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During every snowmobile model year (for every OEM), changes are made to units between the time of the marketing launch (spring), to production (summer/fall), as engineering continues the development process of testing and validating components.

As consumers, we were lucky enough to either demo ride pre-production CATALYST units late last spring, or view them at dealerships as they made their way across the snow belt this summer. I was curious to see what updates had been made in that timeframe and have listed five changes to those models (ZR/RIOT/M) for production improving performance without sacrificing durability.


Certain components are improved upon with calibrations year-after-year without much marketing fanfare such as the Electronic Control Unit or Engine Control Unit (ECU), Drive and Driven Clutches and Suspensions. Benefits to calibrating these areas can include better run-ability, improved belt life and positive handling and ride compliance through varying terrains. All of these components have seen improved calibration since many of you demo rode the CATALYST units this past spring.


Arctic Cat developed the Torque Control Link (TCL), a lightweight aluminum link/plate tying together the engine with the jackshaft. With a fixed distance between the drive and driven clutch, both clutch and belt performance and longevity are improved. Arctic Cat announced the use of a new composite material to replace aluminum on CATALYST models, but ultimately decided to stick with aluminum for 2024.

Pictured above is the pre-production snow flap mounting point which has been redesigned for production units.

3. SNOW FLAP MOUNTING – After running my pre-production ZR 129 for 1,200 miles late last spring, about the only complaint I had was the rear snow flap. At times during reversing (mostly out of trailers), the snow flap would get sucked into track, run over, and pull away from the mounting point on the tunnel. This issue has now been fixed with a redesigned mounting point. 

2024 CATALYST models will arrive with the current ski loop design from the ProCross platform pictured above.

4. SKI LOOPS – CATALYST was launched with a new ski loop design, but after field testing, Arctic Cat has opted to retain the current ski loop from the ProCross platform, and will work on an updated design for the future. To any of us reading, this seems like a simple component, but ski loops are subjected to a lot of weird stress caused from a continual slapping when the ski contacts the ground.  


When the opportunity arises to view, or ride, what is commonly referred to as a “prototype”, here’s a learning lesson before commenting (keyboard or otherwise). The CATALYST units we saw launched at Hay Days this time last year, and demo units last spring, are all PRE-PRODUCTION. Looking at them will give you a general idea of their styling, fit and finish, but not a complete one. Same goes for test riding one – You’ll get a general feel for the unit, but as I discussed above, calibration of components aren’t complete yet.

This RIOT (L) and ZR (R) are both pre-production units and have a smooth center hood/intake plenum. These areas will be textured on production models.

When compared to a production model, you’ll notice a lot of little differences like textures added to bodywork. Most injection molded parts are run through validation tests of the tooling and part function before final textures are added in the event any updates or improvements are needed. The texture also acts to improve durability and the appearance, by hiding molding flow lines and fine scratches.

Final texture has been added to several areas including the center hood/intake plenum and other areas like the composite full-length running boards. Other production bodywork finalizations include a silicone touch-off pad on the righthand side panel which was missing on early build pre-production units. This keeps the panel from melting if the sled is tipped on its side against the resonator.



  1. Seems like the TCL is a step backwards. Didn’t they go to a composite on the Procross after years of aluminum? Wonder why they just couldn’t use that material on the Catalyst. More to the story? Seems like aluminum (2012+) had their fair share of issues on the Procross.

    • I’m the opposite, always thought they looked cool. I still remember the “sneak photos” from Carl at the factory before the procross release.

  2. I think we all saw that coming with the ski loop. However, after looking at the pre-production sled at the dealer, cat sort of sets them self up to an explanation after we see the prototypes firsthand. It was obvious this was a pre-production unit, but the dealers didn’t have enough information to answer those questions when the customers looked at the sleds. I guess that’s what happens when we complain enough and we get sent prototype sleds.

  3. Odd step backwards going to aluminum tcl.. they had lots of issues with them cracking on the procross.
    Weird to make a change like that this late in the game, the tcl on prototype sleds all looked like they had been made on production tooling. $$$$
    New TCL means a all new belt guard as well, as the composite tcl was an integral part of the belt guard.

    Any word on changes to help with the clutches from wearing into the left side panel? most the demo sleds had marks.
    How about changes to the left side belly pan to ease belt access/changing

    • Agreed, very strange. Especially in the context of the media releases highlighting that component.

      For example:
      “In our conversation, Beavis points to the Torque Control Link (TCL) as an example of one of the systems that uses a composite material. The long-fibre composite technology was championed largely by one of Arctic Cat’s managers, Ben Langaas, who wrote his Master’s degree on composite technology and its application for this very part.
      The composite TCL was developed for use in Catalyst, but since the carbon-nylon part was tested and validated early on, the team decided to use it ahead of schedule in the Ascender platform in 2021.
      The actualized success of the composite TCL through testing, validation, production and real world use proved to Arctic Cat the value of finding other ways to use the technology on a wider basis.”

  4. There really isn’t any conspiracy or strangeness on the TCL fellas. These types of decisions happen quite often. AC wasn’t getting what they wanted to see from the tooling, so they chose not to take any risks and went back to aluminum.

    • Kale, its a very late change, on a part that appeared to have production grade tooling ($$$$) that was reported to have years and years of testing. The change also required re-design and retool of the belt guard (which also appeared to be fully tooled up).
      IMHO this cost a couple hundred thousand $$, and is very, very late… It’s a sign that there was a last second issue, and panic response…
      There was basically no testing on the aluminum TCL

    • Disappointing to hear this. Long Fiber Composite TCL was touted as an upgrade to the aluminum one and one of the many examples of how AC went all out to drop weight and make this chassis strong and rigid. Now they’re going back to the old aluminum one in this critical area just before the sleds get delivered and you say that’s a good thing? What in the tooling could they have possibly not liked that they didn’t see earlier Kale?

  5. Is the scoop shovel rear snow flap intended to redirect some of the snow back onto the top of the track to then be flung onto the heat exchangers?

  6. It is possible cat was having trouble getting the carbon fiber tcl made and still getting machines made on time. A year ago they introduced hand made prototypes they said they struggled getting those ready in time for hay days. I’m sure they have been racing to get these sleds to production quality. Just hoping there good cat cant afford to have any problems with these sleds.

  7. I’m just super pumped we got to see Ben at Hay Days. He came all the way from Arkansas to talk about snowmobiles. And Troy knows his sh*t at least, but I’m still trying to figure out what is going on with this hair.

  8. I chuckle at some of the comments here. Making carbon fiber parts for high loads isn’t too easy. Check out some formula one car videos and see how a high performance industry has been chasing problems and progress over the past few decades. Just a suggestion. You can’t just make a wish and have a snowmobile pixie deliver it sometimes.


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