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Feb. '11 Trip to Arctic Cat


(2/13/2011)

Arctic Cat in Thief River Falls

I made a quick trip to Arctic Cat in Thief River Falls last week. The trip started somberly, when I attended the wake service for Pat Mach's funeral in Warsaw, ND, just an hour from TRF. Lots of hand-shakes, hugs and tears, but also strength and faith.

Wednesday morning in Thief, the temp was a chilly -15 F, with the snow squeaky/crunchy underfoot, and boogers freezinig when I breathed in too fast with my nose. Love that kind of winter!

Leaving Field Test

One of my first stops inside the plant was in the Field Test area, where two 2012 prototypes were being prepared for a test run.

2012 prototype Arctic Cat Groomer Special

Yep, you're looking at a new-for-2012 Bearcat Groomer Special (right). Aimed at the needs of clubs/organizations who desire a smaller grooming set-up, such as for feeder trails, parks, XC ski facilities and such.

It matches the Bearcat Z1 XT platform with a "fifth-wheel-type" mount, a rear light with floodlight/beacon, and auxiliary radiator located under the seat and handlebar-mounted switches that operate the groomer (the later of which will also be an accessory item). It also comes with a standard front-mounted winch. 

2012 prototype Arctic Cat Groomer Special

It and the other Bearcat were going out for an all-day grooming test session. No trips to the Shooting Star Casino on this day.

Maybe not the most exciting of the 2012 models, but it's a smart, important addition to Arctic Cat line for 2012.

Field Test tool box

Check out this tool box. Depending upon the season, there are roughly 6-10 snowmobile field test riders, whose job it is to durability-test current and prototype snowmobiles. It's a job that's always intrigued me. Riding 180-200 miles/day sounds awesome, although I'm certain there are days where they'd like to be anywhere other than on the saddle of a sled.

Anyway, each of these guys has their own tool chest, for working on and adjusting "their" sleds.

 

Belt testing on the lake

In the middle portion of the day I joined some engineers on a nearby lake, where they were testing some sleds, focussing on drivetrain and fuel mapping.

Testing on the lake

These days, testing involves a combination of seat-of-the-pants evaluation AND high-tech diagnostic equipment.

Kevin Thompson (l) and Jamie Edwards

Taking a break from the test session, Kevin Thompson (left) and Jamie Edwards compare notes, solved problems and make progress.

Thompson is the son of legendary Team Arctic racer Davey Thompson, and has been an Arctic Cat engineer for as long as I can remember. He heads the drivetrain and plastic groups within Engineering.

Edwards works in the engine group, helping to develop and calibrate engines. I've written several press releases highlighting Edwards's grass drag racing accomplishments, but this was the first time I met him in-person. Great guy. And it sounds like he's going to add another sled to his drag racing program this summer, to complement his F7 Firecat rocket. Hmmm....

I'm always grateful for every moment I spend with Arctic Cat engineers. They're so smart, engaged and good at what they do, that I'm always impressed. I ask a million questions, because their jobs and thought processes are so interesting, and they're always great about answering, even though I'm sure they sometimes tire of it. Thanks guys.

 

The legend: Larry Coltom

Back inside the engineering shop at Arctic Cat, I got to share some stories with the legend, Larry Coltom. One of the most genuine, nice guys I've had the pleasure to know, Coltom is also one of the most accomplished engineers in the entire sport. His specialty is the seat-of-the-pants engineering, at which there maybe nobody better.

Coltom is undoubtedly most famous for his oval racing exploits in the 1970s, but I'd argue that his greatest accomplishments are the snowmobiles he's helped engineer.

On this day Coltom was proudly showing me his vintage Arctic Cat stocking hat.

 

Inside Arctic Cat engineering

There's some serious brainpower shown in this photo. From l-to-r: Roger Skime, Ron Bergman, Brian Dick and Jeff Olson, the latter three of which work on the suspensions and chassis.

From all that I witness of these and other people at Arctic Cat, they work on the principle of face-to-face communication rather than narrow silos conversing via telephone/email. Conversations happen constantly, whether it's in the shop, at desks or in the field. I'm always impressed by their level-headedness, and their ability to consider new ideas.

Brian was dressed-up this day because he, Roger and a whole bunch of people from Arctic Cat had attended Pat Mach's funeral a few hours earlier. Both Roger and Brian were in a reflective, somber mood after returning from the service, having lost a good friend.

 

Dyno test lab

Elsewhere within the hallowed walls of Arctic Cat Engineering, Ryan Hayes (left) and Mike McArdle were running a dyno test of the 800 H.O. engine, focussing mainly on emissions.

Lot's of stuff happening with engine development at Arctic Cat, including new dyno cells and a new air-controller system that I'm going to do a story about in the future. This is Mike's dyno lab, and he was joking around about having to manually pull-start the engine, while Ryan simply has to press a button when using his dyno.

I shot this photo at 5:20 pm, and these two were settling in to observe a 30-minute dyno run.

 

Roger and Joey

Before I left town, I stopped by Roger Skime's office, where he and Joey Hallstrom were looking at a proofing-copy of the 2012 Arctic Cat brochure.

