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HomeFeaturesMay 2013 Trip Report: What I Saw at Arctic Cat This Week

May 2013 Trip Report: What I Saw at Arctic Cat This Week

A couple of days spent at Arctic Cat this week confirmed there’s great things ahead for the people and machines that move us along the trail of life.


Is this what they refer to as ditch banging?

The drive up to Thief River Falls always produces some visual highlights. One on this trip was this sight in the town of Mahnomen, Minn., where the ditch bangers also find their groove in the summer.


Arctic Cat Tigersharks for sale in TRF

In TRF, I spotted a couple of Arctic Cat Montego Tigersharks for sale. $2,500 gets you the pair (and trailer) and a lifetime of great memories. FYI that I get a 15% finder-fee for anyone who reads this and buys the machines.


Arctic Cat's Tom Schaefer. Photo by

Inside Arctic Cat, I stopped by the Parts, Accessories and Garments area to chat with few friends, including Tom Schaefer. Tom heads up a number of projects at Arctic Cat, and one that he was gung-ho to talk about is the new Arctic Cat C-TEC2 synthetic oil, as well as a batch of soon-to-come accessories for the Wildcat.


Arctic Cat's Tim Benedict. Photo by

While in PG&A, I also stopped and talked with Tim Benedict, who talked about plans to bring more accessories to Arctic Cat machines. Unfortunately, I could not coax Tim into pulling the axe off the wall and giving me a rendition of the guitar solo in Freebird. Maybe next time, Tim?


Arctic Cat lobby prior to plant tour. Photo by

In the lobby a group of young men and women (half of whom were wearing SledNecks shirts) were swarming over the machines while they waited for the 1pm Factory Tour. If you’ve never taken the tour, I can only say DO IT. It’s awesome.


Arctic Cat snowmobile production line in TRF. Photo by

Inside the plant, the familiar buzz of moving assembly lines, welding, pneumatic tools and forklifts mixes with the odor of fresh plastic, paint and steel to welcome anyone with a love of manufacturing/assembly.


Arctic Cat welding production. Photo by

In the welding area, pipes were being built for the 800 H.O. engine.


Arctic Cat welding production. Photo by

Nearby, similar welding expertise was occuring on exhaust mufflers.


Arctic Cat snowmobile production line in TRF. Photo by

Lots of smiling faces as components — in this case A-arms — were readied for the line workers who assemble the machines.


Arctic Cat snowmobile production line in TRF. Photo by

I never, ever tire of seeing snowmobiles, ATVs and side-by-sides come to life at Arctic Cat. Like I mentioned above… there’s a sound and smell to this process that, to my senses, is as warm, good and positive as any place on earth. These men and women are literally building peoples’ dreams, and to see it happen is truly a gift.


Arctic Cat snowmobile production line in TRF. Photo by

On the line this week were 2014 Arctic Cat M8000 153-in. Limiteds. 


Arctic Cat Prowler production line. Photo by

While the ATV line was experiencing a short break, the Prowler line was going strong.


Arctic Cat Prowler production line. Photo by

Seeing these Prowler 700 XTX models couldn’t help but make me think of that truck in the ditch outside of Mahnomen, and wonder how much more fun it would be to roost with one of these babies.


Arctic Cat Prowler production line. Photo by

The sign indicates the planned number of Prowlers to be built this day, along with the number that been built at that point in the day. Nice job everyone!


Arctic Cat pilot build room. Photo by

Detouring from the production area, I stopped by the Pilot Build room to see what the crew was assembling. Lo and behold, the 2014 ZR8000 RR Sno Pro!

These and other pilot built models are assembled by a small team of people with production parts about 30 days prior to full production, just to ensure that all of the components check out and that everything is ready. It’s one of many steps that helps ensure better-built machines.


Arctic Cat pilot build room and Joe Lesmiester. Photo by

Here, Joe Lesmiester shows me the Bill of Material that indicates every single piece of the snowmobile, right down to each rivet and fastener. Similar paperwork shows the build sequence as planned for full production. These guys check off each item and follow the sequence as they assemble the pilot build.



Inside Arctic Cat Engineering. Photo by

After checking out the F8000 RR and pretending I was capable of riding such a machine, I headed up to the Engineering department where I found one of the motliest group of hockey players, er, engineers I’ve ever seen. From L-to-R: Adam Krone, Ray Barthold, Mike Larson and Blake Schoh.

These guys were talking snowmobiles until I moseyed on by and brought up the subject of Arctic Cat hockey.


Arctic Cat's Joey Hallstrom and Pete Mattison. Photo by

Two other guys talking snowmobiles were Snowmobile Product Manager Joey Hallstrom (L) and engineer Pete Mattison. Joey was talking about a recent work trip to Alaska where he and others were testing 2014 model Arctic Cat snowmobiles, while Pete was talking about the 10th 1979 Arctic Cat el tigre Cross-Country Cat that he and brother Gerry recently purchased for their continuing onslaught of vintage XC racing.


