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Snow Goer 1978-79: The First IFS Trail Sled Appears

By John Prusak

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 and the 1977-78 section.

 

1978-79

Arctic Cat Trail Cat

The sport’s first IFS-equipped trail sled — the Arctic Cat Trail Cat — was featured on the December 1978 issue of Snow Goer.

A “Two Stormers From Polaris And Ski-Doo” cover line kicked off the new season. The “stormers” were the new 1979 Polaris Centurion – featuring the triple-cylinder, 500cc liquid from Fuji – and the “new from the track up” Ski-Doo Blizzard 9500. Of the Centurion, editors wrote it “brings to the trail what the Midnight Blue Express brought to Sno Pro – pure, unadulterated performance… If you buy the sled for performance, you’ll love it. But, you should be a little scared of it. It’s that fast.”

Meanwhile, John Deere launched a radically different Trailfire with long-travel (for the day) suspension plus a relatively low center of gravity and a Kawasaki powerplant. Yamaha introduced the Excel V.

But the biggest news, from a historic perspective, was from Arctic Cat with its Trail Cat. “It’s finally happened! A consumer trail sled has finally been equipped with independent front suspension,” Snow Goer editors wrote. The leading arm design (with trailing arms) kicked off what many consider the modern age of snowmobiling, where the sport moved away from leaf springs and to coil-over systems that absorbed bumps and handled well. Many brands had previously utilized IFS on race sleds, but Arctic Cat gets credit for the consumer breakthrough, though truthfully this design had plenty of handling problems.

Snow Goer cover 1978

These two “snow stormers” were featured on the September 1978 issue of Snow Goer.

The same eight brands returned to the 1979 Buyer’s Guide, but there was one notable change: on April 26 of 1978, after the pre-production tests were done, Arctic Enterprises announced the purchase of Scorpion.

Scorpion was also in the news for signing legendary racers Brad Hulings and Steve Thorsen in the wake of Polaris and Yamaha announcing that they were folding their factory Sno Pro racing efforts. Also interesting was a story titled, “Oil Injection: Will It Take Over In Snowmobiling?” Yamaha, of course, had been using the system since its first snowmobiles in 1968, but now Kawasaki and Arctic Cat had newer systems in use. All Ski-Doos were still running premix, but editors noted that Can-Am off-road two-stroke bikes had long utilized injection.

Buoyed by new equipment, good weather and acceptable gas prices, North American new snowmobile sales shot up 15.5 percent to 261,000 units.

November 1978 Snow Goer

The November 1978 cover featured a couple of John Deere snowmobiles, and a reference to the Get Up & Go Sweeps, which was revived this year.

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