“Snowmobiling? It’s supposed to be 50 degrees tomorrow?” Clearly my buddy didn’t understand: There’s still snow out there if you’re willing to chase it!
The snow has admittedly been disappearing quickly here in the Upper Midwest. While our friends in Maine have been posting grooming pictures, others in New York showing big snowfalls and of course most mountain areas still offering good riding, the snowpack has been disappearing faster than anticipated relatively close to the Snow Goer offices. But, with aftermarket product testing left to do, a pre-production 2020 Polaris 600 Indy Adventure 137 sitting in our shop plus new skis to test from Ski-Doo, we were in no mood to shut ’er down for the season. With birds loudly singing the sounds of spring in the front yard Saturday afternoon, we packed our gear bag and made plans for an escape on Sunday.
We got an early start out of the Minneapolis area and trailered up to Finland, Minnesota, where we planned to ride a couple of state trails, take in the sights, log some more miles and get some work done. It worked out expertly. The crusty trails weren’t perfect – some sections were great and others were choppy and a local groomer said they are likely done maintaining the trails for the season. But still, it was awesome getting out and riding some more, and a heck of a lot better than watching college basketball.
Highlights from our Sunday on the trail include:
New Ski-Doo Skis
For 2020, Ski-Doo will be using a slightly modified keel on the Pilot TS skis on trail machines. The skis are so new that they weren’t even ready when we and other media outlets tested the 2020 units four weeks ago at the annual Rode Reports/Snow Shoot event, but Ski-Doo’s hyper-capable marketing folks shipped us a pair of boards to install onto our 2019 demo units. Sunday morning we affixed them to our 2019 MXZ X-RS 600 E-TEC.
Once on the trail, our initial impressions were favorable, but ultimately we’ll have to give the skis a grade of “Incomplete” due entirely to the conditions of the trails – not the skis. The skis feature more keel at the front. To hear Ski-Doo engineers tell the story, the adjustable Pilot TS skis worked great on sleds in the REV-XS chassis when they were introduced, but to truly shine in all snow conditions on the more forward-canted REV Gen-4 chassis machines, they needed to be adjusted.
Sure enough, we felt the handling with the new skis was improved slightly, particularly in sloppy, loose snow, giving the MXZ on which they were attached a more positive feeling when zipping in and out of turns. However, as noted, we’d want to test them in more (and more “normal”) conditions than what we experienced yesterday in Northern Minnesota before offering a final verdict. Also, we have since learned that Ski-Doo itself is still testing modified versions, so nothing is final at this point.
Midway through our ride, we pulled up near a group of snowmobilers parked at an overlook with the 2020 Polaris 600 Indy Adventure we picked up last week at Polaris’ HQ, and as soon as we hit the kill switch the first thing we heard was, “Dude! Where DID you get that machine?!”
The brilliant blue color on this particular sled made it headturning all on its own, but the new-for-2020 137-inch Indy models platform also caught the attention of these particularly savvy riders, who knew they were looking at something for the future.
The Indy Adventure was a joy to ride in these conditions – the front end handling through rather choppy conditions never failed or surprised us, always going exactly where we wanted it to. The rear suspension was good, too, though it still didn’t have the energy absorbing magic of the rMotion on the MXZ we had with us.
Interestingly enough, when we stopped for our first fuel stop about 50 miles into the ride, the Ski-Doo E-TEC took 3.61 gallons to fill, and we then stuck the gas pump nozzle in the Polaris and filled it, running the pump up to 7.22 gallons. Go ahead and do the math: They took the same EXACT amount of fuel on that section of trail, down to the hundredth!
You Never Know Who You’ll Bump Into…
After riding the CJ Ramstad North Shore State Trail north from Finland up to the Lutsen turnoff, then bombing some local trails down to Lutsen, then Tofte, then going back up and over the hill, we eventually wound our way back to the famous Trestle Inn Saloon for a late lunch at about 4 p.m. Pulling into the lot, we were excited to see a FAST Blade IW-X snowmobile in the lot. Standing outside at looking at it, I told my relatively newbie riding partner for the day the history of the Blade and how it was a passion project of the Karpik brothers of nearby Eveleth, Minnesota, in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
We then walked inside the Trestle Inn for lunch, and sitting at a table at the back of the joint were the actual inventors of that sled! Snowmobile Hall of Famers Gerard and David Karpik were enjoying a bacon cheeseburger and a bowl of chili, respectively. It was great bumping into these old friends, and we made plans to riding with Gerard later this week on one of his new suspension setups.
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