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Archive for the 'Travel and Events' Category

December 29, 2010

Manitoba Visits

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

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Posted @ 11:36 am in Travel and Events,Yamaha People and Communication   

March 25, 2010

Shibetsu Trip

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…
cheers cr

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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?

cheers
cr

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Posted @ 11:42 am in Travel and Events,Yamaha People and Communication   

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.

Cheers cr

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Posted @ 4:36 pm in Accessory Stuff,Travel and Events   

January 29, 2010

Quebec Meeting

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

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Posted @ 4:29 pm in Travel and Events,Yamaha People and Communication   

December 10, 2009

Photoshoot fire!

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.

burn1A 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 burn2at ~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 burn3destroyed.  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!

cameracomputer

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!

cr


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Posted @ 11:42 am in Travel and Events,Yamaha People and Communication   

December 3, 2009

EC, HPDI, BBS, SHO, ST, YBTT, OMG!!

Well it does appear we are in for a soft La Nina winter. Odd things are already SFBChappening. Ontario has been mild with no snow in the GTA during the month of November (a record) but that is all about to change this weekend. The Environment Canada guy says this mild La Nina can cause above average snowfall east of the prairies but look what is happening out west at Whistler. They just smashed the record for the snowiest month ever and are already nearly half way to their season average of over 30 feet…

My sled is on its way back here today with the ‘prop heads’ who are just coming off one shoof our biggest outboard product launches in years. Most of my friends know I am a big fan of fast boats. In my mind nothing defines speed better than a performance hull ripping at the surface tension of the water,  held aloft by negative air and propeller thrust in a delicate balancing act of trim and torsional counter steering. When it comes to lightweight outboard performance, we have had some beautiful engines in our older Vmax and V6 HPDI 2-strokes but the advent of large displacement 4-strokes has kind of put us out of the lightweight performance game. That is until now. I am truly excited about the fact that someone finally built a (4-stroke) outboard motor designed more like a sled or bike than a farm tractor. The new 4-stroke Vmax 250 SHO is actually lighter than our 2-strokes and offers up more torque than anything else in its class. The engineering execution is a work of art. I can only imagine- if somebody was to take one of these, add a supercharger, open up the intakes and exhaust and bolt it onto a 21 foot tunnel hull… ah yes, I can hear the sound of howling thunder in my dreams.

Picture-2Sorry about that little aquatic digression… my Apex should be back today with the Yamcharger installed, not sure if the PDI is done but I’ll be staying back here a couple of evenings to finish the prep and install some additional goodies. I also need to spend some time on the Blue Blog Sled which we stripped down to check out the chassis and now needs to be reassembled. We had a great response to the idea of making the BBS available to the ‘needy’ and I’m pleased to say we have the internal support to move ahead with the project. I’ll be getting in touch with some of you in the near future.

I’m also  trying to gain permission from the mother ship for the ‘YBTT’ and if all goes well, I may hook up with the BBS pilot for a little spin early in the new year. I was talking with Kent Lester from Supertrax this week who told me they are going to run a story on G-Force and the worlds fastest snowmobile, very cool. He also mentioned they have done some kind of real world evaluation and once the snow dust settled they selected as the best all-round trail sled based on performance, reliability, handling, comfort, resale value, efficiency etc…etc…short drum roll… winner- the Yamaha Apex. Funny comment he made, even though some of the ST staffers are pretty jazzed on our competitors sleds, when it comes time for a long epic, the Yamaha 4-strokes are never left back in lieu of a 2 smoke… sorry Kent but I had to say it 😉

OK; Until next week when I’ll post some photos of the BBS, update the MT09 ski (which btw is almost ready for release pending final sign-off from engineering) and hopefully show you my boosted Apex with hot hands and remote start… think snow!!

cheers cr

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Posted @ 11:37 am in Accessory Stuff,Travel and Events   

June 19, 2009

Global Testing Sites

We are hosting some ‘new dealer’ orientation sessions this week where each department presents information on how things function around here, giving our newest dealers a better idea of who to contact and how we do business. I was reviewing my material and was struck by one of the topics which I thought would be of interest to some of you.

Snowmobile testing is a part of the  job I have always been intrigued with. As a matter of fact it had a lot to do with my application for the product manager position years ago and resulting move from god’s country (BC) to Ontario (perhaps not the smartest lifestyle choice but definitely my best career decision ever).

Testing has added quite a few stamps to my passports over the years, not to mention many memories  and introduced me to some remote parts of the globe I would never have experienced otherwise. Often I have taken extra time to explore the culture and countryside while there and have not one single regret.

Our Japan testing base is located on the northern island of Hokkaido. This is ‘foothill terrain’, very hilly and steep. shibYamaha required a long smooth straight trail for top speed and acceleration runs. The solution was to bull-doze and back fill tons of real estate to create a strip worthy of a 747… Leave it up to our engineers to come with this! Here’s a shot taken of the first Venture GT FI prototype in development. The good looking squid checking out the ergo’s  is our infamous product manager, Jon Blaicher.

