Opinion
December 27th, 2020
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Snowmobile Culture Ultimatums vs. Technology

Ultimatums are, by their very definition, supposed to be final and uncompromising.

I’m sure we have all made our own snowmobile-related ultimatums over the years. But we are quickly learning that perhaps ultimatums are anything but final.


Going back a generation I can imagine where this unbending mentality may have sowed its seed in sledder culture. I can recall the early days of oil injection and my dad explaining to a very young me how oil injection will never really catch on in the performance world as it could never be as trustworthy as mixing fuel yourself. Sure oil injection might work fine for grandpa heading out ice fishing, but if you want to be fast you need to trust your mixture. As I stood there shaking a 5 gallon can of 50:1 until my arms were about to fall off I thought, “Yeah, this is how the real riders do it! I will never use oil injection!”

Fast forward a few short years and I had my first “new” sled—a 1990 Polaris Indy 500 SKS. It was during these years that Arctic Cat had the original AWS 1 (Arctic Wishbone Suspension) on the snow and I remember actually arguing that trailing arms were a better suspension.

“I will never run A-arm suspension! It’s too heavy, it holds too much snow, trailing arms transfer the bumps to the center of the machine…” Ultimatum number two was obviously soon to fall.

Snowmobile Culture Ultimatums vs. Technology

I can only assume that in the early days of snowmobiling there were other similar ultimatums made. Somebody, somewhere, has sat around a fire pit, drinking an unnamed 80 proof toxin out of a brown paper bag and declared their love for bogie wheel rear suspensions.

“Those slide rails will never take off! They just melt! I will never run that garbage!”

Snowmobile Culture Ultimatums

“One rail instead of two? C’mon, that will never fly!” – some stubborn fool

Over the years there have been many more “I will never” ultimatums made by mountain riders, only to have technology, perception and/or riding style to prove it wrong.

“I will never ride a fuel-injected sled! It’s too complicated and you can’t fix it on the trail! I can tune it better myself.”

Anyone who’s experienced the power, responsiveness and consistent performance of the 850 Patriot engine will agree that fuel injection is maybe not so bad after all.

Ease of use, reliability and emissions all pushed the fuel injection technology and there are people on the snow today who have never even ridden a carb’d sled. It’s hard to believe but there is actually a better way than pouring gas all over your hands on the side of the trail to change jets for maximum performance. Technology 4 – Ultimatum zero.

“I will never have reverse! It adds so much weight!”

Electronic reverse has made sure that we no longer have to play tough-guy and drag our sleds around like a tractor tire in a strong-man competition.

“I will never have electric start! It adds too much weight”

This ultimatum is in the state of transition as you read this. There are still many that won’t add the extra weight but technology like the Ski-Doo SHOT system will make this decision easy for us. Soon we will all be missing the days of fumbling for a pull cord tied to a big, high compression engine while holding your sled on its side halfway down a tree well. Technology 6 – Ultimatums still zero.

Snowmobile Culture Ultimatums

Technological advancements tend to surprise us by fixing a problem we never realized existed or showing us a new path forward. Sometimes we just get smarter and realize that the “machismo” of using outdated tech is finally replaced by the fact that our energy can be better used actually riding our sleds instead. Sure there are usually growing pains, but once tech gets it right we all stand to gain.

 

Snowmobile Culture Ultimatums 03
A factory 2-stroke turbo sled is a bad idea, said no one ever.

Ultimatums are supposed to be unbending and uncompromising, but technology likes to prove us wrong. No matter how attached we are to a way of life, technology can and will bring change.

Nowadays, we hear the next ultimatum pretty regularly.

“I will never ride an electric sled. They are too heavy! It’s not reliable! I can’t fix it on the trail!”

Now where have we heard these arguments before? Technology 7 – Ultimatums zero.

 

– Marty

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