By Kent Lester
Inevitably, whenever we meet a group Supertrax readers on-trail, the conversation turns to the new snowmobiles we’re riding. It never fails to drop someone’s jaw in sheer amazement when they find out we get to ride a fleet of brand new, cutting edge sleds every year – all with the permission of the companies that build them. We agree. It’s awesome.
You’d think it would be easy for us to become a bit jaded about the new snowmobile models. After all, we get access to a whole new fleet of equipment every fall and get to accumulate miles of trail use on sleds from all four manufacturers without spending a nickel of our own cash to buy them. It never gets old.
In fact, our team of editors and contributors pretty much act like a bunch of fifth graders when it’s time to take delivery of our press fleet. Our childlike fascination with the new stuff hasn’t diminished in twenty years of publishing and actually, seems to be getting worse.
The phone calls from staff start in mid-August and the inquiries generally run this way: “Could you just refresh my memory. I was wondering if we’re getting a 2010 (blank) in the press fleet this year? You don’t happen to remember if it’s the candy apple red one or the black one, do you? I really hope it’s the black one with the 4-stroke in it. Could you just phone and check? I’d love to take that one to Quebec this January.”
Believe it or not, the staff person on the other end of the line is a full-grown, mature adult and has likely been snowmobiling for decades but their focus is on the one sled they’ve been dreaming about for weeks and really want to adopt as their “pet” for the winter.
We put in our requests to each OEM for our press fleet choices early in the calendar year and base the selection on the newest models introduced at manufacturer’s Sneak Peek new model intros in January and actually ridden at Sno-Shoot in March.
Sno-Shoot is an industry-wide event that allows early season photography for all the snowmobile media and is usually held in some exotic, mountainous winter locale where backdrops are both breathtaking and photo-friendly.
Events like Sno-Shoot are great because we get to accumulate a ton of inside data early on and stockpile riding impressions for the upcoming publishing season. It’s not as important, however, as actually riding current year press sleds for hundreds of miles to create a blueprint for the stories you read between these covers every year.
There’s no excitement that matches what happens in early fall when the actual, living, breathing production sleds start to appear in showrooms and, more importantly, in our garage. I don’t know how many times I’ve gone out to our shop and, turning on the lights, have been overwhelmed by the sight of a group of new sleds that have just shown up.
Shiny and impeccably pristine, even the smell gets your pulse going. The sight and odor of new plastic and upholstery and glistening new paint is a truly sensual experience akin to falling in love. In fact, that’s what often happens. A bond forms between you and one of the sleds. It transports your imagination away to some far-off trail where the sun is shining, the grooming is perfect and it’s just you and her together.
Since we don’t buy too many sleds (actually we do buy a few but that’s another story, usually related to bent egos and more-than-bent equipment) it’s good to get a reminder of what Supertrax readers experience when you take delivery of your new love. Truth is, we need to feel as enthusiastic as you do about new sleds so we can evaluate them fairly and get the right info to you when you read the mag.
That feeling of connection with an inanimate object and the sense of anticipation of the upcoming winter’s riding are intense, almost feral reactions that leave an indelible impression. When I say “inanimate”, we who ride them know it’s the poorest way to describe a snowmobile.
When the engine is fired for the first time and the clutches spin up to engagement, it’s nothing short of a heart-pounding thrill to be mobile on the snow. In motion, outdoors, at one with winter, feeling the surge of power and acceleration under you and knowing you can go nearly anywhere in comfort.
Ahh, the sounds and sights and feelings of a new snowmobile: Priceless!