Flashback: 1973 Boa-Ski SS, When Everything Changed

1973 Boa-Ski SS
1973 Boa-Ski SS

Entering the burgeoning snowmobile business for model year 1968, Boa-Ski began by building another Ski-Doo clone that earned a reputation as a very solid, dependable sled. In March of 1969, its Quebec founders sold the growing company to Florida-based conglomerate Giffen Industries. It built a big new factory, expanded production and began tinkering with both product and marketing for the brand.

But by 1971, Boa-Ski sales were lagging behind its production, with many sleds unsold at the end of the season. So for 1972, Boa-Ski reduced output and took a critical look at its product. Concluding that it needed a more modern sled, the company began development of its new SS model. It would break with previous Boa-Ski practices in many ways.

“Boa Brotherhood” member Tim Rosenberg, of Perry, New York, tells us that some pre-production SS units were constructed in 1972. Quebec sources indicate that perhaps 50 of them were built with many variations. Among them were the engine, track and rear suspension. Production sleds for 1973 got several more changes to the hood, seat, slide suspension and other components.

All New Boa-Ski, Including Ownership

The new 1973 Boa-Ski SS had been engineered during Giffen ownership, but the company was sold to Alsport during the summer of 1972. So, the machine was built under the newest owners.

Styled like the very similar R/T model but in all-black instead of the R/T red, the SS was the only Boa that was ever factory-equipped with chrome skis, and the first Boa with slide rails. A hydraulic disc brake, a rarity for trail sleds in those days, provided superior stopping power. A brake light was added for safety.

Some ’73 SS units were equipped with left-over Salsbury clutches, but St. Lawrence transmissions replaced them as a rolling change. Other new features included a front-hinged hood plus bigger and wider drive sprockets not interchangeable with other Boa-Ski drivers.

Although the Hirth 400 was the only engine shown in sales literature or product publicity for the model, some were built with Hirth 440 engines. A sled with this engine was on the cover of the parts manual with the engine shown inside. Others were apparently equipped with Kohler powerplants, too. Some were also completed with bogie wheel suspensions. This kind of parts substitution was common for many manufacturers – large and small – of that era due to high demand for product. Some would be forced to use whatever parts they had on hand or could source to complete and ship machines.

The new “Big, Bold, Beautiful” Boa-Ski marketing theme used a St. Bernard dog beside the new SS in ads. Publicity photos to emphasize reliability and strength, but also inviting “it’s a big dog” comments. And nothing was said about the new slider frame. Boa-Ski advertising was next to non-existent in the U.S. Plus and the brand was not included at all in several major American snowmobile publications for that season. But Boa-Ski was still rolling strong in Canada.

1973 Boa-Ski SS
1973 Boa-Ski SS

Boa-Ski On The Snow

Boa Brotherhood member Marco Vachon, of Thetford Mines, Quebec, said that in his father’s memory, “The 1973 SS was a big improvement over his previous sled, a ’69 Boa-Ski.” Vachon said the new machine offered “a better ride in 2-up touring, a very fun ride and handling in fresh and big (deep) light snow, but it needed attention due to the narrow ski stance.” Engine performance got better after a Mikuni carb and Comet clutch update compared to the Salsbury clutch that came from the factory, he said.

Speaking of his dad’s time with the sled, Vachon said the engine was more reliable and faster than the 1972 Ski-Doo T’NT owned by his dad’s friend. His father also loved the new Boa’s chrome and black styling. “It was a head-turner at this time.”

Vachon also related some downsides to the SS.

1973 Boa-Ski SS 400 specs
1973 Boa-Ski SS 400 specs

“The ride in heavy and wet snow was horrible. After a few minutes the suspension was completely full of packed snow, the sled became very heavy and always stalled, requiring leaning on its side to clean out the packed snow and ice,” Vachon said.

“Like most Boas, the SS was much better in cool weather. Access to the carb, primary clutch and back of engine was not easy. It took a long time and some tools to remove the console,” he said.

But time marches on and new models were introduced. Continuing the story of his father’s Boa-Ski ownership, Vachon said, “When he tried his brothers’ 1974 and 1975 SS [all new models], he bought one too. The ’73 was forgotten in the barn.”

The 1973 Boa-Ski SS was a transition model in many ways, from one company ownership to another, from one styling theme to another, and from one era of snowmobiling to another. That’s because the Arab oil embargo that began in late 1973 permanently changed the powersports market in North America. It destroyed Alsport’s plans to become a major manufacturer of sleds, ATVs and small motorcycles.

The company soon failed. Boa-Ski was sold to new investors who kept it alive in Canada for a few more seasons. But they were unable to keep up with advancing snowmobile technology, and it finally died after the 1977 model year.

Today the well-organized Boa Brotherhood social group keeps the memories of the good times with Boa-Ski snowmobiles alive and well.

(This particular Flashback article appeared in the January 2023 issue of Snow Goer.)

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3 thoughts on “Flashback: 1973 Boa-Ski SS, When Everything Changed

  • Avatar for John Zeglin

    Any idea on how many of these were made. It seems like a cool sled but being south of the border the 73’s seem to be a very rare site at the vintage events.

    Reply
  • Avatar for Rick Sondeland

    It’s hard to believe it’s been 50years ago. I lived in Minnesota as a young boy from 69′-75′ grew up in the lake country, beautiful, lots of snow & excellent riding.
    I never owed a Boa ski, most of the sleds I rode were Ski-doo’s, Although I started on a old Scorpion, then a
    Snowjet & a Ski-doo Elan.
    I’ve always liked all all makes of snowmobiles back then. I reside in Southern Nevada now, so I don’t need one , but still enjoy articles & videos on em’

    Reply
  • Avatar for Jim mackinnon

    I raced a 73 400 SS, i was 18 years old and was my 3rd season racing. Was never really competitive but 74 SS bone ski changed all that , it was really competitive even up into free air classes.
    Sponsored both years by McLeod outdoor power products in Owen sound ontario.
    Manufacturer had contingency money available in 1974 , paid for my 74 340 SS in the one season!!!

    Reply

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