Monthly Archives: April 2014

SKI_DOO 1964 ad


Welcome to the first installment of our feature series “Vintage Sled.” This will be a regular feature next winter joining the “Trail In Focus” and “Destination” articles along with the latest snow conditions, ride recaps and whatever else comes across our 2-stroke exhaust saturated minds. For this feature, I will be highlighting random vintage sleds for random reasons- could one of your old sleds be featured? Tune in to find out.

Being an ex history major I feel that it is important to know where we came from in order to better understand where we are going. The history of snowmobiling is a fascinating one and I continue to be blown away by the huge leaps forward in technology that the sport takes on an almost yearly basis. This may be one of the reasons that vintage snowmobile shows have become so popular- despite the nostalgia of looking at the wide variety of sleds that existed during snowmobiling’s first golden age, you can also see some important milestones in snowmobile development. Here are just a few things that we take for granted now but at the time of their inception were cutting edge technology.

1. The “modern” snowmobile.


Yes, there were snow traveling vehicles before the first Ski-Doo hit the snow but nothing that looked like this. The first Ski-Doo served as a template of how snowmobiles should be built: engine in the front with a clutch and drive belt system powering an endless rubber track and two skis in front to steer with. The Ski-Doo was so successful and dominated the market so thoroughly that other snowmobile manufacturers were forced to copy Bombardier’s design. Although technology has advanced dramatically over the past 55 years, the basic concept dreamed up in Joseph-Armand Bombardier’s mind has not changed.

2. Slide rail Suspension.


When Arctic Cat rolled out the first slide rail suspension in 1967 on the Arctic Cat Panther there were many people that wondered how two metal runners could provide a better ride than bogey wheels. Multiple sets of bogey wheels had been the only way to support a track and now Arctic Cat had to convince us that not only was a slide rail a better way to support a track but that it provided a more consistent and comfortable ride as well. Just like the first Ski-Doo, Arctic Cat’s suspension proved to be so successful that eventually all of the other manufacturers were forced to follow their lead and Arctic Cat shocked the execs at Bombardier by riding the slide rail suspension to market dominance by the mid 70′s.

3. Independent Front Suspension.


A product of the racetrack and an idea that had been toyed with by other manufacturers in multiple forms with various degrees of success was finally perfected by Polaris and confidently brought to the consumer market with their 1980 TX-L Indy. Like most new innovations, the Indy had its share of naysayers. Critics were convinced that the trailing arm was just too odd looking and that it could easily fall victim to rocks and stumps. Luckily for Polaris, critics and competitors do not make the buying decisions- consumers do, and once the snowmobiling public experienced the Indy’s vastly superior ride quality, they flocked to Polaris in droves and Indy’s flew out the door as fast as Polaris could make them. The groundbreaking front suspension of the Indy combined with the growing organized trail systems in Canada and the US launched snowmobiling into its second golden age in the 90′s. Polaris enjoyed market dominance for over a decade making the Indy the best selling snowmobile model in history. While Polaris was riding high, the other manufacturers scrambled to catch up, working on multiple IFS designs of their own. Arctic Cat held fast on its A arm suspension eventually perfecting it and the A arm has since replaced the trailing arm in all of today’s sleds.

4. Rider Forward.


The running theme here is sleds that bring something to the market that forces everyone else to follow suit. Ski-Doo did just that in 2003 with its MXZ on the new rev chassis. As with the slide rail and the trailing arm, the Rev Chassis was met with a huge up swell of resistance. It looked way too funky for traditionalists and when you sat on it in the showroom it felt more like a motorcycle than a snowmobile. The other manufacturers scoffed at the radical Ski-Doo design, content to keep punching out the tried and true traditional looking sleds. Just like the aforementioned Indy, however, the Rev chassis proved its worth on the trail, delivering a ride that was beyond compare and far beyond the capabilities of the old design. Overnight Ski-Doo catapulted to the top of the market leaving the other manufacturers in shell shock and scrambling to catch up.

What new innovation will be next? What groundbreaking technology will usher in the next chapter of snowmobiling? Only time will tell, and someday even the technologically advanced sleds of today will have the “Vintage” tag on them.



April gave us a little bit of extra riding with a storm on April 3rd that dumped an additional 11 inches of snow on Duluth. Naturally I showed up at the headquarters with my backup sled after blowing up my primary sled just a week before (ironically during another Thursday late season storm). This storm had some real teeth, featuring high winds and an inch an hour snowfall. This made visibility a little bit tough- all you could see of the guy ahead of you was the track he left behind preceded by a cloud of snow dust with an occasional flicker of light in the darkness. The farther we rode the deeper the snow became- at first just three or four inches, then five, then six, then seven, until at last we were plowing through over a foot of fresh powder, enough to make it come over the nose of the sled and blacken out your headlight. Who would have ever guessed we would be stand up powder riding on April 3rd! After 47 miles of trail breaking and busting through some four foot snowdrifts that occasionally cropped up over the trail we decided to call it quits both for the night and as it turned out for me- the season.

