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November 2013 Trip Report: Two Great Days at Arctic Cat


(11/18/2013)

Ice on the ponds near Thief River Falls, MN.

A November drive to Thief River Falls is always good, especially when the ponds have a layer of ice and some skiffs of snow.

 

Arctic Cat in Thief River Falls, MN. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

It's interesting that, for me at least, there's a different aura of Arctic Cat depending upon the season. The mood in summer always feels more laid back. Wintertime always feels a bit frantic, as everyone is moving at double-time pace.

In the fall, I always feel the tug of urgency and anticipation.

Walking to the door, with the heavy clouds spitting a mix of snow and sleet, I couldn't help but think of the anticipation of winter contained within these walls.

 

2014 Arctic Cat ZR7000 on the assembly line. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

Inside, one of the first things I wanted to see which machines were on the production lines.

Can you tell just by looking at the above shot?

 

2014 Arctic Cat ZR7000 on the assembly line. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

If you guessed 2014 Arctic Cat ZR7000s, you win! Production was wrapping up on these models to make way for ZR6000s, which are probably being built as you read this.

 

2014 Arctic Cat Wildcat X on the assembly line. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

2014 Wildcat X models were rolling off of the UTV line. There was a nice buzz in the air about the recent announcement of the Wildcat X Limited models, as well as discussion about the 50-in. Wildcat trail model that the company keeps hinting at.

 

2013 Arctic Cat 500 4x4 ATV on the assembly line. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

Eye-popping 500 4x4 EFI models were flowing along nicely on the ATV line.

Together, the creation of three production lines gives this place an energy that's palpable.

 

Arctic Cat Director of Engineering, Doug Wolter.

That energy definitely infuses Doug Wolter. As Director of snowmobile engineering, Wolter overseas all the energy, creativity and enthusiasm of an incredibly talented group of people.

Doug was happy to report to me that an engineering crew was in Alaska, knocking out 500 miles a day on production machines, with excellent results. If the medium range forecast holds true, pretty soon that group will be back and riding in TRF.

 

Arctic Cat engineers Andy Beavis and Mike Larson. Photo: ArcticInsider.com

Andy Beavis (left) and Mike Larson are two snowmobile engineers with energy and creativity. I've interviewed both of these guys for this site (Andy Beavis interview HERE and the Mike Larson interview HERE).

On this day I listened to Beavis talk about his recent trip to Arctic Cat's track supplier, Camoplast, as well as his ideas for snowmobile suspension design. Pretty fascinating stuff that put a huge smile on my face.

Both of these guys plugged IN. They know EVERYTHING about not only Arctic Cat snowmobiles, but also the competition and aftermarket.

Their desks are filled with magazine clippings from the world of motocross, industrial design, automobiles and of course snowmobiling. They understand production nearly as well as they know design. They're into music, motorcycles and many other things.

If I chose a single word to describe them, it would be "inspired."

I sometimes get a bit nostalgic and concerned about the reduced workload and inevitable retirement of guys like Larry Coltom and Roger Skime. However, I’m always comforted by what I know of the talent and passion of the current and more youthful generation of Arctic Cat engineers

The future of Arctic Cat is in very good hands

 

Arctic Cat enginners Erick Halvorson and Kevin Thompson. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

While 99.9% of my conversations at Arctic Cat are about snowmobiles, ATVs and side-by-sides, there is always some deviation from shop talk. With Minnesota smack-dab in the middle of deer hunting season, I had a nice talk with Kevin Thompson (right) and Erick Halvorson about our experiences afield this season.

 

Ron Bergman, Arctic Cat snowmobile engineer. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

After catching up with a number of people, I moseyed on over to find Ron Bergman for an upcoming story I'm working on.

A veritable dynamo of ideas, Bergman is definitely one of the most dynamic, creative and prolific engineers I've ever met. He's been integral to the creation of the last three model families (ProCross, Twin Spar and Firecat) as well as a hundred other components, projects and even test evaluation equipment.

Ron's mind operates at two-times the speed of most people, and it's an absolute pleasure talking to him about whatever he's thinking about at the moment.

On this day the subjects ranged from air-intake systems to reducing the cost of snowmobiles and the optimal track width.

While talking with him, I couldn't help but notice the Jackson Pollock-like whiteboard behind him.

 

 

Ron Bergman, Arctic Cat snowmobile engineer. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

When asked about it, Ron gave me the lowdown on much of what is scribbled on it, and why. He prefers to draw ideas out for himself and as a means to explain his ideas to others. And because his mind is always in hyperdrive, he'll just keep drawing on the same board instead of first erasing it, so in a couple day's time it looks like this.

 

Ron Bergman's snowmobile sketches. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

So if you want to know juicy details about future Arctic Cat snowmobiles and the intricacies of quantum physics, just decipher what you see here.

