It was a fabulous day to get out for the season's first snowmobile ride.December 10, 2010

A few pieces of the Snow Goer staff hit the snowmobile trails today to break in four of our new demo sleds and stretch our snowmobiling muscles that haven’t been used since March. I say “pieces” of the team because the sales staff was stuck back in the office, selling.

Editorial director John Prusak, associate editor Tom Kaiser, art director Randy Kepner and I took a day out of the office and clicked off 99 miles on the northern outskirts of Minneapolis. With seven demo sleds to choose from, we each picked a sled to take along.

Prusak chose first because he’s oldest. He latched onto the Polaris 800 Rush Pro-R. The next pick was Kepner’s: he pondered for about 30 seconds and went with the Ski-Doo Renegade E-TEC 800R X because of its big power, he said.

As the second-youngest member of the group, it was my turn to pick, and I went for the Ski-Doo MX Z E-TEC 600 TNT. I’ve been excited to ride this sled for quite some time, so my decision was an easy one. Youngest, last, but not least, it was Kaiser’s turn to choose a snowmobile: for him it was the Arctic Cat F8 LXR. He was looking for a comfortable and powerful ride; he made the right choice.

Most of our miles were clicked off in the ditches of state and county roads, but we crossed quite a few swamps and rolled through some nicely wooded sections, too. (We even saw a flock of at least a dozen turkeys pecking at the ground near a swamp and cornfield!)

We were pleasantly surprised at the amount of snowcover and condition of the trails. A majority of the trails were groomed and we even stopped and chatted with a groomer operator who was out prepping the trails for the big snowstorm that is forecast to hit Minnesota this weekend (more on that later).

I love to break in a new snowmobile, to feel it loosen up and become quicker and more responsive as the miles roll up on the odometer. The MX Z I rode all day today felt like it started to loosen up after about 50 miles. It accelerated faster and engine speed ran up closer to peak rpm than it had when we started the day. Speed came more easily as the drive belt loosened up, the track and chain rolled more easily and the engine spun more freely.

Kaiser was happy with his steed, the F8 LXR. He said it was predictable in corners and is comfortable with great ergonomics and it has “immediate power.” Prusak said his 800 Rush had strong, immediate power that “picked up the skis with a jab of the throttle.” Much like Kaiser and Prusak, Kepner, the guy who makes Snow Goer look so good, said the power from the E-TEC 800R engine was his favorite part of the sled.

Minnesota-based snowmobilers have been lucky so far this season. We’ve had a few snowstorms so far that has laid down a nice base for the trails, but the local TV weather geeks say parts of the state could receive well more than a foot of light, powdery snow this weekend. Then, the thermometers will plummet as daily high temperatures will struggle to get above zero until the middle of next week. The western United States has been getting hit hard and so have parts out east. It sounds like this could be shaping up to the old-fashioned winter sledders have been wishing for, for years. Bring on the snow!

— Andy Swanson

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