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HomeFeaturesFriday in March: Another Great Day at Arctic Cat

Friday in March: Another Great Day at Arctic Cat

Arctic Cat's Tucker Hibbert with his new RAM truck, photo:

On the way to TRF I stopped for a visit with newly-crowned ISOC Pro Open champ, Tucker Hibbert. How was Tucker celebrating his most recent championship? Washing his truck.


Tucker Hibbert's sweet new wallet. Photo:

Even cooler than a brand-new RAM truck: a hand-made duct tape wallet, sent to Tucker by one of his race fans. With a crafty child of my own, I’ve seen plenty of duct tape wallets the past few years. But nothing I’ve seen compares with the black/green and decorated unit that Tucker scored.

How was Tucker spending the resources contained in this wallet during my visit? Buying box fans, of course. Six of them (no lie).

By the way, Tucker’s Debit Card number is 5406 3212 2057 6554  x 9/14.


Arctic Cat plant in TRF in March 2013, photo:

Arriving at Arctic Cat bright and early the next morning, there was a lone sled parked in front of the plant… a T660 Turbo in mint condition. Which reminds me: I’ve heard the question, “Why is Arctic Cat using the C-TEC name designation with its new 600 DSI and all of its various 4-stroke engines?”

The company actually began using CTECH-4 when it launched the T660 as the first consumer-available 4-stroke snowmobile in 2002. It refers to “Clean Technology.”


Arctic Cat plant in TRF in March 2013, photo:

I’ve been sneaking into the front door of this place for more than 20 years, but I can’t ever remember seeing this much settled snow there. Look at the sides of the foyer… the snow banks are two-thirds the height of the doors!

There is so much snow in Northern Minnesota right now, it’s astounding. I worry about what it will mean for the Red River Valley later this spring, as it’s pretty apparent that serious flooding will occur.


Arctic Cat's Kevin Thompson and Gary Nelson

Once inside my favorite building in the world, I enjoyed a breakfast snack in the break room with two friends, Kevin Thompson (left) and Gary Nelson. Among his duties at Cat, Kevin oversees the drivetrain group, which has worked hard to confront the build-up of heat in the clutches/belt on select models.

From the conversation I gathered preliminary information to serve as the basis of a future story on the subject later this year.

(By the way… Happy 50th Kevin.)


The Arctic Cat Pilot Room (sponsored by ArcticInsider)

Walking from the break room to engineering, I passed by the Snowmobile Pilot Room (where the first examples of pre-production snowmobiles are assembled) and was psyched to see an AI decal that someone else had placed! I’m guessing it was the handiwork Joe Lesmeister, who works in the pilot room and who wrenches for Arctic Cat racer/engineer Brian Dick.

I’ll send the sponsorship check in today’s mail, Joe.


Arctic Cat engineers Larry Coltom and Bart Magner, by

Back in engineering, Larry Coltom (with the awesome grin) and Bart Magner were swapping rails on a skidframe.

These two guys are responsible for the drive quality of the ZR and XF 137-in. snowmobiles, and it’s safe to say that they observe the ride characteristics of a snowmobile to a level that makes my head spin (which is another story I’ll be working on in the coming weeks). Whether it’s clutching, suspension calibration, ride quality, engine calibration or any other system on a snowmobile, these two guys can detect the most subtle nuances and recalibrate (or request recalibration) accordingly.

Like so many of their colleagues, Larry and Bart are why Arctic Cat snowmobiles work so dang well. Besides that, they’re both great guys, even though Bart always laughs at me for taking so many pictures and for buying helmets that are too small.


Arctic Cat legends Larry Coltom and Roger Skime. Photo:

Talking about seat-of-the-pants ride calibration… Roger Skime (right) has a lifetime accumulation of such skill. And the conversations that occur between him and Larry about the calibration of new snowmobiles have been part and parcel of Arctic Cat for five decades.

That old cliche about wise men forgetting more about a subject than anyone else will ever know… that’s definitely the case with these two.

As is usually the case this time of the season, these guys and the rest of engineering are working on final calibrations for the next year’s model line as well as future projects.


Shocks on the wall at Arctic Cat. Photo:

A few feet away from where Roger was putting the final touches on a ZR8000 LXR, I spotted these racks. I was shocked at the sight!