 

Arctic Cat 2-Stroke Engine engineer Greg Spaulding. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

Greg Spaulding, 2-Stroke Engine Group Leader, is another amazing engineer I spent some time with on another story I'm working on. I thought it was funny and timely that, in order to explain to me the extraordinary effort to calibrate an engine fuel management system for a snowmobile, he got out the marker and started drawing!

Something else occurs to me about the engineers at Arctic Cat: they have great patience to explain the complicated details to average-IQs like myself.

Thanks you guys!

 

Kirk Hibbert cribbage board. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

After completing my download session with Spaulding, we walked through an company break room where I saw this custom Kirk Hibbert cribbage board.  I love the use of rivets!

Bonus points for anyone who can correctly identify where I captured the shot of Kirk used on this board.

 

Kirk and Tucker Hibbert. Photo by ArcticInsider.com.

Upon leaving Cat for the evening, I went to the Hibbert race shop to see what was happening with another group of talented, creative people.

Tucker Hibbert (right) had just returned from an evening of snocross practice at the Christian Brothers Racing practice track in Fertile, Minn., and he was giving an info download to Kirk (left).

Together with the team's newest mechanic, Garth Kaufman, the Hibbert Racing crew are heading into the season as prepared and confident as I've ever seen them.

 

The Hibbert Race Shop. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

Following a pleasant stay at the Hibbert Bed & Breakfast (five star rating, highly recommended), I left the compound by grabbing this shot at daybreak, just outside the race shop, with the RAM windshields frosted over and the ground frozen solid.

 

Frozen Red Lake River from Smiley Bridge in Thief River Falls. Photo: ArcticInsider.com

On the drive to town, I crossed the iced-over Red Lake River at Smiley Bridge. Only a couple months from now racers will be WOT here while competing in the USXC Seven Clans Casino I-500 cross-country. It will seem like the time from now until then will pass in just the snap of my fingers...

 

Fiberglass master Kenny Halvorson. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

On Friday, I was finally able to spend a few hours with man behind most reproduction vintage Arctic Cat hoods, Kenny Halvorson (above).

Halvorson is the kind gentleman who builds fiberglass snowmobile hoods of all makes and styles, as well as fiberglass projects that range from custom automobiles to aircraft bombs.

Stay tuned... you'll read all about him in an upcoming story.

 

Arctic Cat Cheetah for sale in TRF. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

FYI: If anyone is looking for a nice condition 1975 Arctic Cat Cheetah, this baby is parked alongside Hwy 59 just a mile or so north of TRF.

 

Russ Ebert, Mike Kloety and Dean Larson inside the Arctic Cat Race Shop.

After walking away from the Cheetah, I walked into the Team Arctic Race Shop, where the impending deadline of the upcoming race season was very apparent to these three guys.

Russ Ebert (left) and Mike Kloety (middle) were going through parts inventory for the Team Arctic Factory Snocross team that Russ builds sleds for, while Dean Larson (right) had been going through some belts in Special Services (aka: Salvage) and had some questions about a particular belt he found.

It's funny... when Larson mentioned the five-year-old belt number to Ebert and Kloety, both guys knew exactly the year it came out, its relative durometer compared to other belts and whether it would be a decent option for a Sno Pro 500.

 

Inside the Team Arctic Race Shop. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

Several sleds were in the Race Shop, including Wes Selby's torn-apart Sno Pro 600 (middle, front). Wes was in the middle of building his sled when the engineering trip to Alaska meant it was time to pack his bags and start riding.

 

Inside the Team Arctic Race Shop. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

Elsewhere in the Race Shop, various year-old sleds were waiting pickup by new owners, including several Sno Pro 500s and a couple 2013 Sno Pro 600s. I didn't think to ask if Brian Dick's Irondog sled (#23 in the background) was for sale. Hmmm...

 

Dan & Ed DeVault signed poster inside the Team Arctic Race Shop.

It seems like every time I'm at the Race Shop, something different catches my eye. This time, a photograph of Team Arctic oval racer Dan DeVault and signed by Dan and his brother Ed. The photo was from the 1997 USSA race at Antigo, Wis., where the pair combined to win four finals.

 

Blair Morgan poster inside the Team Arctic Race Shop. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

On a different wall, this classic poster of Blair Morgan.

I appreciate that Arctic Cat continues to honor its great racers and heritage by preserving posters and images like these.

(Additional bonus points if you can correctly ID where I shot the Blair image used in the poster.)

 

 

Arctic Cat parts in the Salvage dept. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

While I was at the Race Shop, I took a few minutes to go next door and browse Special Services, where this ProCross bulkhead and front suspension caught my eye...

