendive, MT

Dear Editor:

What’s the real story? In January’s issue, Volume 39, No. 1, page 19 [“Project MLC (Mid-Life Crisis), SnoWest] Project Mid-Life Crisis has the new [Polaris] RMK 155 at a staggering 530 lbs.

Then on page 26 [“Project Xtreme Mountain King: Breaking The 400- Pound Barrier,” SnoWest, January, 2012] the same sled is listed as 431 lbs. Which is true?

Keep up the great work.

(ED—The numbers you’re referring to are wet vs. dry weight. The smaller number is dry—no coolant, no oil, no fluids whatsoever in the sled.)

Views 56
Pioneer Country Travel Council

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