Archive for the 'Travel and Events' Category
January 18, 2012
Winter Has Arrived
Well here I sit in the Quebec City airport. It is a raging blizzard outside and my flight has been delayed another 3 hours… but if it means more snow, I won’t complain! We had an excellent ride yesterday, departing at the foot of Mont St Anne, parelleling the north shore of the St Lawrence all the way to Pointe Au Pic on trans Quebec 3. The trails could not have been any better, groomed pool table smooth with a good base and minus 6 with six Apex’s and a Vector hauling the mail. The ride itself was focused on a special guest. Knobby Shirashi, the general manager of our RV division and commander in chief of all things snowmobile at Yamaha. He was in town to say goodbye after over 40 years with the company. What more could we do in his honor than go for a good pull on some of the worlds finest trails (besides it was his request).
Knobby was involved very early on with snowmobile, as a young engineer he worked for six years with the sno pro team in the 70′s. We had a good laugh when he told us the story of the race rig breaking down on the prairies. Appears they had the trailer hooked onto a tow truck, Bob Work was in the cab with Roy Wall and the driver, Knobby was forced to ride it out in the trailer. They stopped at one point at the side of the road to take care of a little business. Then the rig drove off accidentally leaving one young engineer zipping up in a light windbreaker at minus 30, in a cloud of snow dust. Some time later, resemebling an icicle, he was picked up by the RCMP who rescued him and set out in pursuit of the race team but they would not let him ride in the trailer anymore as it is illegal, but I digress.
As much as Knobby has supported our snowmobile since the launch of the RX-1, his work on ATV goes right back to the beginning with the Tri-Moto, he had influence on all the Bears and was lead on the Raptor development. I should say that Knobby is passing the torch and I am looking forward to meeting his replacement. I hope to see him out on our trails yet this winter.
Our trip started off with an evening at the ice hotel. I have heard of this place for years but never had the chance to visit, if you are ever in the hood, its worth a stop but be sure to wear your sled gear… brrrr. The ride was uneventlful except for one minor mishap which shall remain my secret as I like my job and tend to avoid bad career moves whenever possible . I would like to make a shout out to Steeve and Francois our Quebec contingent for putting together all the logistics and our dealers Collette Sport and SM Sport for supplying the machines, they were very well set-up and ran perfect in fact my Apex had over 10000km and felt better than out of the box new. If you are ever in need of a rental sled in La Belle Province I would recommend either of these dealers. We were also treated to some excellent service by Andre who shadowed us in his posh rig making sure we had transportation options at all times. As you may have guessed, I was rather spoiled over the last couple of days but then again its not every day that a piece of our history as big as Knobby retires. Thank you Knobby-san for everything you have given to snowmobile, you have been a very good leader.
I will refresh this post with some pictures and links if I ever get home… cheers cr
Posted @ 9:37 am in Travel and Events
January 6, 2012
I Need to Ride
Happy New Year to you. I hope you have snow falling close to home and wish you cold weather until spring
Back in the office three days and already the holiday season seems like ions ago. Everything in the snowmobile side is ramping up towards our 2013 model year launch on March 2nd. I am fortunate enough to have been invited to attend a ride on the 17th in Quebec. The general manager in charge of the complete RV group at factory has announced his retirement and while he is here on his final tour of duty, we are going to put together a good ride out of Quebec City. I’ll be sure to take some pics to post here and give you a little back ground on him some of which goes back to the early 70′s and the factory Sno-Pro race team.
There is another item, tentatively on my agenda, which I am looking forward to. I have tried to put this ride together for several years now but have been most unsuccessful in making it happen. As it sits today, the core snowmobile development team for North America will get together north of Toronto to ride, compare notes and ride some more. The concept of getting our brain trust together to actually ride like most of you would on a good weekend, never seems to materialize. When we do get together the agendas are formal and tight. The riding component often takes place on closed course ‘testing’ areas and joint tests are often held in the late spring on crappy snow conditions. This time I want to get the team together in peak riding season and saddlebag a couple of 500 km days then compare notes. This should be another good story for the blog come February.
On another note, a friend of mine just introduced me to Geocaching, which I am starting to get into. I found myself out in a local forest earlier this week with a flashlight and a GPS crawling around in the bush like a dumb-a$$ kid… way fun! I can see downloading some co ordinates into the GPS before setting out on the trail to add another element to a snowmobile adventure. I was really surprised by how many caches are out there to find.
Don’t know about you but I am dying to get on the sled. I took a quick pull on my daughters Bravo which was a restoration project for dad over the holidays and I couldn’t stop grinning for an hour. I figure the Apex will have a slightly more dramatic effect on me Think snow!! cheers cr
Posted @ 2:36 pm in Travel and Events
April 15, 2011
Spring Shows – Turk
I had some interesting feedback from the Big4 snowmobile show tour over the past few days. It came as no surprise that Cat was getting a lot of attention in their booth, a brand new chassis and body work tend to do that. We messed up a bit with our signage on some of our units. For example, we had a cut-away of an Apex to show the EPS and EXUP system that was looking somewhat the worse for wear. Our Quebec reps were pretty vocal on how we should not have sleds in the booth that showed their mileage and looked used. Someone forgot to tell them it was the same sled that set the world record for the most miles traveled in 24 hours at the hands of Matt W. Yes, I know, Skidoo is now claiming that record but they don’t mention the fact, they needed to use two sleds to complete the job, using an out provided within the rules… would have made a nice little conversation starter in the booth. Mark L also forwarded a comment from a fellow who went to checkout the new Apex XTX and decided not to purchase due to the skid-frame / Hyfax wear reputation on the 2011 with no apparent updates on the 2012, ooops. The pre-production show unit had the 2011 skid-frame, where the production units have a much updated version, we just didn’t point it out with a sign… Overall the attendance at the shows was good for all OE’s, up from last year and boding well for the future, hopefully another sign of recovery in the market.
My old pal Masa Saito (aka ‘Crazy Saito’) just celebrated 30 years with Yamaha snowmobiles. The guys in our Minocqua test center where he is currently based, had a little party for him last week where he was presented a very cool piece of hand-crafted furniture. Not sure what clutch spec they used but I am pretty sure Turk over on TY would be able to make it back-shift better!
And speaking of Turk, I had mentioned when I was out in Brandon MB during the winter, I almost had a chance to meet the TY clutch-tech guru but missed the chance. I received some bad news from Jim M who told me Turk (aka Mike Broda) has been diagnosed with a very insidious cancer. Here’s a guy that has given a lot of guidance to many less experienced snowmobiler’s who now finds himself in need of all our support. Mike if you happen to read this, know your friends at Yamaha are thinking of you and Live Strong brother. There is a post over on TY (link) where you can read what some of the guys have to say and perhaps leave some words of strength for Mike.
In closing I had mentioned the annual western Yamafest held in Rev’y was once again heralded a ‘must attend’ event but the part I didn’t mention in detail was the ‘fun’ had by the attending flat-landers from the eastern head-office and regions of YMCA. Heres a pic of Dean, our fearless snowmobile tech specialist demonstrating a creative use of his avalanche equipment. I am told he ended up filing a claim for the newly created mine. An old friend and BC regular on the mountain submitted the following report on what it is like to guide and ride with the Yamaha flat-landers:
Here’s My perspective on Yamafest: A Flat lander rides on a narrow trail, stiff as a board, Arms and legs straight, bent 45 degrees at the waist, half their weight on the handlebars
1) Slowly slides off a 2 degree off camber @ 3kph never changing riding position
2) Goes as far as possible off the trail and points the nose up hill or into a hole
3) At the last second pin’s the throttle till all motion ceases
4) Keep the throttle on a little longer out of sheer desperation and to disperse any remaining snow from the track area
5) Throw their head back and look to the sky
6) Silently yell- Ohgod,ohmummy,pleasebabyjeez,dontletmediehere, Ican’tbreath, Ithinki’mgoingtospitoutmyheart!! Option: Some elect to scream obscenities out loud (My personal favourite)
7) Incredible patience sets in, they can wait for hours warming the seat cover til someone comes to save them
Incredibly skilled Mountain guy comes in from the high side, nose always down hill not spinning the track, rides past as close as possible a few times to pack the snow and make an escape route
Flat lander looks at mountain guy thinking he is just showing off, flips him the bird and whines about abandonment (if you get too close they try and hit your kill switch)
At some point Mountain guy comes to help out and the Flat Lander rides out on the trail packed by the Mountain guy, Flat lander still feels insulted.
