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A milestone for the snow rider

Doug Crowl

— Snowmobile technology evolves each year to stronger engines on better handling sleds, responding to riders’ taste for power and control in the backcountry and on the racetrack. Now, the guys over at Extreme Power Sports are claiming this year’s Arctic Cat Sno Pro 440 is the next milestone in snowmobile technology.

“They have done some extremely trick (stuff) to this thing,” said Gary Eubank, owner of Extreme Power Sports.

The sled is not for everyone, he explained, because it is specifically built for racing. Usually the newest innovations are made on racing snowmobiles. What worked is then passed down to new mountain and trail sleds in the coming year, Eubank explained.

Among other new changes made on the 2002 Sno Pro 440, the most dramatic is the placement of the engine, which was completely noticeable when Eubank popped the hood on a model in his showroom.

By Eubank’s estimates, the motor has been moved down and back between four and six inches.

“This gives the sled a lower center of gravity,” he said.

As more riders venture into the world of aerials on sleds, and motocross style snowmobile racing (with jumps) becomes increasingly popular, riders are finding that the traditional engine design is top heavy, which causes the sled to dip forward when in the air.

The 2002 Sno Pro 440’s lower center of gravity engine should keep the machine steady in the air, making it easier and safer to land, said snowmobile racer Curt Zajic, who will ride one of the sleds during competition this year.

He added that the handling of the sled also will be better when it is on the ground because the low center of gravity will keep the sled lower in the snow.

“I’m excited. All I need now is some snow on the ground.” Zajic said last week. “It’s going to be three times the sled than last year’s, and last year’s was exceptional.”

But handling isn’t the only perk to the engine. Thanks to some innovative engineering such as mounting the motor clutch and drive clutch on one plate the 440 cubic centimeter Suzuki engine is capable of cranking out 100 horsepower, Eubank said. Comparatively, the basic 440 motor is probably between 40 and 50 horsepower.

On top of that, the 2002 sled has 20-percent less parts than the Sno Pro 440 did last year.

“All that does is reduce the weight,” Eubank said.

He estimated it’s probably 20 pounds lighter than last year’s model, at 424 pounds, which increases handling and speed capabilities.

Other innovations include a reverse cooling system from top to bottom instead of the traditional bottom to top; the exhaust and carburetors moved to the front of the engine; narrowing of the tread by an inch-and-a-half and extending it eight inches in length; and a brand new suspension system that is expected to perform better than past models.

“If you are into sleds, this thing is beyond trick,” Eubank said.

Price tag? Expect to pay around $8,000 for this sled. But mountain riders should wait a year or less, Eubank said. If the new design performs the way it is expected on the racing circuit this year, the innovations will be passed down to other models and other companies may adopt the style, too.

“I can see having some real (good) mountain sleds in a year,” Eubank said.


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