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Better Than Marginal: First Ride of the Season


(12/8/2014)

First ride on the 2015 Arctic Cat ZR4000 RR and XF6000 137. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

It had been at least a week since the last snowfall occurred where I live in Prior Lake, Minn. At best there were three inches of snowpack.

My son Cal had put multiple laps around the yard on his new 2015 Arctic Cat ZR4000 RR that he will race in USXC cross-country this season. I hadn't yet put any time on my new 2015 XF6000 Limited.

Not enough snow, I had kidded myself into believing.

For some reason, this past Saturday the notion struck that we should at least attempt a short ride on the new iron. The worst thing that would happen is that we'd have to turn around.

 

First ride on the 2015 Arctic Cat ZR4000 RR and XF6000 137. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

We're lucky enough to live a stone's throw from the Prior Lake Snowmobile Association trails. A short trip across a neighbor's yard and a few hundred yards of a tree line bordering a farm field puts us onto a system that offers great fun and connection with the rest of the state trails.

Other than the tracks from the club members' ATVs (when they placed the trail markers), we were the first to put tracks on this section of trail.

Looking at this photo, conditions suggest that riding was excellent for early Dec.

 

First ride on the 2015 Arctic Cat ZR4000 RR and XF6000 137. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

Conversely, a few miles later the conditions suggested good pheasant hunting.

At this point, Cal asked me if we were hurting the snowmobiles. It was a fair question.

 

First ride on the 2015 Arctic Cat ZR4000 RR and XF6000 137. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

But the truth is that, even in the worst of the conditions this day, we never rode more than 20 feet without finding enough snow for the hyfax and cooling. So all was good.

 

First ride on the 2015 Arctic Cat ZR4000 RR and XF6000 137. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

Once we hit the ditches the conditions proved rideable, and it wasn't long before Cal was channeling his inner Zach Herfindahl and launching road approaches on his new RR. 

 

First ride on the 2015 Arctic Cat ZR4000 RR and XF6000 137. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

He did the same with my new XF as well, although he was quick to swap back to the ZR.

The ditches had already seen some traffic from other sleds, so we either had confirmation that the riding was okay, or that there were another dozen or so knuckleheads like ourselves.

 

First ride on the 2015 Arctic Cat ZR4000 RR and XF6000 137. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

I'm usually pretty cautious during the first ditch rides of the season, when there's less than the 8-12 inches that seems to be the required amount to bury the most debilitating of junk that's accumulated during the summer and fall.

In 40 years of sledding, I've never been the guy to unwittingly find the car battery, bowling ball, truck rim, gas grill or whatever else fell out of Cooter's truck and into the ditch. Nor do I want to be that guy, so I was taking it easy on this outing.

No, the new-in-the-package furnace filter would not have caused any problems had we hit it...

 

First ride on the 2015 Arctic Cat ZR4000 RR and XF6000 137. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

...but the 2-foot section of iron pipe would definitely have caused some carnage had I hit it.

 

First ride on the 2015 Arctic Cat ZR4000 RR and XF6000 137. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

I believe this fell off the truck of my friend and fellow Arctic Cat rider Todd Ulschmid. Todd, please pick this thing up, it's on Hwy 13 about 3 miles north of St. Patricks.

Thanks.

 

First ride on the 2015 Arctic Cat ZR4000 RR and XF6000 137. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

Having enjoyed the ditch between Prior Lake and New Prague, it was time to head home. But first we wanted to stop on a little lake nearby that we like to goof around on.

 

First ride on the 2015 Arctic Cat ZR4000 RR and XF6000 137. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

The name is Lake Cynthia, which is crossed by one of the local snowmobile trails.

There were a few tracks on it, as well as some motorcyclists (with studded tires). They had drilled some holes and reported 6-7 inches, so we felt comfortable enough to ride the perimeter and have some fun.

 

First ride on the 2015 Arctic Cat ZR4000 RR and XF6000 137. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

I love this photo because it looks like the middle of winter with tons of snow.

 

First ride on the 2015 Arctic Cat ZR4000 RR and XF6000 137. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

The best part of this ride, and what will make it memorable for years and years to come, was the perfect conditions for whipping donuts. It was ideal!

This was the first time that Cal had ever done this and of course he loved it. Who doesn't!?!

 

First ride on the 2015 Arctic Cat ZR4000 RR and XF6000 137. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

We played like this for 30 minutes or so, snapping pix and goofing around and laughing like crazy.

And then it was time to head home.

 

First ride on the 2015 Arctic Cat ZR4000 RR and XF6000 137. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

A few sections of farm field gave us a chance to see a little speed with the sleds. All good fun.