Flat Lander feels as though he needs to write a book or go on the talk show circuit to talk about their “Big Day”
We have grown used to this and have heard “I have ridden trails for 25 years” many times, a new rider is just as good as an experienced trail rider oddly enough
For the record the snow conditions were pretty tough, I cant imagine some of our guys thought it was “Fun” but the stories are awesome : ) … I love Yamafest
BTW- You’re next… Red.
Nicely put Jeff- I will look forward to it- ;-) Cheers cr
April 5, 2011
Rev’y – 60day record
The OFSC officially closed the trail system this week on what turned out to be a fairly good riding season in Ontario. The east coast is another story. We might be able to get in a few miles in June the way they are going. And the west is still full on as usual. Our retail sales were strong this spring and dealer inventory levels are down significantly over last year at this time.
The tragedy in Japan has us all worried, even with global production, the impact of the disaster is surely to be felt throughout the Motorsports industry (along with just about every hi-tech manufacturing sector I can think of). In speaking with several of our guys who have recently returned from factory, things have pretty much ground to a halt in production as they continue to conserve energy and take stock of the parts supply chain. I think the snowmobile production runs which are scheduled for summer will not be impacted but it is still too early to say.
The annual Revelstoke Yamafest went off last weekend and the reports coming in are all good. Randy and his team put on a first class event, attracting dealers and customers from all over western Canada (and the US). Already there are some good stories circulating regarding some riding talent (or lack of) that I won’t mention here in order to protect the reputationof the unfortunate, who were caught in less than flattering situations. (What do you think would happen when you send eastern management into 30 feet of pow?). I have heard a lot of nice comments on the new chalet the Revelstoke Snowmobile Club and their supporters have built on the mountain also the increased awareness and education surrounding the very real threat of avalanche in the back country should be recognized. I am proud to say our own Randy Swenson (aka Trailer Queen) has been very instrumental in facilitating our involvement with the various avalanche organizations and safety / awareness campaigns.
Finally a big shout out to Nick Keller who just broke the world record (for the second straight year) for the most miles ridden on a snowmobile in 60 days. The real cool thing is he used the same sled!! Heres his story: YMUS- Nick Keller
Posted @ 9:32 am in Travel and Events
December 29, 2010
Wednesday the 29th and I am back in the office after a few days off with my family. A new sled is sitting in the back yard, trail pass prominently plastered on the windshield, tank is topped-off, now all I need is some fresh snow. Looking back to the week before Christmas, I traveled to Winnipeg Manitoba and had a good visit with the guys at Wildwood and Winnipeg Sports. Snow was skinny but the cold weather and white dusting had spirits high, hoping for a good season. I traveled west to Brandon and it was a whole new ball game with lots more snow and even colder temps. I came quite close to meeting ‘Turk’ who I have followed on Totallyamaha for a number of years. He is a tech adviser on the forum and one who is well respected for offering up reliable and helpful information to many of the members. As it turns out he lives quite close to Brandon Marine and Leisure, but Bill warned against disturbing him too early in the day
My trip terminated up in Lac du Bonnet where I got to meet Justin and tour his toy-box. Interesting story he had, where last year he was given the opportunity to ride one of the factory race team FXNytro’s at a couple of regional events stateside, where he came out of nowhere won his heats and mains then disappeared back to the prairies as quickly as he arrived. His own sled (another FX10) sports additional gussets and war wounds as testament to his ‘take no prisoners’ riding style. Also spotted an SXR600 in his shop getting its 20,000 mile tune-up (fresh rings and some bushings) ‘just because’. The owner could afford a new sled but elects to run the high miler because it’s fun to rub it in to his buddies who are now on their fifth and sixth ‘brand X’ machines over the same period of time.