After a week of forty plus degree temperatures and the fact that it is nearly mid April it looks like the winter is over. It should be noted, however, that as of this writing, there are still 26 inches of snow on the ground and most of the trails up here still have snow cover. Since the end has come, the question for most snowmobilers is Now What?

This is always a confusing time of year for me because all winter long my weekends have been planned out- now I am suddenly left with two whole days a week to get things done. First I put my gear away, making a note of things I need to replace, then I buzz down to the dealer to catch any awesome end of year clearance sales they may have going on. This is when I always find some really cool things for dirt-cheap. Then of course, there is the spring preview of the 2015 sleds. Now that my old Indy has gone to snowmobile heaven, I might actually take advantage of one of the snow check deals. Spring is a good time to buy sleds because the dealers are desperate to get rid of non-currents or if you are going to go new, you can get great incentives on spring buy sleds along with some features that are not offered at any other time of year. If you are in the used market, it is also a good time to gobble up sleds that no one wants to store for the summer.

Once all the snow melts and things dry out a bit I give my sleds a good head to toe wash and wax, summerize them and put them away for the summer, this is usually when I find out that I really destroyed something on my sled during the season that had gone unnoticed because it was covered in snow and ice. Sometimes if I have major work that needs to be done I will do it now so when next season rolls around I am ready to go. Trust me, you don’t want your sled in the shop undergoing a major overhaul when an early season snowstorm hits, especially when you have friends that come over on their sleds and ride around your house several times to remind you of how much fun you are missing out on.

If you are involved in the local clubs, you usually start looking at potential trail work that needs to be done over the summer or groomer repairs. There are also a number of snowmobile charity events out there that start planning for the next season once June hits. I will also start roughly mapping out my weekends for the upcoming season so I can have a game plan in place once it snows. At the beginning of each month I fire up the sleds, it helps keeps things fresh and moving and helps avoid problems in the fall.

After a summer of mowing the lawn, fishing and going to the beach the leaves will start changing and before you know it Hay Days arrives and you start watching the forecast for snow. Every once in a while you can check back here and see what crazy snowmobiling stuff I’m writing about in July. The best way to be alerted to things is to “Like” us on facebook so every time there is a post it will give you an alert. Believe it or not, I still have some stuff to write about to put a bow on this season. Stay tuned!



The winter of 2013-14 has come to a close- the grant-in-aid trail portion of it at least (grant-in-aid trails close April 1st regardless of snow conditions). The far northern reaches of the state are still expecting a ton of snow this week making for some extended saddle time. As for me, my riding is pretty much done- I’ll tell you why in a moment.
Although this winter’s length was somewhat normal compared to the past two awful winters we have had, it was still anything but a normal year. It all started with a massive 28 inch snowfall the first week of December laying down what would prove to be a fantastic base. Snowmobilers all across Minnesota were rejoicing- finally a winter with snow! But then the cold set in… for four months straight. All through Northern Minnesota records fell like dominos: most days in a row below zero, most days with below zero temperatures, numerous daily low temperature records, coldest December, coldest January, coldest February, coldest start to a winter, coldest start to a year, the list goes on and on. Although the cold and snow gave us some of the greatest and most consistent trail conditions I have ever seen, the cold kept many of the less hardy snowmobilers from enjoying them. My wife and daughter, both avid sowmobilers, bailed out on me several times because of the cold. As for me I’ll ride through pretty much anything, but lets face it- it is a lot more fun to ride when it is 20 above zero than it is to ride when it is 20 below zero. Despite the cold I would still take a winter like this one over the past few winters any day.
Then came last week- an end of week snowstorm dumped another eight inches on us and the staffers went out for one of our famous late night rides. The conditions were amazing and I can honestly say it was one of the best rides I had had all year long. We were on the final stretch heading toward home and BAM! my old Indy rolled to a dead stop. Yes ladies and gentlemen, after 7720 miles my Indy was no more. Ironically this was going to be its last year anyway as I was planning on upgrading in the fall but still you hate to see your sled go out that way.
Just because winter is over doesn’t mean that things aren’t still happening at There are still a few more blogs coming your way and we will be making more improvements to the site over the summer so stop by and check out our progress. Next year we have a full slate of articles for you. Starting in October we will be ding a heavy dose of trail in focus and destination articles to get you primed for winter.  Also on tap will be our new vintage sled feature which will be starting within the next few weeks- all of that and trail updates and ride recaps and of course some snowmobile history lessons too, not to mention the regular old blogs that come up when I have to vent about something. Stay tuned- we’ve got a lot of stuff coming up for you next winter ad even a few tidbits this spring and summer. Until next week- if you still have snow- USE IT!