The date on the cover says January 1974, which in magazine speak means this issue of Snow Goer magazine was produced in the fall of 1973. Those old enough to remember know that this was in the heart of the first major downturn of the snowmobile market, and that is reflected in the magazine – it’s just 32 pages total, and it features just three stories and two columns. Yeah, it’s thin!
That said, paging through an old snowmobile magazine is never boring for those who find pleasure in the colorful history of the sport, and such was the case with this issue of Snow Goer. The cover story focused on a rider whose mission it was to reach the north rim of the Grand Canyon on a snowmobile. Sure enough, he made it happen. Here’s a quote from the story:
“For a lot of Americans, the Grand Canyon is a giant, colorful chasm somewhere out West where Evel Knevel is going to jump over with a motorcycle someday. Even if they have been there before, not many people think of howling blizzards when they think of the Grand Canyon. Although the Grand Canyon is geographically more like southern Utah, it is actually in northern Arizona. Even in winter, you see, the bottom of the Grand Canyon is just like a desert, with a climate which is exactly similar to that of northern Mexico.
“But at the top of the Canyon, on the north side, it is different; it is another world. Because on the top the weather in winter match that of Winnipeg, or for that matter, Anchorage, Alaska. While cactus basks in the dry, hot sun below, more than 200 inches of snow falls on the North Rim, which is almost a mile straight up the sides of the jagged rock canyon walls. It is this snow, so close to this spectacle of nature, which is likely in the future to make the North Rim as popular to snowmobilers as Old Faithful safaris are right now in Yellowstone National Park.”
Well, that last prediction didn’t exactly pan out. They still get a lot of snow some years at the North Rim – in fact, the National Park Service now closes the North Rim section of the park from October through April. But blowing up in popularity as a snowmobiling destination? It wasn’t – and isn’t – in the cards.
Also in that January 1974 issue of Snow Goer is an eight page story titled, “New Highs for High Performance.” It’s a write up about 12 liquid-cooled and free-air performance snowmobiles. They were the:
- Aloutette Super Brute LC 440, powered by a 45 hp Kohler;
- Arctic Cat El Tigre 340, marketed in the name of Charlie Lofton, “The Fastest Man on Snow;’
- Brut LC 29, a slightly upgraded version the original liquid-cooled consumer sled;
- Chaparral SSX 440, with its first-in-the-industry Yokahama track with internal drive.
- Mercury Sno-Twister 400D, a stock class racing dominator.
- Polaris TX 440, “built for the backyard racer,” according to Polaris.
- Roll-O-Flex Wild One GTX FA 340, with the brand moving from Yamaha to Kohler power;
- Ski-Doo T’NT FA 400, which stood for Track N Trail, not dynamite;
- Sno Jet Thunder Jet F/A 340, the low-slung blue sled that collectors still covet;
- Speedway Blue Max 440, which editors said “still likes like it’s going 90 while sitting on the showroom floor; and
- Yamaha GPX 433, which allegedly make about 55 hp in stock form.
As much fun as it is paging through the old magazines and reading the stories, however, the old advertisements may be their equal. The January 1974 issue of Snow Goer magazine featured full-age ads from Arctic Cat, GMC Motorhomes, Ski-Doo, Lemans international, Harley Davidson, Polaris, with fractional ads from Castrol, Recreational Leisure, Roll-O-Flex, ILC Industries (a face shield and goggle manufacturer). Here are some highlights: