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June 19, 2008

Randy Swenson – First Ascents

There is no doubt working at Yamaha is a very cool job and career choice, consequently we have attracted some very passionate, keen individuals over the years. I am dedicating this weeks post to one of them.2008-randy-enters-the-snatch.jpg

I first met Randy Swenson over 20 years ago when he was the Yamaha accessories rep for western Canada and I was working for the Yamaha Shop in Vernon BC. It wasn’t long after that I took a position with Yamaha, moved to Vancouver and hooked up with Randy on weekends as well as for business trips. He was heavily into motorcycle road racing at the time and I spent a few days at the track watching him lap along with some other young upstarts like Pacific Yamaha’s, Steve Crevier. That first winter I convinced him to come do some sleddin’ with me in Prince George, apparently he enjoyed himself!

2008-randy-leaves-fuji-snatch.jpgWe also dove headfirst into the relatively new sport of mountain biking and would hook up with some other Westwood throttle twisters to bomb the creek beds and trails at the base of Grouse and Seymour mountains in North Vancouver, the same areas which are now renowned by free-riders as mountain bikings mecca … the North Shore.fuji-in-sweny-street.jpg

I soon learned to respect Randy’s natural athletic abilities, his quick eye-hand and fearless commitment to the ‘line’ which I credit a lot to his early years of down-hill ski competition. The other notable trait that I recognized in Randy is his calm but confident demeanor or more simply, his ‘walk softly and carry a big stick‘ approach to competition (and life in general).

The only time I ever saw fear on his face was during a shared vacation in Jamaica where we found ourselves well lubricated and perched atop the rocky bluffs at the famous Ricks Cafe. Our pal, Richard Irwin another Yamaha throttle twisting employee, had challenged us to dive into the briny, boiling surf at the base of the cliff. Richard dove gracefully into the 100 foot void leaving Randy and I to ponder our fate. He took one look over the edge and slowly sat down on the rock shaking his head, I had indulged in slightly more of the local spirit and proceeded to jump giving myself a refreshing Jamaican enema in the process…

superchute.jpgFast forward to the spring of 2002. I was in Calgary Alberta for a Star motorcycle event and got with Randy to discuss his latest sled project. He had been riding modified Mountain Max’s and SRX’s for the past few seasons and had the idea to take one of our new 4-stroke RX-1’s to build a hill climber. He called Project 101, ‘Got Boost’. Randy had been in contact with a Swedish motorcycle performance company, MC Xpress to discuss the feasibility of adding a turbo-charger to the new RX-1. The rest as they say, is history and I give Randy a lot of credit for being a pioneer of what has become the dominating force in snowmobile mountain climbing: four-stroke, turbo-charged Yamaha mod’s.

The ‘game’ now, for a select few, is the ‘first ascent’. Finding a slope that has never been scaled by a sled, nailing it inrand-in-fuji-snatch.jpg front of the camera and in recognition, naming the run, the honor of which, reserved for the conquerer. Randy has several first ascents to his title and the following report of his latest conquest recently came in from him (after a little prodding) as a segue to the next feature film in the Thunderstruck series to be released later this summer. Here’s what Randy has to say:

“After looking at this chute the entire year I finally decided it was go time. It is 3000 feet long and a vertical of around 2500′.
In comparison, “The “Monster”, which I think all of you know on Boulder, is under 1500 feet long and a vertical of just over 1,000’……….so that is why I named it this new one “Super Chute”!

superscute2.jpgThe start zone was at 4400′ and end was 6900+……the longest vertical our producer knows of.

I flew into it 2 weeks ago in helicopter just to check it out from bottom to top.

Three issues arose:

How do I get my sled into the bottom of it?
Will I fit through the rock wall ‘bottleneck’ near the top?
Will my sled blow a belt / overheat / blow the intercooler off…… or just fail??

D-day, I dropped into the drainage chute……..kinda like going down the Monster……..2 of the support crew that followed crashed going down with me……we flew one sled off the hill due to severe damage!!…….LOL.

Once the cameras were positioned and cued, the helicopter on site and everything ready, I got the GO.

super-chute-may-08.jpgClimbing. My sled and I managed to fit through the bottle neck as I had a perfect left to right line through the rock walls………1-2 feet max on either side and going vertical!!
My Apex ran flawless………the 174 x 2.5 Camo coupled to the M10 stayed very flat and efficient the entire way…….awesome.

Once I topped out the Camera crew landed and one guy was crying……..a grown man shedding tears for my safety……it was cool.

Just thought I would share……..I still have Butterflys after the entire weekend.img_0489.JPG
As far as my sled goes, it’s an Apex MTX with full custom CR racing chassis and MC Xpress custom-made, mid mount turbo package.

  • 174 x 2.5 x 16 wide Camo Extreme
  • CR Racing full chassis with Drop /Roll chaincase, 8 tooth 3.0 pitch extrovert drivers
  • CR tunnel
  • M10, 174 skid with billet rails for 174 track.
  • Fox floats front and Ohlins on the rear with Ti springs
  • Mountain Mod Seat
  • CR racing steering post with Fly risers and CR bars
  • CR hood with custom airbrush
  • Simmons Gen 2 super wide “snowboard” skis…..great in the Pow

Turbo package is:

  • MC Xpress custom “Mid mount race package”…..only a few of these in the world…man did it cost me big $$. Dyno’d in Sweden @ 420 hp on only 19lbs of boost….I ride it @ 16lbs most of the time…plenty fast enough for me!!
  • Stock motor with only a reduction in compression…….8,000 k on the odo and still rocking strong…recent leak down was only 3%….perfect.
  • Turbo is mounted where the fuel tank once was for quick spool and large size turbo. Less heat with large sizing and low CG. Custom fuel tank moved back a tad in the chasis.
  • Boost and Air/fuel intstruments onboard.
  • Clutching /gearing and set up all custom for hill climbing and chute slaying (ed. some things are secret)!!

2 strokes allowed me to “hillclimb” but boosted 4 strokes allow me and others to search out the new terrain we are now conquering. 3-5 years ago it was unheard of to enter these type of vertical chutes with any confidence the sled and rider would succeed. When I was invited to join Team Thunderstruck I was the only Yamaha and of course the only 4 stroke on the Team. Now 50% of Team Thunderstruck riders are aboard boosted 4 strokes…….all Yamaha of course. Apex and Nytros both.
The reliable 4 stroke power has allowed Team Thunderstruck riders to enjoy the day filming when the sun is shinning, rather than wrenching on the mod 2 strokes. This has been the difference the past few years with the cinematographers getting epic footage rather than dirty hands on the trail fixing sleds.!!
Some of our riders still play with the 2 strokes so I have to be careful what I say…….they have sponsors too…Put it this way………I usually pack 2 sleds……….And I have loaned my spare sled out to other riders on a few occasions!!


Thunderstruck 7 is due out in 90 days………..I’ll get you copies 4 sure.
Thanks for all the support!!”


If you know Randy, I’ll let him explain ‘Bellymon’ and if you don’t know Randy, take my advice… don’t try to follow him up anything… right Jon?

cheers cr

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Posted @ 11:37 am in Competition and Racing,Yamaha People and Communication   

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12 Responses to “Randy Swenson – First Ascents”

  1. dnr says:

    Great write up.
    We are so blessed,
    in so many ways….
    health and happiness.
    How fast 30 years goes by,
    yet includes Legacy.
    ‘Tip o’ the Hat’ Sweny , cr.

  2. DoktorC says:

    There must me something in the air up there….that’s NUTS! I’ve always had big repect for those riders that will/can go where others won’t. Well done.

  3. Rick says:

    Great story and awesome video. Makes a guy wish he could jump on his sled and go play for an hour or two. Two things i’m missing most right now. Hunting season and snowmobiling season. Good thing it’s fishing season. Randy’s sled sounds like a total animal. Does Yamaha R&D look at these mountain/hillclimbing sleds? Like ski, suspension, and overall setup. I’m sure for the most part its out of the average consumers price range.

    We do look closely at what is working in the mountain performance category. One thing I failed to mention in the story, Randy is regularly called upon by our engineers to assist in testing and evaluating our new mountain models. He has earned a lot of credibility with our factory as well as the testing team based out of the USA… oh, and he has brought along a turbo with him on occasion… cheers cr



  5. Carl says:

    Hum something is wrong. Boating season just started and after watching the video I want to go snowmobiling instead. Great trailer!

  6. dnr says:

    Just a thought,
    I would like to post photos
    ’cause they are great to view

  7. sldmnx.com » Blog Archive » Randy Swenson doing big mountains says:

    […] Yamaha Sled Talk has an article about Randy Swenson history with Yamaha and some first hand information from Randy about the big mountains he is climbing in Thunderstruck 7, he also tell us about his custom made Apex MTX with MCX turbo and CR racing chassi, Fox and Γ–hlins shock absorbers. […]

  8. Rick. W says:

    Always thought I would die on a sled, 20 years of ride hard , ride fast.. After seeing Randy climb that mountain, I think there is Life after Death. Keep up the GREAT work Yamaha..

  9. Rick says:

    my wife was watching something on the weather channel about electric snowmobiles being tested by Yamaha. She said it showed them riding the electric sleds. I’ve heard of some college students taking a Ski-doo and making it electric but not the manufactor themselves. Anything to add to this?

  10. parepadarappa says:

    Wow, Almost 2 months without an update? I really hope this Blog isn’t going to give us the dreaded 404 error. What about the last 2 stroker story you promised you’d finish? Come on, We’re DYING here!!!!


    oops… I’m on it! cr

  11. Phil Molto says:

    Watching people climb mountains first hand is like watching Chris Angel doing magic in person, “How do they do that?”….and if you’re smart (I was) you admire from the safer yet still-challenging slopes.
    And yes the leaves are changing, I almost fired up my Merc Sno-Twister today!
    ….Phil Molto

    Hey Phil, sounds like the CSRA ‘vintage’ fans are in for another treat this year (watch out for sleeper Enticers!) πŸ˜‰ cr

  12. deppy says:

    i have an 2007 apex 162 and the new m10 air but need some tips on how to set it up for climbing ?

    Suggest you visit the SnowWest forums, ask ClimbMax, He has a similar set-up… cr

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