Could a Russian snowmobile be in your future? As a hard-core snowmobiler, maybe or maybe not, but the diminutive model that showed up at the Snow Goer corporate offices recently could have some appeal to ice fishing enthusiasts, ranchers, so-called “tweeners” coming off of 120cc youth sleds and others.
The snowmobile is called an Irbis T150, and it is being shopped to powersports dealerships in the Upper Midwest. It’s a 150cc four-stroke utility-focused machine from a company that has a long history in Russia, though the actual model we saw was built in China. It’s about a 2/3rd-size vehicle – smaller than most modern snowmobiles but larger than the 120 and now 200cc-class snowmobiles being offered by the big four manufacturers.
Coming on the heels of the King snowmobiles and Taotao SnowLeopard that have made appearances in recent years on North American soil, it does beg the question over whether the snowmobile industry will have a mini invasion of off-shore product similar to what happened in the ATV/UTV market. Most of those brands faded, but some have held strong.
Dave Auringer, a longtime powersports industry insider who has been at BRP, Excelsior Henderson, Indian and CF Moto, swung by the Snow Goer offices with a model on his way to visit dealerships with the machine.
“They are gauging the interest in the U.S.,” Auringer said of his clients at Irbis. “It’s a basic machine that the industry doesn’t have right now – something that could appeal to ice fishermen, ranchers, kids or anybody who wants a machine they can just sit on, start, shift and go.” It will have an MSRP of $2,499 and will be available in yellow, red, blue, orange or green.
The T150 has been on the market in Russia for five years and was introduced into Scandinavia in 2016, with total sales of about 30,000 units, Irbis officials say. The vehicle has a dual A-arm ski suspension and a short nose, with minimal bodywork up front. A narrow, U-shaped handlebar sits in front of a small fuel tank and then a bench seat. Riders’ feet go on squared off running boards on an open tunnel, with a spacious rack in back.
The rear suspension features two arms, each controlled by a coil-over shock. The spec dry weight is 330 pounds, which seemed believable when we grabbed the machine and move it around outside of the trailer – it’s definitely heavier than the current youth sleds but lighter than any current adults sleds.
Twisting the key, the machine came to life and sounded utilitarian. A shifter lever near the driver’s right knee controlled forward, neutral and reverse. The engine makes 9.25 hp at 7500 rpm and top speed is 25 mph, Irbis officials say. So yeah, we wouldn’t expect anybody to many enthusiasts to walk away from their Sidewinder, MXZ 850, Pro-RMK or ZR 8000 to fall in love with one of these buggies. But could they introduce new people to snowmobiling or serve as a sort of tweener snowmobile for teenagers? Time will tell. We’ve only seen it in a parking lot in August, so we don’t have any ride impressions — we just unloaded it and positioned it for photos.
In an interview with our sister publication Powersports Business, Irbis officials said parts and service would be readily available for the machine and noted that, starting in September, production will be moving out of China to a new manufacturing facility in Moscow. Irbis has established a U.S. headquarters in a small office in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota.
“Simply put, we put the best of the best into the snowmobiles, and we don’t think that it needs to break the bank for the consumer,” said Konstantin Archakov, the brand’s general manager. The initial focus will be in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan.
Engine: 150cc liquid-cooled four-stroke carbureted single rated at 9.25 hp
L x W x H (inches): 88 x 38 x 43
Seat height: 28 inches
Claimed dry weight: 330 pounds
Fuel capacity: 1.85 gallons
Front suspension: Dual A-arm with coil-over shocks
Rear suspension: Slide rail design with two shocks
Track: 15- by 103-inch Composit
Standard features: Electric start, reverse, rear rack, rear hitch, 12v outlet