Roger's walls are filled with racing photos, which is little surprise given his unwavering passion for competition. It's cool: there are photos of Charlie Lofton, Tucker Hibbert, Cadarette Racing, Blair Morgan and dozens more, and Roger can tell you something about every one of them. Such photos reflect the passion and history of Team Arctic racers, which makes Roger proud beyond words.

But this moment, perhaps exhausted from thinking about Pat Mach's passing, Roger wanted to talk about the brochure, and all the exciting things that are happening right now and in the future at Arctic Cat.

There is nobody more fired-up about snowmobiles than Roger Skime. There are some who get AS fired-up, but never more. And these days there's a lot to get fired-up about.

In less than a month, Arctic Cat is going to unveil its 2012 line of snowmobiles, which I know will fire-up Cat fans everywhere. And the company (all us riders) are soon going to begin celebrating 50 years of the brand!

The people here like Roger and Joey see what the future holds (and they like what they see). Me too.



Comments (28):

JonnySox says:
2/13/2011 6:14:00 PM

Who would have thought the 2012s would be in the Bearcat chassis? Didnt see that one coming.
Kevin says:
2/13/2011 7:12:00 PM

More bad news... Edgar Hetteen has passed away. The company he started 50 years ago and the people who love their Arctic Cat's have lost the greatest man the sport has ever known.
Todd Ulschmid says:
2/13/2011 9:14:00 PM

That's an interesting looking rear skid leaning against the wall of the trailer Kevin Thompson and Jamie Edwards are conversing in... Those rails look ultra lite... Floating front arm still intact, too. Nice!
John Sandberg says:
2/13/2011 9:53:00 PM

Todd: I had to blow-up the original image to confirm... it's not a FLOAT front arm shock.
Todd Ulschmid says:
2/14/2011 7:27:00 AM

My bad.... Wrong terminology... I meant to refer to the front "slide action front arm still intact, too".... Floating, slide action....Potato, patoto...
I knew what I meant.... : )
Gerry Osendorf says:
2/14/2011 8:01:00 AM

After a great snow season it is always exciting to look forward to the new "iron' for next season. Was very impressed with Brian Nelson and Joey Hallstrom in the vintage class of the I 500.Sorry to hear about Edgar passing on..what a great inventor and humanitarian.
Gerry
Captain says:
2/14/2011 8:07:00 AM

So I blew up that picture of the "lake testing" and though it isnt the best quality it definitely looks different than anything AC has currently. The hood vents and headlights are different.

John, would you mind sending me a higher quality picture so I can get a better look? :-)
Paul Hein, Snowhunter says:
2/14/2011 8:08:00 AM

John,
I'm sure you know more than you can tell ! I'm jealous ! Looking forward to release of 2012's and the 50th Celebration.
ArcticCatLover says:
2/14/2011 10:14:00 AM

Roger Skime is AWESOME!!!! This guy needs an award, his own book, or something along those lines. Same goes for Edgar Hetteen. You'll be dearly missed my friend.
Daniel says:
2/14/2011 4:28:00 PM

Whatever these guys pay is, its not enuff... And this kind of strong american passion for the sport is why Cat is #1 in my book!
Chase says:
2/14/2011 6:29:00 PM

I blew up that picture too and it looks wayyyyyyyyyyyyyyy different than ANY sled i have ever seen
Chase says:
2/14/2011 6:33:00 PM

In some of the pictures you can see the luxury trail sleds in the background that look a bit different than the current
SnowPro says:
2/15/2011 10:41:00 AM

I totally agree with ArcticCatLover. Anyone else agree?
DAVE FROM PA SAYS says:
2/15/2011 2:34:00 PM

I TOURED THE FACTORY IN 1987 & WOULD LIKE TO DO IT AGAIN SOME DAY. HAD A GREAT TIME IN THIEF RIVER FALLS.
Will says:
2/15/2011 9:33:00 PM

If you go to this link you can see the chassis in a full res pic. It kind of looks like an XP and a pro-ride chassis.

http://www.snowmobilefanatics.com/forum/topic/121955-arctic-cats-new-sled
Phil says:
2/16/2011 10:11:00 AM

If you look at Kevin Thompson jacket above it looks alot like the one that is being worn in the prototype sled picture which makes me wonder even more if they are cats. (look for yourself)
Rusty says:
2/16/2011 11:28:00 AM

Lol! I love that comment by ACkid1 on that link! So true,, ;)
Chase says:
2/17/2011 8:53:00 AM

@Rusty

- i am ACkid1. haha
Rusty says:
2/17/2011 4:23:00 PM

@ Chase AKA: ACkid1

Good to know! Keep it up!
Chase says:
2/17/2011 7:41:00 PM

@ Rusty

Thanks man! i will. i just dont like when people say those sleds look ugly when they have the fabric on them. like, what if they dont really look like that or they are the coolest looking sleds ya know?
Chase says:
2/17/2011 7:44:00 PM

they all just blocked my post. thats kinda funny
Keith Nohner says:
2/18/2011 3:40:00 AM

I always wondered what it would be like to run a dyno at arctic cat ,I kinda think that would be a really cool job. I was a schenk dyno specialist at one time, thanks Dave Beito.
Trevor Halvorson says:
2/18/2011 7:06:00 PM

You are funny Keith!
Nate says:
2/19/2011 8:01:00 AM

After looking through the comments on the SF forums I'm guessing most people over there buy sleds to look at them, not ride them.
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