 

Stuff at Arctic Cat salvage dept. Photo: ArcticInsider.com

...as did these riser blocks. Sadly, no 10-plus-10=20-inch-Bobby Flame models were available.

 

Gary Moyle's crated 2014 Arctic Cats.

Outside of the Race Shop and Special Services, two of Gary Moyle's sleds were in crates, waiting to be picked up. I took the liberty of uncrating these bad boys, setting them up and doing a few hot laps down the Hwy 59 ditch.

Ready to go, boys!

 

Arctic Cat company store. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

After breaking in Moyle's sleds but before saying my goodbyes and leaving Arctic Cat, I made a quick stop at the company store to check out some of the cool stuff. I had great restraint this time and left with only minor impact to my wallet.

 

Arctic Cat in Thief River Falls, MN. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

Walking out of the plant, Old Glory was glowing bring in the late afternoon sun.

Another great trip to my favorite place, with plans for my next trip in just a few weeks!

Thanks for reading.



Comments (25):

pdracing1 says:
11/18/2013 8:08:00 PM

great story as usual is that shot of kirk from cantebury?
todd olson says:
11/18/2013 11:50:00 PM

I think its kirk 97 deluth and 99 cantebury on blair
Matrick98Z says:
11/19/2013 1:49:00 AM

Thanks for the factory shots! Lived in TRF for two years while going to school and loved every minute of it. Probably took the tour 10 times in 2 years. Always neat to see whats new rolling down the line. I the tour still closed while the race sleds are being built?
Gregg says:
11/19/2013 7:14:00 AM

Great story John. All i can say is i wish i was walking behind you!
John Sandberg says:
11/19/2013 7:35:00 AM

Thanks guys.

PDracing: Yes, the shot of Kirk is from Canterbury.

Todd: Correct on the shot of Blair also being from Canterbury.

Matrick: I *think* Cat allows tours while the race sled is being built.

Gregg: I try to make these stories the next best thing to being there.
Erik Bute says:
11/19/2013 9:56:00 AM

Great story again John. I find it hard to get my self to do a whole lot of reading outside of work or items relating to the race sled, but I never miss a word while reading one of your articles. Is your son still considering on doing a few events this year? Thanks for everything you do and I'm sure I'll be seeing you around at USXC events this winter.
P.S. I can never thank Mandi and yourself enough for the ski loop tug out of the swamp in the I-500 a couple years ago, which was probarly the reason I went on to finish so well.

Todd Ulschmid says:
11/19/2013 12:46:00 PM

Hi John, Always look forward to these trip reports! Alright, I have to ask the obvious.... The picture that you refer to Wes Selby's race sled.... The black tunnel on the lift... What sled is that? Who's sled will it be? Where can we look forward to seeing it race???? : ) Is it just me or does this tunnel look different... Not just the color, either... Come on, don't hold out on us!! : )
hugh says:
11/19/2013 1:28:00 PM

Always entertaining stories to make the day go better. But many of us are waiting for an interview when the engineers finally see the light and return to good old reverse-cam clutches and sane belt compounds and pressures. Until then I know at least a dozen Cat riders that will not buy another and that is sad because we've all been on them for a minimum 25 years.
Flintstone says:
11/19/2013 6:51:00 PM

Russ taught me how to rebuild engines and transmissions in cars. Plus he taught me how to make cars go fast. Hands down, the best teacher I have ever had and that was over 20 years ago.
Marty-ff says:
11/19/2013 9:10:00 PM

Great coverage as always, but you forgot to stop up to the TRF fire hall and pick up a ticket for a chance to win that fish house we are giving away. From all of us at the TRFFD, thanks for your support of our raffle.
Eric says:
11/19/2013 9:28:00 PM

Is Gary done racing ovals? Have been hearing this rumor since last year, but haven't had it confirmed. I'd assume those sleds are for enduro racing? The Devault poster brought back some good memories.
Scott Watters says:
11/20/2013 10:32:00 PM

Another nice factory write up John,just finishing up with my last week of work for the season and then try to make it up to Arctic Cat for our annual trip to catch the tail end of the snowmobile build/tour.
RL says:
11/21/2013 4:16:00 PM

Thanks for making the AC factory and all the entities of it come alive in an article.
As for the Pollock- esque art work Ron is definitely working on improving the rear suspension or a completely new one based on the sketch in blue on the upper left hand corner that seems to place a rear shock where the rear scissors arm would go.
I also noticed the sketch in Orange on the right side of the board that has the front arm shock at a pretty aggressive angle fore and aft. No matter how it is decifered the bottom line will be a win for the racers and consumers.
I'll see you in church.