Arctic Cat engineers Brian Dick and Donn Eide. Photo:

Nearby, Brian Dick was swapping a freshly built exhaust can on a ZR6000 el tigre that Engine Design Manager Donn Eide (right) had just delivered.

Eide is one of the engineers who designed the new C-TEC2 600 engine. It’s been a busy handful of years for him and his colleagues, yet it’s so cranking awesome to see the results of their efforts and expertise.


Arctic Cat engineers Roger Skime and Brian Dick. Photo:

I finagled my way onto a ride with Brian Dick (left) and Roger. We had a ZR6000 el tigre, a ZR7000 Sno Pro and a ZR8000 LXR, machines that Brian is responsible for as Team Leader of the Performance sleds, and each calibrated to final production specification for 2014.

My goal was to capture what happens on the kind of ride these guys and other engineers experience on a daily basis. We left Arctic Cat at Noon, following Roger as he headed north.


Arctic Cat engineers Roger Skime and Brian Dick. Photo:

Every 20 minutes or so these two would stop and talk about what they observed about the sleds, be it clutching, suspension, handling or anything else. Then they’d swap machines and head out for another romp in the ditches, trail and endless farmland of Northwest Minnesota.


Arctic Cat engineers Roger Skime and Brian Dick. Photo:

Once in awhile Roger would stop and tell us a funny story, like he did at this particular spot where, some 30 years ago, he was barreling along on a snowmobile and clipped a mailbox with his hand and messed up his fingers. Truth!


Roger Skime's ranch

About 70 miles after leaving TRF we arrived at Roger’s ranch near Skime, Minn. Yes, Skime, Minn.

In addition to being an engineer, racer, husband, father, grandpa and exceptional dancer, Roger is also a cowboy with ranch full of cattle. And on his ranch he’s building a beautiful new shop to house the various equipment needed to run his ranch.


Inside Roger Skime's old shop at his ranch

Inside the old shop is this cool Kirk Hibbert banner that Arctic Cat created after the introduction of the 1993 ZR. Kirk signed the poster for Roger, and it’s a treasured keepsake for that very special snowmobile and the friendship they share.


Arctic Cat's Roger Skime and Brian Dick adjust a sled suspension

After filling up our sleds with Roger’s personal stash of fuel, Brian made an adjustment to the torsion springs before our return trip to TRF.


Brian Dick's tool kit

Here’s a shot of sweet tool kit that Brian carries with whenever he rides, modeled after the kit he brings when competing in the Iron Dog race.

“I can practically rebuild the entire snowmobile if I needed to,” was his comment.


Arctic Cat engineers Roger Skime and Brian Dick. Photo:

Some days when these guys ride, the pace is snail-slow. Other times its casual. On this day, it ranged from moderate to whoa-momma-fast!

And like I mentioned above, each time they stop they share  observations about the ride characteristics of each sled. They notice EVERYTHING.


Here’s a short video of Roger (on the orange 2014 ZR7000) and Brian hitting a couple sections of ditch (sorry about all the wind noise during the first segment). Seriously, these two did similar launches no less than 50 times that day. It’s as normal for them as driving a car is for most people.

Pause for a moment to consider this: Roger is 69 years old. (In the first segment of video, he’s the first one to hit the approach. He’s the rider in the second segment.)

That’s just one reason why Roger is the hero to so many.


The Arctic Cat odometer

When we arrived back at Arctic Cat late that afternoon, the odometer indicated 134.2 miles.

“That’s a short ride,” said Roger.


Joey Hallstrom at Arctic Cat. Photo:

Not long after arriving back at Cat, Snowmobile Product Manager Joey Hallstrom arrived from his own ride that day in the Walhalla, ND, area where, like northern Minn., it’s loaded with snow.

After snapping this pic I noticed the decal on the locker over Joey’s shoulder and zoomed in for a look.


Larry Coltom's locker at Arctic Cat

“Ol’ Larr” as in Old Larry. I love how someone penciled in “The Legend.”

It’s hard to explain, but while guys like Coltom and Skime are certainly some of the all-time great snowmobile legends, they’re also just regular guys. And I think that in THEIR minds, that they are ONLY regular guys.

That humbleness characterizes the culture of this region and the company, and it’s something I appreciate very much.


Arctic Cat engineers Bart Magner, Roger Skime and Brian Dick

Anyway, after we got back to Cat (and even though it was 5pm on a Friday), there was still work to do. A discussion between Bart (left), Roger (middle) and Brian about the clutch calibration on the ZR7000 prompted the decision for another test with a different cam in the driven.


