Believe it or not, the lack of timeliness of sharing this trip report has been weighing heavy on my shoulders, especially when I see comments regarding the need on my behalf to share more inside info like this.
The following is actually two trips Ive taken to the Factory this fall. After looking at my photos of both trips, everything seemed to come together for the storyline, starting with the featured image above – Here’s an inside look Why Arctic Will Survive -It’s the employees.
I worked at the Thief River factory for nearly five years before being moved to various other corporate headquarters in Minnesota. During TRF’s winter months, which usually came with extreme sub-zero temps, there was always the urge to sneak into the front row of visitor parking to minimize unsightly snotsicles acquired from the long walk from employee parking to the front door. Now, when I can legitimately park as a visitor, it seems weird.
When I opened the front door, the first person I literally ran in to, was someone I admire greatly – Greg Spaulding. If you are a long-time Arctic Cat fan, you’ll recognize Greg as an influential part of Arctic Cat’s 2-stroke engine development over the years. Greg retired a few years ago, but I was happy to hear he was back as a contract employee working on some projects.
After getting security clearance, I journeyed to marketing to meet up with Tristin Ironi as he’d be my host for the day. Tristin is no stranger, as we worked together in marketing before my departure. Ive enjoyed watching his journey since he started, and more so, Ive enjoyed watching his work.
Tristin is pretty skilled behind the lens of a camera and is living out a dream capturing cool content for Arctic Cat and their ambassadors. Both Tristin and Content Manager, Ben White, have teamed up to create some entertaining videos for the Black Cats…most recently, I really enjoyed the Black Cats video featuring Kyle Saxton.
Tristin got me hooked up with Troy Halvorson, the Director of Product Strategy for Snow. Its always great to see Troy and I enjoy getting updates on the industry and product from him. On this day, we talked about snowmobile production and the challenges the market is facing with supply chain. It was comforting to know Arctic Cat has made a promise to only ship completely built units, and those who spring ordered, will receive their snowmobile. (On a sidetone – here’s the answer to the question Ive been asked 487,298 times…Thundercat production is schedule for November!)
Next, Tristin and I visited the inner-workings of the engineering department. (One of my favorite spots) I was fortunate enough to get to talk to this trio of drivetrain knowledge led by longtime Arctic Cat employee, Kevin Thompson (L). Kevin was with Paul Eckstein (M) and Kyle Olason (R). This group works on both snow and dirt driveline R&D, and was reviewing a long term field tested ADAPT clutch. Ive spent a bit of time with Kyle, and interviewed him last spring about the new ADAPT system. Its great to know up-and-coming young guys like him have a serious passion, and knowledge, for clutching, on the same levels Ive witnessed from Kevin as long as Ive known him.
If you’re into the whole social media thing (Ive heard its popular), search out Alicia Martin 9. Alicia builds, and owns, some pretty cool stuff I think everyone here would take an interest in. (Cars, Dirtbikes and Snowmobiles…) She can also ride the hell out of them, including mountain sleds. Alicia will be moving out west as part of the mountain development team this winter.
Im convinced, one of the friendliest personalities at Arctic Cat, has to be Jeff Olson. Jeff and Alicia work in the same areas, and on some of the same development projects. Jeff has an incredible knowledge, and feel, for how a snowmobile suspension works and how to calibrate it to the conditions it will be used in.
Ive been on many test rides with Jeff, and he is a reminder, of one of many at Arctic Cat (all included in this story), who can not only ride fast, but also do so while mentally processing, and physically feeling, how a snowmobile is actually working/handling through all terrain. Meanwhile, guys like me are just hopeful to keep Jeff’s snowflap in close enough sight on a trail ride.
After hanging out in engineering, I met up with a few other Arctic Cat faces for lunch at the Black Cat Bar and Grill. The snowmobile performance and racing knowledge at the table was top notch and exciting to be a part of!
It was here I had a conversation with Lynn Berberich and Ben Langaas about some tuning/set-up tips for the new Blast models. Lynn has been a key engineering lead in the development of units like the Blast, and Ben works on the high-performance snowmobile segment, including race sleds. (You can catch Ben this winter as he’ll continue cross-country racing in the Pro class, and compete in the MIRA circuit enduro racing.)
Troy Halvorson shared some awesome stories of his dad (Kenny) who created all the fiberglass hoods for Arctic Cat starting in the 60s. His dad is still making hoods for those who want them for restorations.
And Joey Hallstrom showed up to give me continued grief about my Sasquatch-esque body hair…In return, I congratulated him on finally being able to grow the resemblance of a goatee. Im kidding. I never gave Joey that compliment, but I did enjoy hearing how he’s involved with both his kids and their cross-country racing accomplishments.
Later this week, Ill share PART II of my after lunch visit…I got to talk to some friends on the Off Road and Styling/Industrial Design part of the Factory. Thanks for reading and taking an interest in the fine folks at Arctic Cat. – Kale