 

First ride on the 2015 Arctic Cat ZR4000 RR and XF6000 137. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

When all was said and done, the odometer showed 33.9 miles.

Prior to leaving on this ride, I would NEVER have guessed we'd log this many miles on the few inches of remaining snow in our area. Nor would I have predicted that absolutely wonderful time spent on Lake Cynthia, which gave us highlights and memories that will last for years.

This is the lesson that I continually learn and relearn over and over again: that instead of waiting for great or ideal conditions, we just have to take our chances and go for a ride. Every time I take the chance and ride, I end up with great experiences.

The weather for the next 7-10 days doesn't look so great here in Minnesota, but we haven't really even started winter yet. There's January, February, March and April ahead of us.

I got my first ride in, here's hoping you get yours sooner rather than later. My only advice: go! Even if the conditions look marginal.

Thanks for reading.



Comments (13):

Blaine Kotasek says:
12/8/2014 4:01:00 PM

here in Minot ,ND we had 4-5 inches so was able to put on 35 miles so far.Just wondering how can I get a couple of ArcticInsider Stickers?
Jeff Bluhm says:
12/8/2014 10:45:00 PM

I'm glad to see that Cal got a 4000RR, I think he'll like it a lot. I'm glad that the 500 motor is in the procross chassis for this year. I've been able to put about 40 miles on my 4000RR and I'm very impressed with it. I hope we get some more snow soon so I can put some more miles on it.
Paul Hein says:
12/9/2014 6:13:00 AM

Hey, be careful how you break in my "future" sled ! LOL
See you in Wahkon Sat ?
Eric says:
12/9/2014 7:32:00 AM

Loved reading this article like always John. Not to one up you, but I had my first sled ride in August on a grass run across my dad's lawn where my sled is stored. He wasn't the most happy with it, but I know how to use a rake and a pull on the flipper is well worth that manual labor!
Greg Hallstrom says:
12/9/2014 9:14:00 AM

What? You finally bought something with a decent amount of track under it?
Shannon W says:
12/9/2014 10:26:00 AM

Nice! My son and I can't wait to get out for a ride, but being in central Iowa now I will most likely be hauling my sleds north when there is enough snow.

John just think of the extra cash you guys could make collecting scrap iron along the ditches right now! ;)
Kimster says:
12/9/2014 3:55:00 PM

All the miles put on were from spinning the donuts! LOL
akrider says:
12/9/2014 10:19:00 PM

Your area appears to be pretty free of rocks from what I can tell in the pictures? In my area we can't ride with that amount of snow as the rocks and gravel would tear and bang things up. So far the winter has been pretty bad here in AK. It's been so warm the lakes, ponds and rivers aren't freezing up to be safe. I almost lost my four wheeler to crashing through the ice two weeks ago.

Thanks for posting the pics. It's always neat to see what other riding areas look like.
John Sandberg says:
12/10/2014 11:39:00 AM

Blaine: For decals, click the email link at the bottom of this page and send me your address.

Paul: I will break your future sled. In.

Eric: We need a ruling on whether grass counts as the first ride of the season. Will convene a board meeting and decide.

Greg: Yep, will be my first 137-in. track.

Kimster: In truth, probably 3 miles of track spin.

akrider: Where I live it's not rocky, mostly farm fields. Northeastern part of the state is all rock though.
taperk600 says:
12/10/2014 4:27:00 PM

Looks like a great day and great memories. I miss the days of riding with my son, who is now in college in Florida. But he is on his way home for break, and we're getting hit hard for snow, so next week will be my 1st ride (our trails open on the 16th anyway). But I think a few laps around the house WILL happen tomorrow !!

And John, you have the exact sled I would have ordered had my 14 6-RR last spring. So I'm looking forward to reading the reports on it that are sure to come this season.
Blaine Kotasek says:
12/10/2014 5:37:00 PM

Had the 74 340 El Tigre out today and had a blast
Todd Ulschmid says:
12/11/2014 6:10:00 AM

John, been searching for the pipe on Hwy 13..... Did you take it home with you? It actually fell off my Focus. It was my new "custom" exhaust.... My version of Montana pipes.... : ) BRING ON THE SNOW!!
Mike F says:
12/11/2014 9:32:00 AM

John, I like your idea to keep your spare key on the ring with the original. That way a guy can loose them both at the same time...saves the time and trouble of having to misplace two separate ones...:) I had a hard time starting my new one the other day. Evidently turning the key on is important...havent had a sled with a key in almost a decade! Felt dumber than usual!!!

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