Arctic Cat engineer Brian Dick, photo:

Likewise, with 1,300 miles on the sled, Brian wanted to check the rollers in the drive clutch before loading up the sleds for a weekend of additional testing in the Grand Rapids, Minn., area.

There’s still a lot of riding left for these guys. And there’s no end to the fine-tuning that occurs on snowmobiles. Eventually the deadline of snowmelt and/or production will halt tweaking, but only temporarily.


Arctic Cat Hockey Tournament. Photo:

Leaving the plant, I high-tailed it over to the Huck Olson ice arena, where the 6th Annual Arctic Cat Cup was about to unfold.

I love this event (and wrote in great detail about last year’s match HERE), organized by Arctic Cat Stylist Corey Friesen.

In short, it’s the culmination of a season’s worth of Wed. night games among Arctic Cat employees, complete with a traveling cup (made from ATV wheels), full team introductions, singing the Star-Spangled Banner and the bragging rights that go to the winning team.


Arctic Cat Hockey Tournament. Photo:

This year the teams were split into ATV/Wildcat (wearing red) and Snowmobile.

There’s a lot to love about this game and the organization that Friesen puts into it, but what I appreciate the most is that there is a full-range of abilities that contest it, from first-year skaters to former High School standouts and including people who work in practically every area of the company.


Arctic Cat Hockey Tournament. Photo:

After three hard-fought periods, the ATV Wildcats claimed an 8-to-6 victory over the Snow el tigres.


Arctic Cat ATV Hockey Team takes the Cup

Hoisting the Arctic Cat Cup high was the winning goalie (and game MVP), Adam Dahl, who had never played goalie until this year when Friesen was sidelined due to a knee injury.


Arctic Cat ATV Hockey Team takes the Cup

The winning team (in no particular order):

Mike Tiry (Engine Group)

Maison Schoh (Assembly)

Tim Barry (ROV Welding Lead)

Tony Fletcher (Quality)

Jeff Best (Chassis Engineer)

Adam Dahl (ROV Welding)

Aaron Wavra (ATV Accessories)

Nick Ward (Chassis Engineer)

Peter Schoenecker (Chassis Engineer)

Scott Langlie (Purchasing)

Randy Pederson (Accounting)

Scott Mazour (Chassis Engineer)

Mark Esela (Group Manager)

Wayne Minnechsofer (Fuel System Engineer)


Congrats to all the players!


That’s all for now, thanks for reading!



  1. John,

    I love it when you go to TRF. That snow sure looks nice. I hope to ride yet this weekend, after that, who knows.

    Great job!

  2. This is the reason I come on this site every morning before anything else………cool insider stories like this that you will not find or see about any other snowmobiler manufacture in the world and also another “Perk” of owning an Arctic Cat,Thanks John.

  3. Great story once again John. I can’t believe Roger is that aggressive of a rider. My father is also 69 years old and in great shape, but I could never picture him riding a sled much less that aggressively! Way to go Roger!

  4. John,

    New to Arctic and the insider series of columns. Especially enjoyed the insider view of the Arctic works.

    Great job and many thanks!

  5. John, another great story ! Thanks, Thank you Arctic Cat for allowing John to share what goes on behind the scenes. Ok John, how about an interview with Larry Colton? I am sure he must have some interesting tales to tell about his years with Arctic Cat, and there has to be a Roger Skime story in there someplace ! Another question, can you explain to us who are unfamiliar to your neck of woods, why so much ditch riding? Sounds like a whole different riding style from us northern Mainers. Thanks and keep up the great work!

  6. I am 52. My wife, two sons, and I enjoy snowmobiling as a family sport. After a day of riding several weeks ago, my oldest son told me, “Dad, you ride pretty good yet”. Made me think of a better than pretty good rider at any age, Roger Skime. What an awesome example he is to our sport and life in general.
    I often times have wondered what it would be like to go on an afternoon ride with Roger. One thing I do know… I’d have a hard time keeping up with him. Thanks for the great article and taking us along on your adventure.

  7. great story! I love the photos of the going ons inside the factory especially
    when the legends are involved!
    after watching and reading your story John, It makes me want to jump on
    my procross again and ride some more! knowing that legends such as Coltom,
    Skime and Dick had some input into why these new sleds ride and handle
    so well!
    thanks again John!