We copied a bulletin to our dealers regarding track studding just before the holidays started with the intention to ease some concerns and clarify our formal position. End of the day we do not recommend or endorse track studding (never have). As far as clearance and application goes, if you were to disregard our position it is possible to add studs provided you take the proper steps to ensure enough clearance and proper track tension.
I had sent a little Christmas greeting to some of my friends using an old sled pic of myself playing on a Larven back in the 70′s. I was a little surprised at some of the comments I got on it so I thought I would post it here for you. The Swedish made machine was powered by a little 185cc Husqvarna engine and was simply a motorized track. The bars are fixed and the skis attached to your feet. I didn’t get to read the owners manual but I am pretty sure there is a chapter in there on running over your own ski tips! Cowboy Jim had the best comment of all… ‘by the look on your face you don’t need a lot of horsepower to have fun’. And you know something, he is 100% correct! The older I get the more I realize how much fun is found in the simple basics in direct contrast to all the hi-cost technology and performance. That said, my favorite Christmas present this year is a shiny pair of new snowshoes… go figure.
Happy New Year cheers cr
March 25, 2010
Sitting in a hotel over looking the airport in Narita reflecting on what I have been through in the last four days. I got off the plane in Asahikawa just as a fairly significant snowstorm was receding. I have been in this area during the spring before but not seen snow like this. The base has to be still around three feet in the fields and deeper in the bush.
The first day in Shibetsu was spent riding. Typical spring conditions with tight frozen snow in the early part of the day slowing giving way under the bright sun to loose, sugary mush in the afternoon. We had approximately twenty different sleds parked on the edge of a large meadow and took turns hopping from one to another as they became available. The groomed test course, several km of serpentine trail around the perimeter of the speed course is always a blast and this was no exception. The guys had it groomed perfectly and after the requisite safety briefing we were turned loose to rip it as hard as we dared.
There is always a surprise or two from our engineering advanced group and I was not disappointed. ‘Chris-san, try this machine it has (fill in the blank with some hi-tech trickery) and tell me what you feel…’ Not everything was quite so cool but even trying existing models with different calibrations, track patterns ergonomics and assorted other tweeks is fun and enlightening.
I spent a bunch of time on the new Apex SE and it still blows me away, what a cool snowmobile. I was able to spend some time with Kai-san, our engine design leader and learned more on the many subtle refinements and background of the new engines development, there was an EXUP system on the bench which I was able to fondle, surprised at how little it weighs and how smoothly the valve operates.
Right now you are thinking, what else are we working on and I wish I could say but that will have to wait another time. Victor was here from Russia and I always find his information and stories of great interest. Turns out Russia got all our snow this year. It started dumping in November and is still going. They sell mostly wide track machines as there are no trails or groomers. He had us all laughing when he told of the riding style in the bush, how Viking is good for breaking trees with 5inch diameter trunks without serious damage, which turns out to be a big sales feature when compared to the more flimsy competition. They have no premium fuel and no environmental restrictions or very few restrictions of any description and total snowmobile industry sales have increased once again. I would really like to go there sometime to ride. It really sounds like an adventure where anything goes, if you have the notion.
my old friend Ole Haga (Norway) was there with Allen from the Netherlands who also had good things to report on a fairly snowy and successful winter season in Scandinavia. Unfortunately I had to report that we are coming out of the driest winter on record and total industry sales in Canada are down significantly over last year. All manufacturer’s are dealing with an inventory surplus, not the best situation considering the crappy economic climate.
