And here we are, the last stop on our 10-part Snow Goer Decade In Review: 2009. There’s only a few days left in the year before we roll over to the 2010s. It’s hard to say what we’ve got coming down the line in the next 10 years: A direct-injected Yamaha two-stroke? Polaris brings back the Indy? A 375-pound Ski-Doo? Cat becomes the first manufacturer to break the 200 hp barrier?
After the devastating recession, which burned through the powersports world like a fast-moving grass fire, there are fewer magazines, aftermarket shops, race teams and individual racers and consumers with the extra cash (or credit) to fully invest in their snowmobiling hobby.
Some experts say we’ve bottomed out and are seeing “green shoots” in the global economy with better days ahead. Anybody with a stake in this market is certainly hoping for the same: credit for consumers to buy sleds and accessories, improving unemployment numbers and reducing energy prices. With all of the reform being simultaneously attempted in our government, it’s anybody’s guess where we’ll be sitting a year from now.
At this point, 2009 will be remembered for many reasons: Israel invades the Gaza Strip, Obama’s inauguration, Iceland’s finances collapse, U.S. trying to close Guantanamo Bay, H1N1 flu outbreak, the mysterious crash of Air France Flight 477, Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, Ted Kennedy, Patrick Swayze, Dubai’s gone broke and health care reform’s endless debate — good times.
Album of the Year: TBD at Grammy Awards February 2010
Highest Grossing Movie: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
At The Track
Brian Bewcyk, pole sitter for the 46th World Championship Snowmobile Derby in Eagle River, Wisconsin, emerged from the pack in the lead at the start of lap 2 and remained in front to the checkered flag. He defended the World Champion title after winning Eagle River last year on the same Wahl chassis Ski-Doo. Bewcyk’s first words after his win was a tribute to his brand. “Happy Birthday Ski-Doo,” he said, in honor of the company’s 50th anniversary.
Another Bryan repeated at an annual major race on board a Ski-Doo, except this time it was in cross-country: the USCC Red Lake I-500 in Thief River Falls, Minnesota. It was Bryan Dyrdahl’s fifth I-500 win. He started Day 3 with a comfortable lead, but he got flustered after a blown drive belt. “[USCC president] Pat [Mach] was behind me and he said, ‘there’s no one coming,’” Dyrdahl said. ”But I thought I heard him say, ‘here they come.’ So I got on it and started haulin’ ass. I rode tight at first, but as soon as that belt blew, I hung it all out after that.” Dyrdahl finished 1 minute, 40 seconds ahead of second place D.J. Ekre.
The ‘repeat wins’ of 2009 continued in Aspen, Colorado. Tucker Hibbert led all 20 laps of the ESPN X Games final to win his third-consecutive gold medal. ”I have good people,” Hibbert said. “I have a good team and when you have that you get good results.” He isn’t a bad rider, either. The win secured Hibbert his eighth piece of Winter X Games hardware.
In the west at the Jackson Hole World Championship Snowmobile Hillclimb, Kyle Tapio earned King of Kings title. Tapio blazed up Snow King’s Exhibition Hill with a time nearly two seconds faster than what he posted in Open Mod, one of three classes he won using a pair of tuned-up Arctic Cat M8 HCRs that weekend in late March.
When the ice melted, Andy Busse won the Pro Open Oval championship race in Grantsburg, Wisconsin, ahead of runner-up Howie Steenberg. Year after year, Craig Marchbank proves he is a true tuning and driving talent in grass drag competition. Marchbank continued to dominate the mod classes on his Ski-Doos at Haydays. This year he took 17 podiums, winning 10 classes. His success is spread across the displacement board, winning in the small-bore 440cc classes all way up to the Improved Stock 1000 class.
ISOC recently kicked off its second season of snocross competition at Spirit Mountain in Duluth, Minnesota. There, Tucker Hibbert (heard of him?) swept the pro finals. A week later in Milwaukee he swept the field again, winning his 50th race.
The Year In Sleds
When the 2010 sleds came out in the spring of 2009, the most-anticipated ride came from the Polaris camp with its new 600 Rush. The Pro Ride chassis is the first snowmobile to essentially put the rear suspension outside of the track, giving it a rate that gets progressively firmer as it compresses — like a motocross bike. The sled earned Snow Goer’s Snowmobile of the Year award in fall 2009.
Arctic Cat answered the call from Cat loyalists and built a production sled based on the Sno Pro 600 that has been running well on snocross and cross-country racetracks since the 2008 model year. The consumer Sno Pro 500 has a 500cc, liquid-cooled engine, and it has been generating a lot of excitement for the green brand.
Ski-Doo made a race sled available, too, with its MX Z X-RS line. It is the same chassis that X Team racers use, with reinforcements, top-level shocks and ergos to suit active, aggressive riders. On the other end of the spectrum, the new GSX 1200 solo-touring sled has the 4-TEC 1200 engine and 137-inch track with air-adjustable skidframe.
Looking to grow in the mountain segment, Yamaha designed its FX Nytro MTX SE with the first all-air rear suspension to reduce weight and help it float better in powder snow. Big Blue also added fuel injection to its already-sweet trail roaming Vector lineup.
Top 10 sleds named this fall are the Sno Pro 500, 550 IQ Shift, MX Z 600 H.O. E-TEC X, RS Vector GT, MX Z 800R Adrenaline, M8 HCR, FX Nytro MTX SE, Renegade Backcountry, Z1 Turbo EXT and GSX SE.