  8. Thank you John for another excellent story. I check your site daily & always look forward to your writings. I especially enjoy your” tell me a Roger Skime story.” I do not see ol’ Rog as often as I used to so I truly appreciate these articles you write. I trust you will continue to do so for a long time.
    Also it was nice to see his shed coming along so well since I last saw it.

  9. Roger Skime is one of the nicest guy’s I have ever met. I remember when Gary Moyle won a world championship at Eagle River (I have nothing to do with Moyle other than being a fan). Roger came up and put his arm over my shoulder and said something like isnt this great (I had never met Roger before and havent met him since, but he is one of the reasons I stay on Cat. He looked like he even had tears in his eyes. Was very very cool and something I will never forget.

  10. Paul,

    The land is table-top flat in northwestern Minnesota. It is the remains of a glacial lake bottom. It is some of the richest farm land in the world but takes a lot of drainage to make it farmable. Kind of like farming the Everglades. The ditches are wide and gently sloped. Because of little or no trees, the snow blows off the fields and fills the ditches level. It makes for great riding unless the drifts are rock hard. But then that just gives Roger more opportunity to test the suspension……………………..

    We all grew up riding the ditches and fields around Thief River Falls. There was no such thing as trails back then. Even now, most of us find trails to be very boring. Going cross country over fields, ditches, and rivers is REAL snowmobiling to us. Throw in a few crossings for jumps and it really gets exciting.

  11. Very cool article!! I lived in TRF for two years while attending A&P school, what a great place. When the snow is decent, the riding in that area is some of the best around. You can put a ton of high speed miles on in a hurry. Too bad all that snow turns into big trouble in the spring. Thanks for all the pics, brings back alot of memories.

  12. He could have rebuilt a sled on the trail in the Iron dog race it chose not too! Was he frustrated breaking the jackshaft?

  13. Greg,
    Thank you for the geography update about your part of the world. I have been on a snowmobile of some sort since I was 8 years old, now I am 60 and still have the passion for it. I have heard about ditch riding for years, but could never figure out the reason for it. Thought that maybe you folks did not have landowner access like we do here in Maine. Sounds like fun for sure! Not too sure that I could keep up with you folks, but I am sure I could learn some tricks from you and John, and a little schooling from Roger wouldn’t hurt either. I will extend the same invitation to you as I did John, if you want to do a road trip to Northern Maine, you have a place to stay, the trail is 250 feet from my front door, access to 1600 miles of trails and 1 mile from the trails in Canada. A visit to TRF is on my bucket list after I retire LOL !

  14. In the vid jump I like how Dick can hit it flatten it out in the air but not too much and hit the ground ready for more action

  15. Paul Nadeau

    “Ditch Banging” is a term used out here in minnesota that refers to riding in the giant ditch between the road the someone’s property, usually a farm field. The reason alot of the trails in minnesota run in the ditch is because Minnesota has tons and tons of farm land and the state owns the right away from one side of the ditch to the road. The other reason is out in farm country there is no other place to put a trail as the land is so flat most of the snow gets blown off the fields and builds up in the ditches. Northern Minnesota is not like that, it is normal trails through the woods like you are use to in maine. I am from MI and I personally hate ditch banging and think it is one of the most dangerous forms of riding. Especially in the early season. Hope this helps describe the ditch banging people refer to.

  16. Greg,
    Not sure what you are talking about. You can see for a mile ahead of youself in the ditches around trf. Yes the other parts of MN are different. One needs to ride accordingly…..”hate” and “dangerous” are not really helpful terms. Minnesota has a very large, and extremely well maintined trail system that relies completely on private landowners, and local volunteers. If you don’t like riding in the ditches…..dont.

  17. Although its not my favorite form of riding, its certainly not the most dangerous. Early season ditch riding can be a challenge, but once they are full and properly groomed you cant beat it. I have had way more close calls in the woods with people that cant stay on their side of the trail. If you havent tried it, I highly reccomend a trip to TRF when snow conditions are good. You certainly wont be dissapointed.

  18. I appreciate all the nice comments here… thanks. I’m really lucky I get to share this stuff and I’m grateful that some of you guys like it.

    I’m also loving the great answers to why there’s so much ditch riding in Minnesota (and North Dakota). The other thing that I’d add to the discussion is that there’s a certain thrill to fast ditch riding because each driveway approach is essentially a jump.