I am not looking forward to the 13 hour plane ride that lays ahead today. I have another few hours to burn here in Tokyo so I’ll be on my way and update when I get home…
Posted @ 8:10 pm in Travel and Events
March 16, 2010
Avalanche Tragedy – Testing
As most of you will know by now, there was a terrible avalanche at the Big Iron Shootout on Boulder Mountain in Revelstoke last weekend. (Note: The Big Iron is not an organized event but an annual gathering of riders intent on challenging the hill and each other in some unofficial runs.) I have known some big slides over the years but never one that came down in front of so many sleds. The fact that only two lives were lost can be attributed to many of the riders being avalanche aware (educated) and prepared to deal with such an event. The reason I say this is because of the unlikelihood of anyone in the media recognizing the fact that the risks assumed by many mountain riders are very calculated and acknowledged with formal training and safety equipment. They would much rather paint the picture of a bunch of yahoos running amok in the mountains as they call on governments and law enforcement for restrictions. The efforts of the survivors should be applauded as they were prepared and able to save the lives of many. That said, our hearts go out to the families of the two men who lost their lives.
Last week was interesting, Jon, Richard and I traveled to our testing center in Wisconsin to evaluate some future projects and discuss everything from the new Apex release to the latest accessories plans. The testing was difficult due to the trail conditions. We ran a section outside of Hurley which ranged from mush to muck with lots of rocks popping up, sink holes with sucker snow on the edges ready to pull you off the trail if you tried to hug the sides… The test terminated in a freshly plowed logging block with skidder tracks deep enough to swallow a snowmobile. Given the conditions the sleds ran great, I’m just glad it wasn’t mine!
Next week I am heading for what will likely be my last ride of the season. There is still lots of snow in northern Japan and I’ll be doing planes / trains and automobiles for at least 48 hours of the trip… Will make a point of snapping a couple of pics for Sled Talk and visiting my most favorite sushi bar in the world in honor of Karl Ishima, who will retire the end of this month.
Karl is the father of the Bravo and both VK models. He was also influential on the SnoScoot project, Vmax 4 (from his post in the USA) the OMP that almost was and the RX-1.
It would be great to get some comments from people that have owned any of the above mentioned snowmobiles as I want to put together a little presentation for his retirement party… anyone have any farewell wishes for one of our most seasoned engineers?
March 4, 2010
HID – Snowshoot – Yamafest
Checking out some bolt on stuff this week. Randy Swenson (Team Thunderstruck) is our newly appointed western regional manager for Yamaha and was in town so I grabbed him on Tuesday night for a ride. The snow conditions around south Simcoe are getting real skinny but it was still worth the effort to get with Randy. I had a set of HID lights in my Apex to try out as well as the newest version of the TRIC ice scratchers… and I’m glad I had both.
The HID lights are really intense and in my estimation worth the price of admission. I will definitely be running these on any of my future sleds. We were running a rail trail tunnel through the bush at a significant velocity. It seemed illuminated similar a freight train -very nice! Not sure how much the scratchers were helping across the now snow-bare, plowed corn fields we had to run, but there is likely a clean strip that won’t need to be harrowed in the spring!
Randy was running the same sled that Matt smashed the world 24 hour distance record on. All I did was change the oil, tighten the track and replace the carbides (broken studs). The steering was still nice and tight and everything was running good as new. Got a chuckle out of Randy when he said this was the longest he has sat down on a snowmobile in recent recollection and his throttle thumb was cramping from the steady throttle settings down Lake Simcoe. He also remarked how powerful the sled felt at sea level, which coming from a man who runs upwards to 400hp in his ‘first ascent’ machines, is quite a statement.
We are heading for Wisconsin next week to hook-up with the US based, testing and planning guys. Hopefully we’ll have enough snow to check out some of the future projects they are working on. Won’t surprise me if we end up in the UP.
Wade is holding down the fort at the annual media ‘Snowshoot’ which is taking place in West Yellowstone as I write this. So far I haven’t heard much about what is happening there but I am sure there is lots of schmoozing between the OE’s and journalists, we’ll have to wait and see what actually gets printed. So far it would appear the new Apex is a hands down winner for the most advanced, evolved / changed 2011 model released thus far, but I’m not completely up to speed and have yet to see how strong the marketing spin will be behind the emissions motor oriented line-up from Quebec. What? Now ’4-strokes are lighter than 2-strokes’? Really now, that’s simply amazing. How do you spell ‘sled of the year?’
