I don’t think “The Farm Fields of Meeker County” will ever rival the drama of the Robert Waller novel turned Clint Eastwood/Meryl Streep movie “The Bridges of Madison County,” but a day in the saddle of a snowmobile in this west-central Minnesota county was certainly time better spent than sitting in front of the television on a murky Sunday.
After a rainy Saturday threatened the week-old snowpack in central Minnesota, we had our doubts whether we’d be riding on Sunday, December 16. The day started with fog and falling temperatures. Would there be enough snow left to make it worth the trip? We started working the phones and checking with folks an hour west of Minneapolis, where the weather guessers on TV reported that a little snow had been mixed with the rain the day before.
“I went riding last night and it wasn’t too bad,” a gas station attendant in Grove City, Minnesota, reported. “There’s certainly not powder to play in, but otherwise the riding is pretty good.”
That was good enough news for us – we had sleds to break in. Time to load up and head west. We secured two demo sleds to the trailer: A 2013 Polaris 600 Indy SP and a 2013 Arctic Cat ProCross XF 800 CrossTour. The Indy had 0.1 miles on the odometer; the kitty was showing 5 miles. When we filled the tanks on each we added a bit of two-stroke oil to the tank for break-in purposes, and were on our way. We trailered to Kimball, Minnesota, unloaded and let the games begin.
The trails in this part of Minnesota are dominated by farm field and ditch riding. The snowpack was thin and icy on occasion, thanks to that rain the day before, so it wasn’t a greatest conditions to truly test out our new machines, but it served our purposes of getting first miles on the new sleds.
The Indy ran strong, with the Cleanfire-injected 600-class twin providing the sort of punchy horsepower that we’ve grown accustomed to from Polaris. Unlike some other brands, it seems the Polaris is full-power right out of the box. It easily picked up the skis when we stabbed the throttle, allowing for some fun times over field approaches. In 51 easy miles on the odometer, it burned 4.5 gallons of gas – that’s 11.33 miles per gallon – and oil use was light. The rear suspension worked fine for the conditions we experienced, but we’ll get a lot more testing on the machine in better snow conditions this winter before we issue any grades.
The CrossTour proved to be a fun snowmobile as well. The only other time we rode a CrossTour was at the 2013 Rode Reports testing event last spring, and before that ride Arctic Cat officials had attached the optional 2-up seat to the back. Now, in hindsight, I’m thinking that might have clouded our view of this machine slightly. Riding our demo unit, with just the standard seat above the 141-inch track, it didn’t seem as utilitarian at it did last spring. The sled certainly provided a sporty ride – the 794cc liquid-cooled twin lit up that long track and seemed to overpower the front end at times. We had to make sure we were all the way through a turn before grabbing a handful of throttle, because such inputs would immediately lift the skis and send us in the direction the track was pointed. We’ll adjust the suspension settings next time to lessen the transfer. We really appreciated the large storage bag on back, and could definitely see plenty of reasons to use the standard rack as well. On this short ride, however, that extra rack space wasn’t needed. The CrossTour burned just 4 gallons of gas, for an MPG of 12.75. Not bad.
It looks like a big storm is brewing right now that could bring a white Christmas and snow covered trails to more of the country, and some parts of the West are getting pounded with snow right now. We’re wishing you all a very merry Christmas and good snowmobiling weather this holiday season.