A Leaning Snowmobile: Is It The Future, Or A Wacky Idea?

Some folks told Henry Ford he was a lunatic. Others thought Thomas Edison had lost his marbles. Inventors who challenge the norms are often ridiculed, so when many snowmobilers looked at the Wesll Inc. front end design at the Novi, Michigan, Snowmobile USA Show in last weekend and shook their heads, inventor Wes Melcher didn’t flinch.

leaning snowmobile
The Wesll system leans the vehicle into turns and allows the front end to carve.

“A lot of people have come over and taken a long look, then they run their hand along the bottom of the ski and walk away saying, ‘That will never work,’” said Melcher.

The design engineer from Arizona unveiled new snowmobile designs in Michigan that he said could forever change the way snowmobiles handle, in powder and on the trail.

The system relies on a high-tech electronic and hydraulic system that takes feedback from a control box located on the top of the steering post, right under the handlebars, to dramatically tilt and extend the front suspension of the snowmobile, using more hydraulics and unique linkages. The system causes the sled to lean and dive into corners by up to a 35 degree angle and offers 24 inches of suspension travel, he said.

Snowmobile Wesll
The Wesll design moves hydraulic fluid from one side of the snowmobile to the other to create the lean. This is the front suspension design with the body work stripped away.

What’s more, the Wesll system uses 5-foot long carbon fiber skis that have titanium edges running down both sides – there are no carbide runners or, for that matter, even any keel on the tabletop-flat skis. Instead, the skis tilt at dramatic angles when the front suspension dives, and the edge of the ski carves – like a downhill skier uses the edges of his or her skis to turn.

“You can’t think of this in terms of snowmobiles,” Melcher said of his design. “You’ve got to think motorcycles; you’ve got to think skis.”

The key, according to Melcher, is the lean of the vehicle, and the fact that it overcomes the physics that normally cause a three- or four-wheeled vehicle to lean to the outside of a turn. “You’ve got to accept an incoming load and not transfer it to the center of the vehicle,” he explained in a followup phone conversation.

Obviously very proud of his design, Melcher claimed that “these no scenario in which this system doesn’t work better than the designs that are out there now” meaning hard trails, soft trails, backcountry riding, sidehilling, jumping and landing, etc. He had previously designed an ATV with a leaning system – click here to see the video of that vehicle in action – but has now turned his attention to the snow market.

Wesll snowmobile ski
No, this wasn’t taken with a telephoto lens; the carbon fiber ski on the display model is actually 5 feet long, with tintanium edges on each side for turning and a completely flat bottom.

Even though he was showing the design at a consumer snowmobile show, the inventor says he has no intentions of building and marketing the product as an aftermarket product, or of designing his own line of snowmobiles. Instead, Melcher is trying to catch the eyes of the snowmobile manufacturers to buy and implement his ideas. Ultimately, he doesn’t want to sell it to one snowmobile factory but rather license it to all four.

The design frankly left us with more questions than answers. Melcher said he’ll let the snowmobile media and snowmobile manufacturer officials test his design this winter. Watch snowgoer.com – if we get to take a pull, we’ll tell you about it there.

snowmobile by Wesll
Wesll president Wes Melcher says his goal is to license his technology to the existing snowmobile manufacturers.

2 thoughts on “A Leaning Snowmobile: Is It The Future, Or A Wacky Idea?

  • Avatar for Steven T. Grab

    This “Leaner” is a great design. But, these big sled companies are not into the buddy system when it comes to they’re new top secret technology. Big business just doesn’t work this way. They are like brat kids that do not like to share.

    Red Line is not so far in the past and they were forced out, in my opinion. Describe it any way you want, to me it is reading between the lines that tells the story. Just like Tucker in the automotive industry. I’m sure there are others that were squashed under the competitive squish of the prevailing big shot companies in control.

    I don’t dwell on it, as far as I know, this technology will not go into production by some manufacturer until the patent runs out. As in the meantime the powerful companies will have they’re own offshoot ready to claim as they’re own and look to get a jump on and into market share. Thus revenue return.

    Yet it does make me wonder. Yamaha “borrowing” a chassis from Arctic Cat, hummmmm, what is going on here? Makes me think they have a super chassis in the development stages? This should not even be a question.

    Brilliance and ego seem to go hand in hand. My curiosity is compelling.


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