Snow Goer magazine was launched as the first national snowmobile magazine 50 years ago. To celebrate, Snow Goer is taking readers on a volume-by-volume walk through the history of snowmobiling, as captured on the magazine’s pages. Below is the review of the 1969-70 publishing season. Other years will be also be published — use SG@50 in the search bar on the website to find them. Here’s a link to the opening section plus links to the 1966-67 section, the 1967-68 section, the 1968-69 section, the 1969-70 section, the 1970-71 section, 1971-72 section, the 1972-73 section, the 1973-74 section, the 1974-75 section, the 1975-76 section, the 1976-77 section, the 1977-78 section and the 1978-79 section.
Introduction To The 1980s
The 1980s started with Ronald Reagan being elected to the White House, Blondie’s “Call Me” edging Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick In The Wall” as the year’s best-selling single and Mount St. Helens spewing lava and dust. It ended with the unveiling of the Nintendo Game Boy, the dismantling of the Berlin Wall and the Exxon Valdez tanker spilling 240,000 barrels of crude. In between there was the rise of Madonna, Prince and Mötley Crüe, plus the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.
And there were rocky times and major developments in snowmobiling. Approximately 1.3 million snowmobiles were sold during the decade, including a low of 87,000 units in model year 1983, as the market shrunk to four major brands. Yet this was also the decade that the expansion of independent front suspensions, liquid-cooled engines and oil injection moved the sport into a more modern era.
During the decade, the sport lost major brands like John Deere, Kawasaki, Scorpion and Moto-Ski. Polaris almost disappeared and Arctic Cat did for a few years. Similarly, Snow Goer was affected by the hard times. It folded at the decade’s halfway point, only to re-emerge in 1990.
The 1981 models covered in fall 1980 showcased the spread of technology. The Buyer’s Guide issue noted that “of the 55 models offered in 1981, 28 feature oil injection. That’s a little more than half of all models. And 15 are liquid cooled.”
Polaris introduced four new models – including the Cutlass series featuring direct drive. More notable was the Indy 500 Centurion, the start of the proud Indy 500 lineage.
The November issue featured two notable sleds with “X Appeal,” the magazine cover said: the Ski-Doo Blizzard 5500 MX and the Yamaha SRX. Neither sled was available for the spring tests, but “as both machines exhibit significant engineering advances, this special report is warranted,” editors explained.
The Blizzard MX featured a new chassis and “Total Suspension” with long-travel front (though still with leaf springs) and rear suspension (with outboard shocks on the rear arm). The SRX came with the motorcycle-style, independent Telescopic Strut Suspension up front, a “devilishly sexy” new chassis plus “liquid-cooling and mega horsepower,” the editors wrote. The Kawasaki Drifter 340, meanwhile, received some of the season’s harshest criticism.
“The styling is dated. Steering is light and sometimes sloppy, leading to excessive over-steer on groomed trails in sharp corners.”
Chrysler joined the International Snowmobile Industry Association (ISIA) as it tried to promote its quirky Sno Runner that, in a review, editors called “snowmobiling’s answer to the moped.” A cover story on moon boots reflected the larger winter clothing market.
Most notable, however, was something that didn’t happen.
Under the slanted headline “Justice Prevails As Merger Of Bombardier-Polaris Fails,” the magazine reported that a deal reached in August to have Bombardier buy Textron’s Polaris E-Z Go division was halted by the U.S. Justice Department due to anti-trust concerns. Kawasaki and John Deere officials also toured Polaris’ Roseau plant after Textron dangled the Polaris division on the market, but eventually a management buyout would make Polaris independent.
It’s curious to wonder where the snowmobile market would be today had the Polaris-Bombardier merger gone through.
At 92 mph, the Arctic Cat El Tigré 6000 was fastest at the shootout, though it didn’t get a chance to defend its title. Worldwide sales of new sled continued to spiral – driven by sluggish economic conditions and warm winters – down another 13 percent.