Just a little bit south of our Shibetsu test center is another island that features some very unique terrain (and individuals). The southern  island of New Zealand offers up winter in July. Yamaha gained access to a facility used by Toyota as a ‘proving ground’ for their vehicles along with some of their vendors (tire companies etc.) It was here that I trekked to validate the new 4-stroke Venture Lite. I remember arriving after close to 30 hours of non-stop travel, jumping in a rental car (jet lagged) and setting forth through the streets of Queenstown which by the way has no traffic lights, just round-about’s at the busy intersections. To make matters more interesting nzthe steering wheel on the right and driving on the left with no co pilot or clear idea where the heck I was going. The valleys leading up to Wanaka are flanked by some of the gnarliest hills I have ever seen and it is easy to understand why they chose this area to film the ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy. One thing struck me as absolutely awesome. The legal system in New Zealand prevents land owners from being held liable (sued) by anyone who happens to get hurt on their property. You want to bungy jump off my bridge? You want to build some trails with jumps and skinnies? No worries mate, good on you. Man would that be refreshing to have over here!

SwJumping across the planet, pretty much kitty-corner to Wanaka sits Walles, a mainstay for Yamaha testing in Scandanavia and birth place of many of our utility based sleds: Enticers, Bravos and of course, Vikings. I won’t tellyou the story of the VK 3 test I attended there a few years ago (there are actually several good ones) suffice to say it included some Reindeer bits, guns, Laplanders, headlights and blonde locals, all good! In this shot, Norwegian  good-ole-boy Ole-Johan Haga, project leader Karl Ishima and myself working on the Viking Porfessional prototype.

No snowmobile testing discussion would be complete without mentioning Alaska. I have mpxsnore stories about Paxson than all the rest put togther. This highway juntion lodge out along the Alaskan pipe line has hosted Yamaha testing for many, many years. We didn’t always have much snow to work with but it was always cold. Makes one wonder how our J-hook bar-grip warmers ever made production 😉 . Testing up here normally starts in early November and goes on until things freeze up back in Wisconsin around Christmas time. In this shot you can see the first prototype of the Apex shadowed by Paxson mountain, makes me think of playing pin-ball through a Caribou herd just looking at it.

cheers cr

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Posted @ 1:11 pm in Sled Development,Travel and Events   

December 30, 2008

Avalanche Tragedy

I was stunned yesterday when I heard the news about a snowmobile tragedy out near Sparwood BC where eight men were killed in two separate  avalanches. In case you had not heard the details, the first avalanche trapped four riders out of the eleven riding in the area. The remaining seven were searching for the victims when a second slide came down on them.

Three guys were able to survive the second slide but were left stranded on the mountain. As of today seven of the missing eight sledders bodies have been recovered.

I followed the story on CBCNEWS.ca as the thought of this tragedy was eating at me. The coverage was as you would expect but the ensuing comments posted on the CBC site were thought provoking and in some cases downright disturbing.

I feel for the friends and families of the victims and offer my deepest sympathies. I also consider those lost trying to save their comrades to be ‘heroes’ not ‘foolish’ as some have posted on the CBC. These guys were experienced riders and well equipped according to the reports I have read. I have to say it repulses me to read comments from those who would turn this horrible event into a ‘ban snowmobiling’ political forum citing us all as irresponsible menace’s and a burden on society.

Helluva way to finish up 2008!

cr

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Posted @ 4:03 pm in Industry News,Travel and Events   

October 6, 2008

Whistler Dealer Conference

Our 35th Anniversary, dealer conference in Whistler BC turned out quite well by all accounts. The main focus was on our new 5- Star dealer program which offers new opportunities and incentives for Yamaha dealers. The ultimate objective is to advance our abilities to serve you at a level beyond all the current motorsports benchmarks.There is no doubt we all have our work cut out for us, but these new tools are being utilized to create an important impact with Yamaha customers being the greatest benefactors.img_2335.JPG

I’m an old throttle twister and an avid cyclist, consequently a visit to Whistler wouldn’t be complete without hitting the slopes on what has become a world model for mountain bike parks. After we finished loading up our two semi’s and closing the doors on the conference, Swenny (Belly-mon, Going Up?), JF, Jon park.jpgand myself hooked up for a day of bombing the trails. It’s hard to describe the variety and quality of the Whistler downhill trail system so I’ll just apply the well worn term; ‘awesome’. Our confidence built on each consecutive run and by the end of the day we were throwing down on every jump and railing the perfectly contoured berms, we even passed several girls on our last pass. Trust me, Richey Schley has nothing to worry about!

In my last post I spoke of Gilles Gagne and his attempt to break the world land speed record for snowmobiles. Well he did. In fact his twin supercharged slip-streamer shattered the record at 210mph (338kph). Congratulations go out to Gilles and his sponsors who took a stock Yamaha 4-cylinder and created the fastest snowmobile in the world. Down south the NSRA grass drag racing series wound up with some very impressive Yamaha results.  Here is the full report from Greg. grass-drag-results.doc.

So this all leaves me sitting at my desk rather reluctantly, as I try  to make sense out of the rest of October. It’s too eaparts.jpgrly to get ramped up for snowmobiling and a little late to be getting serious about the dirt. And what I really need to do is focus on scooters, which I will openly admit are cooler these days than at any time prior, but still anti-climatic compared to the adrenaline-charged, gravity-defying antics of cycles and sleds. sigh…

cheers  cr

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Posted @ 12:17 pm in Travel and Events,Yamaha People and Communication