We capped off an early-season ride in Munising, Mich., earlier this week. We racked up about 530 miles as we put four of our demo sleds through their break-in paces. One thing is for certain. It's a great time to be a snowmobile consumer. None of our demo sleds this particular trip disappointed. Here's a quick report of the snow and the sleds.
First, the snow. If you're riding out of the Munising area, stick along the Lake Superior shore or close to it for the best snow. Pretty much everything to the east of Munising is in great shape. We rode to Grand Marais, and the south around through Pine Stump Junction and on to Seney before turning back north to complete our 200-mile loop on Tuesday. There is some logging as you go south of Grand Marais, but in general, the trails were groomed to perfection.
Heading west towards Marquette on trail 417 has OK snow. It was not groomed when were rode it, but it very well could be by this weekend. It's a long, straight haul with very few stops for about 60 miles. Watch your fuel! The snow was not nearly as good going that direction beyond Marquette, but it was rideable. Just be prepared for a few rocks in the trail and poor to fair trail conditions.
This was our first ride on our production Sidewinder and Thundercat. By all accounts these are every bit as good as we experienced on our pre-production test rides. The Sidewinder was especially impressive. Everything from the engine to clutching to suspension wowed us on this particular ride. It'll be interesting to see if our good feelings about these sleds continue when we get into the tighter, more technical trails of the Wisconsin Northwoods next week.
We also had Arctic Cat's XF 8000 Cross Country. It's got a very playful suspension that's suited perfectly for off-trail riding. It's fun on the trail too, but doesn't offer a lot of wind protection if you're cruising at high speeds.
The Polaris 800 Rush XCR is everything Polaris set out to build in a sled that can take a beating. It's strong, confident and very lightweight. We wet weighed it before we left, and were surprised just how light it was. You'll find all those numbers in our upcoming Spring Issue of AmSnow (Subscribe now so you don't miss out!). Handling was great on the short 120-inch track. This is definitely on a similar level as Ski-Doo's X-RS sleds and Cat's RRs.
So there you have it. Our early takes on the trails and a few of our demos. We'll update more as we get reports in from our test riders. Our crew is scattered throughout Minnesota, Wisconsin, the UP and Canada over the holidays. Safe riding and Merry Christmas from the AmSnow crew to you and yours!
-Ross Halvorson, Senior Editor