The 49th Sno-Baron’s Hay Days extravaganza went down this past weekend in near perfect splendor, unleashing the excitement of snowmobiling via wild mix of products, people, racing, swapping and anticipation.
Cool temps, sunshine, unexpected unveilings and a genuinely excellent event put on by the Sno-Baron’s (with help from hundreds of other clubs) combined to deliver what was (in my humble opinion) one of the most enjoyable Hay Days weekends of all time.
I’ve haven’t missed one of these events since 1984, so I have no perspective on anything prior. But in the years since Hay Days achieved critical mass (which I believe was in 1990), this was as good as it gets.
Sledders came out in droves, fueled by the anticipation of getting deals, getting wowed, getting the scoop and getting a taste of winter.
As for deals, there were plenty, from Arctic Cat dealers like Country Cat to pretty much every snowmobile aftermarket and clothing company on the planet.
Displaying a sweet custom sled is a tried and true method for getting some visual traction at Hay Days. FOX had all kinds of cool sleds and machines on display, including this Arctic Cat M sled.
While the blinged-out sleds are great eye candy, some of the best stuff to see is deeper in the booths. Case in point, this prototype electronic FOX QS3 shock, which will offer the ability for riders to adjust the ride quality on-the-fly via a handlebar-mounted switch.
I’ll have more on this technology in a post later this week.
Of course, never underestimate the allure of BIG when it comes to Hay Days promotion. Motorfist knows this all too well, and responded with the single biggest, most badass toy hauler that I saw over the weekend (not including the semi-truck chest pounding on display by some of the snocross teams).
One guy not who doesn’t care about chest pounding, but who nonetheless draws one of the biggest crowds, is Team Arctic’s Tucker Hibbert. There was a long line of fans waiting for his autograph every time I saw him at Hay Days.
Other people use props and makeup to capture attention. I don’t know what the heck Bozo was selling or promoting at Hay Days, but I do know that his frown face kinda creeped me out.
One of the gadgets that caught my eye was the Stuckmate, which is an auxiliary throttle lever that you can operate while simultaneously trying to pull on the ski of a stuck snowmobile.
I literally stood and laughed out loud for a couple minutes imagining dozens of hilarious mishaps that would occur if I and/or my usual gang of suspects tried to use this thing on a stuck sled.
Seriously, they should include a GoPro camera with this thing because you KNOW that it pretty much guarantees some crazy unintended consequence with each use.
Despite Hay Days being a mostly fan-focussed event, a lot of behind-the-scenes business is conducted here.
At the Speedwerx booth, Arctic Cat legend Roger Skime (left) talks with Steve Houle about some projects in the works for this coming season.
Every year I go to Hay Days, I wonder what blast-from-the-past will appear before my eyes. Something ALWAYS does, and it’s one of my favorite aspects of the weekend.
This year I saw this sweet old Guy Useldinger from 1991 (I think). Sweet!
The DTV Shredder from BPGwerks drew a crowd all weekend. Capable of traveling on snow, dirt, grass and Mars, these 200cc 4-stroke powered twin trackers will supposedly make their North American retail debut next year at this time. They’re already available in other parts of the world.
If I had to pick one theme of this year’s event, it would be snow bikes. Even before Arctic Cat unveiled the SVX 450 on Saturday, I’d already seen a couple dozen Timbersled-equipped bikes in various booths and displays.
It seemed like they were everywhere, and usually with a small crowd gathered around.
A huge contingent of Arctic Cat people attend Hay Days, mostly to help us fans and answer questions in the Cat booth, but also to check out what’s on display from the other companies.
I ran into to Arctic Cat 2-Stroke engine engineers Jeff Tweet (left) and Ryan Hayes at the FOX booth. These guys are pumped about the projects they’re working on and the success of the C-TEC2 600 DSI engine.
The Arctic Cat booth was buzzing with people all weekend long. It’s my favorite place to be by virtue of the energy, conversations and great vibe.
Arctic Cat brings dozens of engineers and sales/marketing people to Hay Days, offering Arctic Cat riders free reign to ask questions and get answers.
Here, the Cat rider in the black shirt (sorry, I don’t know your name) is talking with (L-to-R) Adam Krone (sitting, Mountain Team Designer); Nick Kolhoff (Electrical Designer); Andy Beavis (Mountain Product Team Manager); and Lee Larock (Mountain Team Fabricator).
Dozens are the times I’ve seen engineers remove panels, tip sleds on their side and otherwise dive in to explain the technical nuances or advice on a given machine.
This is such a great resource and opportunity for riders that I can’t stress enough the value it provides.
