Snowgo!

I started looking at snowgos (snowmobiles) last year. I spent a couple days at the end of the summer in Anchorage looking at different vendors. I really know very little about snowgos so I talked with many people and did a little research. What I found is that fan cooled is much preferred to liquid cool. I have since learned that they take longer to warm up before you can drive them but they don’t overheat like the liquid cooled ones do. I also wanted something with two seats and something that wasn’t going to break the bank but that was not used with the hope to avoid as much in the line of mechanical breakdown and maintenance as possible since I have little experience fixing much of anything. Also important was a pull start option, hand warmers and a reverse function.

There were lots of makes and models. I found some good deals on Arctic Cat machines but I have also heard that they may need more maintenance. I also have noticed that there are not as many in our village and they seem less desirable. Every village has it’s own opinion on which make is best or worst and every opinion is different but if I want to have resale value it is best to get something that is popular in my area.

I ended up getting a Polaris 550 Indy LXT. Don’t ask me what most of that means. I know that the track does not have tread that is not as long and skis that are not as wide. Both of theses factors limit how well the machine does in powder. Really it is a trail machine designed for hauling, traveling and doing work not for cutting trail and powder play. I should mention that I got stuck the first time I took it out and it is not fun trying to get it out even with help (thanks Kevin).

I bought it as an end of year model so there I got a pretty good deal and though it’s not the ‘new’ one it has never been owned so I still call it new. I have another post that breaks down cost of shipping here.

I bought it around the end of Auguest but it had to stay at the dealer until November because there was not snow in Kotzebue. After there was enough snow it was shipped from Anchorage to Kotzebue and then a friend of mine drove it to their place to sit a while longer, the drive being the reason there had to be snow on the ground. It sat in Kotzebue until December as my plan was to try to drive it the 150 odd miles out to the village as soon as the trails were clear and the river was sufficiently frozen. There were 3 other people who were also going to drive theirs out which would mean I could get experience and I thought the trip sounded fun. It was also almost $600 difference between driving which would take only the cost of a flight to Kotzebue plus gas for the trip vs having the thing shipped.IMG_7362

Unfortunately the trails remained stubbornly
snow free in places and the river continued to have open patches. In early December I was contemplating driving it back at the end of Christmas break instead of me flying in but the people who were going to go with me ended up shipping theirs which would have left me making the journey alone… with no experience… on a machine not yet past the break-in period. So I had it shipped the rest of the way instead.

After some confusion with my friend in Kotzebue as to which airline it was being shipped with, it finally came in. It came in on the Ryan plane at literally the same time the bering plane I was scheduled to fly out on for Christmas break came in. They touched down within 10 minutes of each other. I got to see it and turn it on but the my plane was waiting so no drive. A friend of mine took it back to the school shed though so it was safe over break.

So far I have not gone on any long trips. I went a few miles out of town on the main trails and have run to the store a few times but thats about it with one exception. Friday one of my friends was headed to Kobuk and so we went together which gave me a chance not only to visit another village for the first time ever (ya its true), but also to see the trail and go further while still having another machine not to mention experienced person nearby incase something happened.

The store was smaller than ours but had 5-6 big freezers in the back. Most of the stuff and cost was the same as ours but it was fun to see something different. I am told that there are a couple different stores but no native store like we have. Sorry there are not many pictures from this trip, my phone doesn’t do well in cold. It was -5 when we left and -15 when we got back.

IMG_7411
Kobuk store…. All of it.

I did go towards Ambler Sunday. Not all the way but about 9 miles. More than that I would not want to walk if something broke. At this point though I could see a faint light flashing which I assume was the Ambler airport.

IMG_7435
Ambler trail

 

IMG_7444
Kobuk store…. All of it.
IMG_7456
Zooming in
IMG_7457
Even more zoom
IMG_7440
Shungnak in the distance heading home under the moon.

My parents very kindly got me the perfect snowmobile cover for Christmas. But I still need to get hand covers for riding in anything negative, it has hand
IMG_7445warmers but that just doesn’t cut it for me when its that cold the tips of my fingers freeze. It would also be nice to have just a little higher wind shield to keep the wind off my face. My face mask helps and I am looking for a better one but it is
IMG_7448still cold. I am also trying to figure out how long to let it warm up before driving not to mention running the numbers on my environmental footprint every time I start it up, again see the pictures below. It is kind of a cool though ominous cloud of fumes. I assume that it looks worse than it is because of the cold. When it is this cold you can not just see your breath, but on a calm day it will hang in the air for an impossibly long time. You may be able to see a breath could after more than a minute more than 100 yards away. So it may be that I am just able to see more of the fumes than you typically might.

IMG_7423IMG_7425

So on the plus side;

-Fan cooled means I don’t have to worry much about overheating or low snow conditions.

-Two up allows me to take a passenger.

-Electric hand warmers in the handles.

-Seems to have plenty of power and speed abilities (I haven’t even come close to topping out the speed on the bumpy terrain). Plus going any sort of fast you are bouncing around too much to really read the dials.

-Seems to get good milage. I am just estimating but I think it is close to a 10 gallon tank and may go about 80 miles on a tank which I am told is pretty good.

-It gets me places and is really fun to ride.

-It has some storage space in the back.

-It makes me look cool.

-Electric start with a pull start option.

-Has a reverse function.

-Has hand holds and back rest for the passenger

-The dash lights up like the bridge of the enterprise

 

Negatives;

-Gas is $9.50 a gallon. (~$100/tank)

-Oil is $60 a gallon

-Takes a long time to warm up (or so I am told, I just leave it for 10-15 minutes but I don’t know how to tell when it is ‘warm’, just that running cold I have been told risks engine damage).

-It has kind of short tread and the skis are not as wide as some both of which limit off trail riding but both of which can be replaced.

-No hand covers for the driver or the passenger. I know I can get some for the driver and am looking into if you can get something for the passenger.

-The storage space is a little smaller than it could be and just a few inches too small to fit my gas can. I am also looking at case like attachments which I could bolt on and lock so I could keep a few things without worrying about them sliding out or getting stolen.

-No driver back rest. The passenger one can be removed but there is no attachment I can find that would allow for a driver backrest during solo driving for this model. There i

IMG_7426
Slide cover screw lock

s an attachment that pivots back and forth that fits on some more expensive models.

-The side cover screw locks are a pain to get on and off. The hole they line up with does not seem to be aligned properly so I am looking to see if it is possible to adjust.

-The windshield is not very big. It effectively blocks the wind about to my shoulders but then all the wind it is deflecting is directed at my face if I am sitting up. If I hunch over it is ok but it seems like adding a foot of windshield or at least offering different ones would not be that hard. It’s not so bad until the temp drops below 0 then it’s a little bit of a pain.

-It has a place to store an extra belt but didn’t come with one as I thought it did so I will have to get one.

And my list of things to get is;

Extra belt, driver hand guards, passenger hand guards if available, hitch which I will try to get from Kotzebue, a warmer face mask (it does ok for about an hour then my breath makes it wet which is very cold, also not sufficient below 0 degrees), thick warm balaclava (air gets in somewhere and my temples freeze, other storage attachments, fatter skis and deeper tread eventually though those are sufficient for the moment.

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3 thoughts on “Snowgo!

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