Kevin Hooper says:
11/21/2013 4:42:00 PM

Gary has been moving over from sprint ovals to other forms of snowmobile racing. He has now been involved with cross country racing and he's been racing at the Soo as well. I'm guessing they were for cross country racing. He's a really nice guy and a great driver - I have a lot of respect for him.
Eric says:
11/21/2013 7:47:00 PM

Kevin I do agree 110 percent. Him, His wife, brother Andy, and all the rest of those guys are super nice people. Seems to be the Yooper way. Just will miss seeing him at Eagle River, but I hope he kicks butt elsewhere.
johnny says:
3/30/2014 10:57:00 AM

hi i just got a 2014 wildcat x . is there a video on the making of this side by side. thank you johnny.
Ibrahim says:
10/9/2015 1:25:00 AM

My friend and I had two silgne rooms. Both rooms were clean, comfortable rooms with a comfy bed, decent wardrobe space and a desk area with TV. Hotel Central is located in a central shopping area, only 300 meters from the main Courmayeur cable car. It offers free parking and alpine-style rooms. Hotel also features a fitness centre, and guests can relax in the sauna after a day skiing, rafting, or canoeing in the Italian Alps. The hotel's restaurant is open in the summer months and serves a wide range of international food as well as Aosta Valley specialties, accompanied by wines from the well-stocked cellar. Perfect location in Courmayeur. Small but clean rooms. Great value for money. All in all I would not hesitate to recommend this hotel.
Ibrahim says:
10/9/2015 1:25:00 AM

My friend and I had two silgne rooms. Both rooms were clean, comfortable rooms with a comfy bed, decent wardrobe space and a desk area with TV. Hotel Central is located in a central shopping area, only 300 meters from the main Courmayeur cable car. It offers free parking and alpine-style rooms. Hotel also features a fitness centre, and guests can relax in the sauna after a day skiing, rafting, or canoeing in the Italian Alps. The hotel's restaurant is open in the summer months and serves a wide range of international food as well as Aosta Valley specialties, accompanied by wines from the well-stocked cellar. Perfect location in Courmayeur. Small but clean rooms. Great value for money. All in all I would not hesitate to recommend this hotel.
Ibrahim says:
10/9/2015 1:25:00 AM

My friend and I had two silgne rooms. Both rooms were clean, comfortable rooms with a comfy bed, decent wardrobe space and a desk area with TV. Hotel Central is located in a central shopping area, only 300 meters from the main Courmayeur cable car. It offers free parking and alpine-style rooms. Hotel also features a fitness centre, and guests can relax in the sauna after a day skiing, rafting, or canoeing in the Italian Alps. The hotel's restaurant is open in the summer months and serves a wide range of international food as well as Aosta Valley specialties, accompanied by wines from the well-stocked cellar. Perfect location in Courmayeur. Small but clean rooms. Great value for money. All in all I would not hesitate to recommend this hotel.
Kristiani says:
10/11/2015 5:56:00 AM

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Kristiani says:
10/11/2015 5:56:00 AM

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Kristiani says:
10/11/2015 5:56:00 AM

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Maya says:
10/13/2015 1:49:00 AM

July 29, 2010that makes me so mad!!!! you know, ive come to really see so much that when aonyne is in denial over something, it makes the truth totally clouded and distorted..that's when people shift blame and don't take responsibility for their own actions..because of denial..i think denial is a prison and i think it's the easy way out ..it takes much more courage and character to admit wrongs and to actively walk in the light. i am so proud of you for walking in the light!!! http://drsddfcd.com [url=http://ggzeyaidxi.com]ggzeyaidxi[/url] [link=http://ieapqboqjcc.com]ieapqboqjcc[/link]
Maya says:
10/13/2015 1:49:00 AM

July 29, 2010that makes me so mad!!!! you know, ive come to really see so much that when aonyne is in denial over something, it makes the truth totally clouded and distorted..that's when people shift blame and don't take responsibility for their own actions..because of denial..i think denial is a prison and i think it's the easy way out ..it takes much more courage and character to admit wrongs and to actively walk in the light. i am so proud of you for walking in the light!!! http://drsddfcd.com [url=http://ggzeyaidxi.com]ggzeyaidxi[/url] [link=http://ieapqboqjcc.com]ieapqboqjcc[/link]
Maya says:
10/13/2015 1:49:00 AM

July 29, 2010that makes me so mad!!!! you know, ive come to really see so much that when aonyne is in denial over something, it makes the truth totally clouded and distorted..that's when people shift blame and don't take responsibility for their own actions..because of denial..i think denial is a prison and i think it's the easy way out ..it takes much more courage and character to admit wrongs and to actively walk in the light. i am so proud of you for walking in the light!!! http://drsddfcd.com [url=http://ggzeyaidxi.com]ggzeyaidxi[/url] [link=http://ieapqboqjcc.com]ieapqboqjcc[/link]

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