    The kind of ditch-river-field-swamp riding that Greg Hallstrom described above is this region’s version of mountain riding, minus the elevation. It’s real cross-country, with elements of playing, adventure and (often) deep snow.

  19. Greg, Mike F and John both have good points, however maybe they don’t have the experiences you and I do in ditches here in Michigan either??

    Indeed, it can be both: FUN AS HE-(double tooth picks),, AND DANGEROUS if you do not know the terrain well enough.
    Me? I love it as long as I know the area.

  20. I’ve found the ditches up around TRF to be much safer than the ditches here in Iowa. Iowa ditches have drainage intakes, way more culverts, are generally narrower, steeper, and the farmers throw whatever they don’t want in their field (rocks, fence posts, woven wire, etc.) in the ditch.

    The most close calls I’ve had on a snowmobile on public land would be in the woods, meeting an out of control rider on a blind corner on the wrong side. Don’t get me wrong, I love woods riding too, but riding anywhere is only as safe as you make it.

  21. Boy, I was reading the comments and realized I really sounded like the grumpy old man yesterday. That was not my intention. Very good discussion points about the sport that we all love, and are very passionate about. My apologies to Greg. I will try to express myself better in the future! Really enjoyed the article.

  22. “I’ve found the ditches up around TRF to be much safer than the ditches here in Iowa. Iowa ditches have drainage intakes, way more culverts, are generally narrower, steeper, and the farmers throw whatever they don’t want in their field (rocks, fence posts, woven wire, etc.) in the ditch”

    Well said Ryan W.

    Those are basically the same exact things i’ve experienced in my ditch banging days here,,,

    Greg, When you get back here next year, contact me and make sure you have a sled with ya’ to rag on!!!!! Lol!

    The 4 of us will go raise some serious “Cain” << for lack of kinder word to express thoughts.

  23. The reason i do not like riding ditches and think it is dangerous is because I see more sleds wrecked from hidden treasures in them (culverts, rocks, poles, ect). I do not ride ditches in Minnesota at all. I did it few times and got board with it and was not impressed. I ride very little if at all in Minnesota now.

  24. I would like to ride arrow head region sometime though. That looks nice.

    Rusty we will have do some riding next year. it will be a blast.

  25. Greg says:
    3/28/2013 11:18:00 AM

    I would like to ride arrow head region sometime though. That looks nice.

    Rusty we will have do some riding next year. it will be a blast.

    Rock and Roll, No Doubt!!

    (just remember to grab Jeff, Lol)

  26. I want to thank all you Arctic Insiders for the insights and perils of “ditch banging” type of riding. never realized that there was that much flat land out your way. All of our trails are through the woods, open fields and rolling hills. Thankfully we have generous landowners who allow the trail system on their land. Without that, snowmobiling would be non existant here. The biggest danger in this part of the world are people who like to ride on the wrong side of the trail all the time especially in the woods. I’ve had my share of close calls. Happy spring riding!

  27. John,THANK YOU for the great articles!!! I love to know what’s going on in trf !! My Buddy’s(who don’t ride cat!!!)used to call my ZR the “ditch pickle”! I guess they must of been hungry a lot because they were always chasing me!!!! I gotta get back to trf soon! Its about a 14 hour drive for me!!! I would love to meet Roger and the boys someday!!

  28. Good morning John,
    What is the criteria on earning an Arctic Insider decal for oneself? If there is a list of things that need to be met, please put it out there, I am sure us minions would work very hard to accomplish all tasks LOL!!!
    Have a great day !!

  29. Ditch riding is right up there as a favorite with blasting throught the woods. The only down fall is whats on the other side of a approch. It might be a giant dugout or hole from where all the other sleds have landed and blown out and or packed the snow down. Remember most people weather they work at AC or just ride have been using these trails their whole life and many don’t change much from year to year. Have fun and be safe.

  30. Why did they stop the demo rides @ south range ? i want to buy a ZR9000 but ride it first, they were packed up and gone Saturday night …Sunday conditions couldn’t be better trails packed & Groomed day temps 20’s nights in the teens …very disappointed traveled a long way to take a ride.

  31. AI decals are free to anyone who sends an email (click at the bottom of this page) with their address. That’s called the “Presenting Level” of sponsorship… LOL.

    Matrick: No sleds on the line. I didn’t make it over to the ATV or Prowler/Wildcat lines to see what was rolling off. Sorry.


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