Of course the Cat booth is packed with the athletes and personalities that are home to the brand. Hillclimber/back-country rider/mountain bike racer Rob Kincaid is one such athlete. He had his just-built, full-custom Speedwerx machine parked next to a similar machine from his cohort David McClure and was, as always, talking a good game.
These sleds and the two riders live a pretty crazy and gnarly snowmobile lifestyle, puting tracks in the most extreme places while showing the world what’s possible when you combine talent, Arctic Cat M sleds, bitchin’ aftermarket parts and a thirst for adventure.
The Team Arctic autograph session is popular mainstay at the Arctic Cat booth, offering fans a chance to get a sweet poster signed by most of the brand’s most recognizable racers.
Tom Rowland is one such fan, taking a brief reprieve from his Thomas Sno Sports booth to grab a poster and gets some sig’s.
Arctic Cat rider/collector Scott Watters (left) chats it up with Arctic Cat engineer/racer Brian Dick. Turns out the Scott purchased Brian’s unraced I-500 sled from this past season (the race was cancelled due to snow).
Lots of legends gather at the Arctic Cat booth each year. Here Roger Skime (left) and World Champ Jim Dimmerman stare intently at one of the many interesting people walking around the Cat booth. Who is it they were looking at? None other than…
… the dashing and debonair Joey Hallstrom (left).
Arctic Cat has a long history of unveiling new machines at Hay Days, going back to the original ZR in 1993.
While these unveilings have often been race sleds, it hasn’t always been the case.
When (L-to-R) Team Arctic’s Zach Herfindahl, Wes Selby, Mike Kloety and Brian Dick joined Arctic Cat VP/GM Brad Darling (right), it appeared that this year’s unveiling would again be focused on race sleds.
And indeed, Arctic Cat took the wraps off of the 2016 ZR6000 R XC and SX race sleds.
But that wasn’t all…
…a few moments later, Arctic Cat showed the SVX 450 snow vehicle, with Product Manager Troy Halvorson revving the single-ski machine for about one minute before it disappeared back into the hauler.
Several hundred of my closest friends and I were pretty shocked by the announcement!
There’s more info to come on this machine and this category of snowmobile. But suffice to say, it was (and is) the topic of A LOT of conversation at present. Interesting times!
The race sleds were brought down off the stage and onto the ground, allowing people to see, touch and taste what I predict will be winning sleds this coming race season.
Also on display was this amazing collection of monument-winning Arctic Cat race sleds from last season. And for a brief moment their pilots joined them.
L-to-R: Tucker Hibbert and his ISOC Championship sled; Ryan Simons and his X Games Gold-winning hillcrosser; Brian Dick & Wes Selby’s Soo 500 enduro winner; and Zach Herfindahl with his USXC championship-winning cross-country sled.
That’s some HEAVY DUTY championship-winning greatness on one stage!
While much of Hay Days is about new stuff, it still seems like half of the event is about the swap meet. For sure half of the real-estate is devoted to this part of the show.
It’s one of my favorite elements of the event for a variety of reasons, but mostly the entertainment value.
Like watching this guy scrambling to get his sled together while potential customers walk past. Back in a previous period of life, I was THIS GUY, hurriedly rushing to clean/fix/start and sell a machine at Hay Days.
Motorfist might have had the tallest rig at Hay Days, but this guy had the longest.
Proof that the single-ski snowmobile theme was happening, even in the swap meet.
Lots of great stuff to see and read.
Since this story is already so dang long, I thought we could all take a short nap to recharge the batteries.
…Okay we’re back and ready to rip, thanks to a little Drag-On Magnum Concentrate.
The Christian Brothers Racing team had a bunch of sleds on display (and for sale) in the swap.
Plenty of other new/recent iron available throughout the venue.
Whoa, Wes Selby throws down a sick carve on yet another snow bike.
This Fox Trac snowmobile sign (circa 1971, I think) had a price tag of $1,000 on it.
VERY cool to see a Blair Morgan edition ZR 600 in the swap!
Likewise, it was cool to see what’s possible with a little spray foam.
I think the most obscure sight I saw all weekend was this airbrushed masterpiece. Wow!
And finally, I’ll end this Hay Days recap with a photo of the grass drags (I’ll have a longer post about the races shortly).
This is the final of the Stock 800 class, with D&D’s Dylan Roes (far end) claiming the win in the all-Arctic Cat final. Pretty impressive showing for Arctic Cat riders this weekend.
That’s all for now, but there’s more Hay Days coverage coming shortly.
Thanks for reading.