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Two October Days in Thief River Falls

A quick trip to Thief River Falls over the past couple days provided some cool sights and interesting developments. Snow was in the air (literally), spirits were running high and winter seemed on the doorstep.


Arctic Cat Sno Pro 500 on the production line

Sno Pro 500s were on the production line, looking lean, mean and ready to rip.


Arctic Cat Sno Pro 500 on the production line

Makes me wonder if two of these were the very same sleds that Tom Rowland from Thomas Sno-Sports received via shipment today. I hope so.


Arctic Cat Sno Pro 500 on the production line

The production line at Arctic Cat has an energy and buzz that seems almost magical. Seeing snowmobiles and ATVs come together, in the matter of a few hundred feet, still astounds and inspires this writer.


Emissions master Glen Martin

Arctic Cat Exhaust Emissions Manager Glen Martin was kind enough to explain the current state of emissions for the snowmobile industry. Look for an upcoming story here at AI.


Ryan Simon's '09 Mod Sled

A quick stop at the Team Arctic Race Shop showed Ryan Simon’s 2009 Sno Pro Mod sled on the stand and minus the engine. I wonder what a rolling chassis like this costs?


Kurt and some guy named Kirk Hibbert

Kirk Hibbert (right) was in his own amazing shop, working on some new track and suspension ideas for his friend Kurt’s Crossfire 600.


Kirk Hibbert at his race shop

Kirk Hibbert (left) has probably removed/installed more rear suspensions than all but a handful of other people.


Tucker Hibbert's Stock 2010 Sno Pro Race Sled

While Kirk and Kurt were working on the Crossfire, here sat Tucker Hibbert’s Stock 2010 Sno Pro 600 race sled, in the process of being torn down and then reassembled in race colors. Wonder if Kirk’s wife, Teresa, knows that he’s using her bathroom towels to protect the sled’s tunnel?


Boxed Sno Pro 500

Stacked outside the Team Arctic Race shop were lots of crated Sno Pros, in both 500 and 600 configuration. Reminds me of presents under the tree at Christmas.


Loading the ArcticInsider Factory Wagon

ArcticInsider picked up their Sno Pro 500, cleverly using the sweet Ford Focus wagon and Thule roof rack to get ‘er done.


Loading the ArcticInsider Factory Wagon part two

That’s Team Arctic Race Manager Mike Kloety driving the forklift and taking extra care with the placement of the crate.


Tucker Hibbert at his motocross track

On the way home, a quick stop at Tucker and Mandi Hibbert’s motocross track near Pelican Rapids found the multisport racer sitting and pondering life’s unanswerable questions, such as, “Why does this nut job always follow me around with his camera?” and “Why do his photos always make me look like a deer-in-the-headlights?”

Hibbert has built one of the coolest natural-terrain motocross tracks that we’ve ever seen.





  1. looks to me lie kirk is installing a snopro race skid and i can see it has the 04-07 snopro a-arms.

    possibly a hill-cross sled?

  2. Man, John…looks like you have had a cool couple of days! Whats up with the flat device in one of the Kirk/Kurt Crossfire pictures? Is that some kind of an engineering tool? New suspension component? A shield to protect something from your camera?

  3. John, this ARTICLE is like a present under the Christmas tree! I can’t help but get excited looking at these pics and reading your notes. Thank you for sharing and for being “that guy with the camera” who just happens to be nice enough to share with other Cat enthusiasts. Great stuff!

  4. Tom: That flat piece of steel has a mate on the other side of the tunnel. They are essentially fixtures that bolt to the stock mounting holes, then provide the opportunity to relocate the new suspension (minus springs so that it’s easy to compress) for testing what the track tension does when the new suspension works through its travel.

    Eric: Thanks, I love sharing this info. This whole internet thingamajob is pretty nifty tool for this stuff.

  5. Thanks for the explanation on the suspension bracket. As you mentioned in one of your photo captions…Kirk Hibbert must be pretty familar with taking rear suspensions in-and-out! Do I recall correctly that Kirk was one of the main forces that developed the ETT torque link rear arm system? Geez, was that way back on the 95 ZR 440 already? That has sure proven to be a significant development.

  6. Great article.
    When I picked up my crated Son Pro I thought it looked terrible because the crate was to wide to sit flat in the bed of my truck. It was at an angle over one of the wheel wells. I bet you got dome looks taking that home.