Arctic Cat's Kale Wainer and Troy Halvorson. Photo by

More serious discussions were taking place between Kale Wainer (L) and Troy Halvorson about the 2014 and 2015 Arctic Cat Mountain sleds. As the Engineering Team Leader for the mountain sleds, Troy had a lot to tell Kale (who handles marketing and media communications) as they prepare for the coming seasons.


Arctic Cat's Mike Morris (l) and Gary Homme (r) and some dork in the middle

The reason this photo is blurry and off-kilter is because the guy running the camera is a whole lot better at riding/racing than he is running a shutter button. That guy is Brian Dick. The guys you see here are Mike Morris (left, ATV Engineering Leader) and Garry Homme (right, snowmobile engineering technician).

I’m the one in the middle, and my role is to tell fishing stories.


Riding a Wildcat 4 at Arctic Cat. Photo by

A few minutes after telling fishing stories, I was sitting in the back seat of a Wildcat 4 1000 as we rode over to another ATV/Side-by-Side Engineering building. It was a short trip and, though we didn’t tackle any obstacles, I gotta say that this four-seater is roomier than I expected, and with better sight lines from the back seat.


Arctic Cat's Adam Kuiken, photo by

We were headed to meet this guy, Adam Kuiken, an engineer whose job is data acquisition for all kinds of testing purposes. I’m working on a story about this subject with Adam, and I’m really psyched about it because it’s a process of product development that is absolutely resulting in better machines and shorter development cycles, both of which are great for us riders.


On the walls at Arctic Cat in TRF, photo by

After meeting with Adam it was back to the main plant where I stopped for a moment to grab some images of the artwork, pictures and posters that grace various walls.

Some of my favorites are these framed drawings.


On the walls at Arctic Cat in TRF, photo by

It’s good to see the great Mario Andretti still has a special place on the walls within Arctic Cat.


On the walls at Arctic Cat in TRF, photo by

Arctic Cat continues to work with 4-wheel racers, albeit on a limited basis.


Arctic Cat's Kale Wainer, Mark Esala and Gary Nelson, photo:

A quick lunch at the VFW with Kale, Prowler/Wildcat Engineering lead Mark Esala (middle) and Marketing Promotions Specialist Gary Nelson (R) gave me food for thought, as well as the satisfaction of an awesome hot beef sandwich (with mashed potatoes). The discussion this day was about the recent photo shoot of the 2014 ATV/Side-by-Side models that was coordinated by Nelson.


Arctic Cat's Dean Lawrenz (l) and Brian Espeseth. Photo by

Back at the plant, I ran into two REALLY great guys who have given a lifetime of service to Arctic Cat, and who were discussing their retirements.

On the right is Brian Espeseth, whose last day is today. On the left is Dean Lawrenz, whose more than 40 years at Arctic Cat MIGHT end today, or might be continued after a summer of rest and relaxation (Dean can’t decide if he’s truly ready to be done, but I got the impression he was planning to come back to Arctic Cat at the end of summer).


Arctic Cat's Brian Espeseth. Photo by

I told Brian I wanted to get a couple special photos of him, and his suggestion was a shot on this 1976 Arctic Cat Sno Pro 440X racer on display in the Arctic Cat lobby courtesy of collector/historian Brad Warning. It was a ’76 Sno Pro that Espeseth was given as an up-and-coming racer when he got his first job at Arctic Cat in 1975, and it’s a sled that brings back a lot of great memories.

Brian agreed to do an interview in the coming weeks, so there will be a lot more to say about him at that time. Brian has been a great friend over the years, and I’m really going to miss his handshake, smile and conversations that occur whenever we see each other.


Pam Cwikla and John Sandberg at Arctic Cat

Brian (and maybe Dean) aren’t the only ones who will walk out of Arctic Cat today for the last time as an employee. Joining them will be Woody Cousins (Quality Manager), Lloyd Wagner (Shipping) and the amazing lady I’m pointing to in the above photo, Pam Cwikla (Marketing Coordinator), who I am going to miss dearly.

Each one of these people have worked for nearly four decades (or more) at Arctic Cat, and a book could be written about each one of them.

I think of the contributions they’ve made and the friendships they’ve forged while helping Arctic Cat become the company it is… and it gives me pause. I’m sad for sure to see these important people move to the next stage of their lives, but I’m also grateful for the hard-working and personable DNA they’ve infused into Arctic Cat.

I say this with the upmost sincerity and gratitude: Thank you Brian, Dean, Woody, Lloyd and Pam. You’ve helped build and grow the Arctic Cat dream.

And thanks to everyone else for reading.