Yamafest is a go out in Revvy and I understand that Gilles from G-Force will attend along with his world-speed record holding Apex Streamliner and a Yamcharger equipped mountain sled. Randy and the boys are planning a few surprises for the participants, only wish I could make it out this year…
We’re looking at temperatures upwards of +10 degrees C this weekend. Could it be time to put some air in the tires? Hmmmm.
January 29, 2010
I just returned to Toronto from Quebec City where I was holed up in a hotel with our regional reps for three days of ‘spit-balling’ about snowmobiles. We had a chance to get out on the trails with the new sled(z) but unfortunately a freak rain storm dampened the fun. There was one section of trail that got completely wiped out by a flash flood which left huge chunks of ice strewn about the forest. I didn’t get a chance to see it but Jon did and had an image on his i-phone that made me cringe.
Got word today that an old friend Max Aoshima has chosen to retire. What is notable about Max’s announcement, he is, to the best of my knowledge the only engineer left who started working with snowmobile in the 60′s development period which resulted in the SL350 and he has been with snowmobile ever since. His knowledge and sled history is brilliant! Max-san please enjoy your retirement and if you make it to Canada we must go for another ride
Well we’ll hoist the blue dress high soon enough but if you’d like a little peek at what’s under the hood, here’s a little Sled Talk bonus. I am heading out on the road to meet and ride with our Ontario dealers Monday but will post again around this time next week. I have really enjoyed all the comments that have come in on Sled Talk and TY and it will be interesting to see what happens next week. I was asked to do a little video blog on the new sled which will no doubt be popping up pretty soon, sure to get me in some more trouble
I need to ask a small favor. It’s report card time for Sled Talk and I have made a brief survey that I am asking everyone who reads Sled Talk to take the three minutes required to complete. All you need to do is click on this Sled Talk Survey link.
Thanks in advance! cheers cr
December 10, 2009
Every year about this time, our marketing guys get with the new sleds and accessories and produce all the photography required to build the brochures, ads, point of sale materials etc. This year was no different… that is until yesterday. Jon is down at a ranch in Wyoming assisting with the photo mission where they have been clicking away for several days. Wayne Davis, pro snowmobile photographer extraordinaire and his team were close to completion when tragedy happened.
The ranch features a large main lodge which is their base of operations. All the cameras, computers, riding gear new accessories and supplies are kept there. The lodge also is the home for the owners and provides the main galley for meals and living space for their guest relaxation.
A chimney fire last night blew out of control and the beautiful log structure was totally gutted by flames, including all the gear mentioned above. Thankfully no one was hurt. Most of the staff on site were housed in separate ‘bunkies’ or at another lodge 30 minutes away.
Here’s the report that came in from he field: I’m very sad to report that this morning at ~4:00am MST the east end of the lodge caught on fire here near Saratoga, WY at our 2011 photo shoot. THANKFULLY everyone at the other end of the lodge (owners Tim, Debbie and boys) smelled the smoke and got out safely. Yet, as you can see, the east end of the lodge is destroyed. Inside was all the lodge’s rec room, all YPAD riding gear and parts, along with all of the photographer’s computers, hard drives and most all of their high dollar camera equipment. It appears we have lost 4+ days of beautiful action photos. However, the computers and hard drives are currently in route to Denver to see if any data can be recovered. In the meantime, our “All-Star” team is out on the trails continuing with some photography work and all video work as planned for today!
Please say a prayer for Tim and Debbie and their family, as they have just lost their home here during the holidays. We will all continue to help them clean up, but it will obviously take a long time to rebuild. Our thoughts will definitely be with them during this time. The most important thing is that everyone is safe!
Clearly we have had a big set-back to our marketing plan but thankfully no one has been hurt. All of us here at YMCA echo the sympathy for the family who just lost their home.
I am truly hoping that’s it for the bad news, as I say every year at this time. Don’t push the season. Take it easy on the first ride, there is no base under the early snowfall and what ever you do, respect the equipment. I don’t want to read about some over zealous sled head, nailing a parked car, sideways, ’cause they just couldn’t wait! As our friends at Honda say… Stupid hurts!