  7. Tom: It gets tricky talking about who is ultimately to credit for engineering ideas. As those who are often credited say: the original ideas often come from conversations with others, are drawn/fabricated by others who lend their own ideas, and are tested be still others who contribute along the way. Still, all those caveats aside…Kirk Hibbert was primarily responsible for the creation of the Extra Travel Tunnel (ETT), the Torque Sensing Link (TSL), the Easy-Adjust front arm system, the Cross-Link rear suspension system, the Slide Action rear suspension, the lateral-sliding ski system (on the new Sno Pros), the progressive steering system (Sno Pros), a ton of development for FOX shox and about a dozen other amazing ideas. He was also the first to launch coupling of the rear suspension, although another party beat him to the patent (actually, Kirk/Cat were never too quick to patent stuff, which has proven to be troublesome because so many of their ideas have been used by others). Kirk Hibbert is one of the most prolific and creative inventors of the past 20 years…and that, my friend, is yet another story you’ll read here at AI.

  8. John: can we add sliced bread and maybe the kitchen sink to Kirk Hibbert’s invention list? I was aware of his racing accomplishments, but that is a long and impressive list of inventions! It’s amazing to me that some people can be such talented racers and engineers at the same time. I remember thinking the same thing about Brian Nelson one day when he shared some of the thinking and experimentation that went into the development of ZR’s back in the day. I think it’s safe to say that Kirk (and Brian) have forgotten more about snowmobile design than I could ever hope to know, and their racing accomplishments speak for themselves. Thanks again for this site. This is very cool information and it’s always exciting to see what’s new on here.

  9. Oh, one other note (sorry for going on and on). Tom mentioned to me one time that the race shop was on the end of the Special Services building, and ever since then, I have wanted SO badly to see what was on the other side of that wall! I see now that it looks much like the rest of the building, but the curiosity was killing me!

  10. Great background on Kirk, he has been involved in a lot more stuff than I was aware. When you mentioned all of his contributions to the Fox shocks, that got me thinking back to the late 1980s…Do I recall correctly that at least some of the Fox-shocks-being-put-on-snowmobile-applications originated out west where the Hibberts had been competing on the RMXCRC? It might have been Snow Week magazine that had some mention in about 1988 or 1989 of Fox gas shocks being put on snowmobiles, seemed like space age technology at the time. Then the 90 EXT Special had them factory installed, I remember that sled emptying more than one trail-side pit stop if one pulled up outside. Then having Kirk win the I-500 on one of those that season added even more interest to that sled.

  11. John It was great to run into you at the race shop last Thursday. I could of helped you with that sled. My race partner Mike Dolby and I were picking up a couple sleds for Cains Quest and live in the south metro. The sno pro does make the mini van look like a much hotter ride though! Rob Hallstrom

  12. Great article John! I had the pleasure of meeting you last year (08) at Haydays. I was preparing to run the Irondog with Bret Rasmussen. This year I am teamed up with Kurt Steiner (in pics). Kurt and Kirk are working our Irondog sleds for the upcoming race(Feb). Just thought I would share that info. Also, Tucker tells me that you and he get into some heated battles on the mountain bikes! With you getting the better of him. Anyway, keep up the good work. Darrick Johnson #9

  13. Tom: Fox shocks (actually, the first air shocks and sort of the primordial predecessors to current Floats) were used around 1978 in some racing applications…I distinctly remember seeing them on Polaris RXL oval racers. Fox’s large-scale reintroduction to snowmobiles originated in the Rocky Mountain circuit as you mentioned, by Jack Struthers of Carl’s Cycle in the late 1980s. I had the great fortune of racing a couple Rocky Mountain races in the early-90s. Big snow = huge holes, so it’s no wonder someone looked to a better shock. When Arctic Cat got serious about building the 1990 EXT Special, they listened to two very smart and talented Rocky Mountain racers — Kirk and Rex Hibbert — and added Fox shocks to the sled. It was the first production snowmobile to feature rebuildable gas shocks and, in my opinion, set into motion a focus on suspension development that largely characterized the 1990s and continues through today. BTW…Kirk still has his I-500 winning 1990 EXT Special. VERY COOL sled.

  14. ROB: It was great running into YOU at the race shop. I’m so pumped for you to race Cain’s Quest then write a short story for us here at AI (hint, hint)………………. DARRICK: I remember you from Haydays. Kurt told me he was teaming w/you for the IronDog…great stuff. I was being a bit coy with the photo caption because I wasn’t sure if Kurt/you wanted your top-secret, one-off race suspension mentioned anywhere. Best of luck to you this winter, and remember your deadline for your Irondog recap story that you’re going to write for this site.

  15. John I think the cat was already out of the bag since another Irondog racer recognized Kurt and the suspension and forwarded a link to your site! Amazing how quickly stuff gets out.
    I will definately contribute a recap story for this site.


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