Runners have been attached to the bottom of snowmobile skis since the late 1960s, helping riders direct sleds on their intended path and maintain control in varying conditions. A variety of versions have been tried – from early efforts to add strategically placed carbide inserts to help steering on ice, to more recent innovations that included dual runners to try to prevent darting and single, adjustable-height blades.
However, another option is offered now by a legendary snowmobile racer, with a tall and arc-shaped runner that is specifically made for conditions he experiences in his favorite riding destination, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
Brad Hulings, a 1999 inductee into the Snowmobile Hall of Fame for his prowess in the 1970s and ’80s racing on Mercury, Polaris, Scorpion and Ski-Doo sleds, created Pro-File Runners and has been quietly offering the product as an alternative to the runners from the big brands. We were curious to try them so we ordered a set for our 2018 Polaris 600 Pro-S demo sled. The most noticeable thing when the Pro-File Runners’ are pulled from the shipping box is their girth – at 1 pound, 6 ounces each, these are heavy-duty chunks of steel. They had 6 inches of carbide inserts in the bottom, but that’s not uncommon for aftermarket runners. What was different was how the host bar was wide, tall and thick with squared-off corners and a defined sidewall.
Thee runners also featured a preformed arc to their 16.5-inch long design. Luckily they lined up perfectly to the holes in our stock Pro-Steer skis, because there would be no flexing these sturdy buggers to make them fit! Therefore, installation was quick and easy – just three nuts per ski.
On the trails, the Pro-File Runners impact on our Pro-S varied depending on conditions. On well-setup, groomed trails the runners did exactly what we expected from such big runners – they provided a firm feel to the front of the snowmobile, offering very positive steering while also increasing steering effort by maybe 30 percent (and that’s a seat-of-the-pants estimate, not science). We like the way they helped our sled handle and were willing to make the tradeoff of the heavier feel at the handlebar, but riders who are particularly sensitive to steering effort may not be as willing to make that compromise.
Where they shined, though, was in loose snow – and that’s exactly what Hulings intended when he designed the runners. The tall, flat sides on the runners plus the arced shape that puts more steel directly below the spindle made them feel like the skis had a taller keel. That allowed the runners to pack snow on their outer edge, get a grip and steer on their intended course while skis with other runners would likely push toward the trail’s outer edge. On trails with 4 to 8 inches of loose snow on top of the groomed surface we could corner with more confidence and have more fun because we had better control of our snowmobile.
The runners also proved to be quite durable. At the 1,000 mile mark, the bottom edge of the carbide inserts was slightly dulled as one might expect, but overall the signs of wear appeared very light and the runners surely have many, many miles left in them.
Hulings said he started designing the Pro-File Runners in 2010 and has been selling them in small quantities since 2012, with sales approaching merely 100 sets per season. That low volume, plus their heavy-duty build, results in a rather high retail price. But for a rider seeking better control and a more positive feel to the front end of their snowmobile, they are a rather attractive option.
Editor’s Note: This review was originally published in the October 2020 issue of Snow Goer. Every issue of Snow Goer magazine includes in-depth sled reports and comparisons, aftermarket gear and accessories reviews, riding destination articles, do-it-yourself repair information, snowmobile technology and more! Subscribe to Snow Goer now to receive issues delivered to your door or your computer for a low cost.