  1. Terrific write-up John! I had the pleasure of meeting some of those guys. They are great people and I appreciate what they do. One of these years I need to make a trip to the factory.

  2. Lots of great people at Arctic Cat, glad to have worked with so many of those people when I worked at AC šŸ™‚

    Great smile Brian on the snopro, you know that’s for real!

    Pam, congrats on your 40yrs šŸ™‚

    Great story, thanks for keep us all posted John.

  3. I have had the pleasure working with most of these wonderful people for more than 20 years and all I can say is thank you !! it truly was a pleasure to meet and work with all of you… Most of all the friendship that was established over those years ……… Enjoy Chad

  4. I too had the pleasure of getting to know & becoming friends with Pam, Brian & Dean when I was managing the Arctic Cat dealership in Grand Forks, ND, all 3 did a excellent job & were always there to help out in any way they could. We also had a lot of good times at the Evergreen, Black Cat, We Fest & The Arctic 50th…Congratulations & good Luck!!!!


  5. Great story John! Thank you Brian, Dean, Woody, Lloyd and Pam. Many Thousands of people have really enjoyed the fruits of your labor! We have had a lot of fun because of you. Enjoy your retirement!

  6. Another awesome story John!
    Congratulations to the folks going on to the next stage of life! Thank you for all of your hard work over the years that has kept me an Arctic Cat guy for over 30 years! Hopefully these folks will have some time to share their stories with John so that he can share them with us Arctic faithful!

  7. Impressed that Cat is welding pipes in-house. Seems like that’s a job that could be farmed out. But it you really want it done right, do it yourself.

  8. Dear John,

    Just wondering if I could come and work for you. Pool Boy, Driver, Camera man, Tuner, Associate editor and what ever else you need. Will work for food. Please advise is this would work for you. Love the articles and keep up the great work!!!!!

  9. Great story!
    I guess you expect great people like these to be around forever…Congratulations on a job well-done.
    I know Brian and Dean had a huge inpact in my life, either racing snocross or working on my vintage sleds

  10. Nice story about the people and the product šŸ™‚ So the pipes are still made in house, huh? Cool. I wonder where the 2014 sled clutches are coming from? Hopefully you didn’t see any large boxes of ‘imported’ clutches.

  11. Lots of fond memories, nice to see all the familiar faces! Brian, Pam, Gary, Tim, Tom, Kale, Dean Best of wishes to all!

  12. Yup, I worked with both of these guys and they are a class act. I don’t think for a second that Dean will retire and Brian I do have fond memories of our Houseboat trips to the “Lake of the Woods”.

  13. Schuster, my brother & myself were talking at Pam’s (mom’s) retirement party and we agreed that admission could’ve been charged for attendance. It was a who’s who in Arctic Cat history.

    Past President John Penn (who made certain to let me know he knew my dad) from the early 70’s was there, the condo crew Brian Espeseth, Dean Lawrenz, Barb (the late Bill) Hahn, Ole Tweet, Bill Ness, Roger (Mr.) Skime, Leon Johnson all made appearances, Chris Twomey, Don Eide, Greg Spaulding, Fern Peters, Russ Ebert, Mike Kloety, Joey Hallstrom, Tim Benedict…and many more.

    As a past coworker & TRF resident, it was normal people. My brother really didn’t realize the meaning of the folks there until he stepped back and looked around. As a member of the powersports industry and knowing the effect these people have had…amazing. As an Arctic Cat enthusiast…un frickin real.

    The words Bill Ness, Chris Twomey & Roger Skime had for Pam were priceless. John, you should’ve hung around. It was really cool. Congratulations on 40+ years of Arctic Cat history, mom. Couldn’t be more proud.

    And also, congratulations to Dean, Brian & Lloyd. I worked with all of them at some point with Brian giving me my first job at Arctco back in June of 1986. Mom & Lloyd started kindegarten together & retired from Arctic Cat on the same day. What are the odds??

    Lots of history, sweat, tears & life given from all those to Arctic Cat.

  14. “I’m really psyched about it because it’s a process of product development that is absolutely resulting in better machines and shorter development cycles, both of which are great for us riders.”

    While shorter development cycles are a good thing the plague that has been the procross chassis and now Wildcat X belt issues shows the process is far too rushed as is , Im a die hard cat guy but after a 18k investment in a belt blowing wildcat X and a 13K investment in a f800 sno pro that too eats belts and jackshafts makes me nervous about this . I am hoping summers updates fix my sled and my wildcat hopefully will come back from the dealer resolved. I love the power of that X!!

    I dont think personally development time should be shortened any unless it means longer testing time to improve quality on these machines..

    I love those vintage 440x’s such a neat sled!

  15. Jack Nelson, look up when John takes your picture!

    Joey went riding up in Alaska? And he didn’t take me with?

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