Okay, I do. I need a long track. But not all the time. In fact, sometimes it's more fun to whip around on a mod shorty than to lumber through the easy terrain on a sled that's as long as a Peterbuilt. My side of the argument is that out West, a powerful, lightweight short track play sled can put a bigger smile on your face, even though that smile could wear off a little each time you get the shorty stuck.
If you're building a backcountry play sled, you have to start with the right platform. We knew that platform should be a race chassis. This opens the doors to the Arctic Cat Sno Pro, the Polaris SP or the Ski-Doo Z X. For backcountry riding, things like a five-gallon fuel tank won't cut it. There isn't a bolt-on 10-gallon tank for the Polaris IQ SP chassis, so we were left to decide between the Cat and the Ski-Doo. More parts were readily available for the Ski-Doo (and Arctic Cat didn't build any new chassis for '07), so we went with a Z X rolling chassis, which features several reinforcements compared to a standard Rev chassis.
Now for power. You don't want a 440 unless you are racing it and you really don't want to be stuck with a 440 after this season. Next year's racing rules open the stock class up to 600ccs, so the 440 will be obsolete in about 10 months. We could have gone with a crate stock engine from Ski-Doo, but the opportunity to get our hands on a factory 600 Open Mod twin (the same engine that Steve Martin and Blair Morgan use) came up so we jumped at it.
From there, we added replacement front arms from ARS-FX, Fox Float X Evol shocks from Toms Snowmobiles, nitrous system and an oxygen sensor gauge from Boondocker, carbon wrap snocross bars and 7-inch risers from Fly Racing, studs and carbide wear bars from Stud Boy, Holeshot skid plate from Sportech, windshield and hand guards from PowerMadd, skis from C&A Pro, a lightweight Mountain Fit Hood painted by Russell Custom Paint and vent kits from Starting Line Products.
All of this was built inside Rexburg Motor Sports' Mod Shop.
Now, back to why a short track can be more fun than a big mountain sled. There are things a long track can do that this sled can't and there are things this sled can do that no mod mountain sled can do. What this sled can't do very well is break trails. It goes through deep powder like a cat swimming back to shore after being tossed in a lake (not that we've ever witnessed that first-hand). It doesn't like being held wide open for large portions of an hour at a time trying to claw its way up the trail following a snow storm. So here's what you do: let guys like Steve Janes use their fancy mod mountain sled to do all the hard work. Then, when you break into the high country and the terrain spreads out into the open bowls, cornice's and ridges, you can take advantage of the maneuverability of the short track.
It's funny. Last time we took this project sled on a mountain ride, no one really had much interest in riding it for the first part of the ride. Not surprising. We had to break trail for a couple thousand feet of elevation through two to three feet of snow. But, once we got up to the fun part of the hill, where you could do everything from climb and boondock to jump and launch over lifters and land in three feet of feathers, everyone had a sudden interest in riding this sled.
In fact, even when it's just sitting in the shop or out in the trailer, it attracts more attention from the "Now that would be fun to ride, mind if I try it sometime" crowd.
So for once, I'll be content to follow Steve's tracks and let him boast about how he always has to break trail for me. Because I know that as soon as we get up to a high-country play area and the hills roll and the cornice's curl, Steve's going to pull up next to me, step off of his Project Puff and say "trade me."
And what will I do? Laugh, shake my head and tear off, ripping over the untouched kickers with Steve standing there in the snow holding up his arms?
I'll hand it over, hop on Steve mountain mod and take my turn punching up the hill.
Besides, the shorty was stuck anyway-did I forget to mention that to Steve?
You can get a full review of Project SX in the fall issues of SledHeads Magazine, due out on newsstands this fall.