Twenty years ago this month, the March 1997 issue of Snow Goer magazine mailed to subscribers. The issue included the Snowmobile of the Year article, honoring the 1997 Yamaha Vmax 700 SX, along with the Top 10 sleds in the 1997 model year. And, in what was then a tradition, it included the fifth annual Snow Goer 10 Best article, with 10 lists of 10 highlighting different aspects of the sport.
One that jumps out when looking back now is the Top 10 Suggestions For The Manufacturers, where editors and contributors offered advice on what things the factories could do to make snowmobiling better or more enjoyable. The actual suggestions from the editors at the time are below, with current comments in italic type after each one noting how the factories lived up to the magazine’s stated desires.
- Give consumers a choice of a high, mid or low windshield for every model — With the spring order programs, particularly the Polaris program, there are certainly more choice in windshields on new sled purchases, but it’s not as universal as this request states.
- Have an independent firm weigh every model and publish all weights in the spring — This hasn’t happened and won’t happen. With the factories still using pre-production sleds in the spring, they just aren’t going to submit to such scientific testing, though the magazines (certainly including Snow Goer) have done a better job of keeping the factories honest by weighing the production models once they are out.
- Install anti-lock brakes — Nothing from the factories yet, though we know that the Hayes anti-lock system has been tested by some brands. We still think this will happen sooner rather than later on select models.
- Make better headlights — The headlights of today are certainly better than those found on sleds from the 1990s, and they continue to evolve with LED technology.
- Design a carbon fiber chassis for high performance models — Carbon fiber is used here and there on different components, but it hasn’t proven to be good enough (or affordable enough) for complete chassis.
- RAVE and VES exhaust valve technology for every engine — Variable exhaust systems certainly moved far deeper into two-stroke engine development post 1997 and are now standard fare when developing performance two-stroke engines.
- 12-volt regulated power ports for helmet radios, heated shields, etc. — Give the factories a passing grade on this one as well, since power outlets have become quite common, though on many sleds there is still work to do to have a plug in for your heated helmet visor.
- Increase fuel mileage — Fuel mileage is better with today’s sleds than with the sleds from the 1990s, and oil mileage has increased by a notable margin as well. And, think of how many fewer spark plugs you go through in a season today than you did in the 1990s!
- Don’t cripple the dealer network with over production — This will always be a push-and-pull relationship between the factories and their dealers, but certainly the over-production problems and forcing excessive units down dealers’ throats that hurt the market between 1996 and about 2002 seems to be less problematic today.
- Provide a tool kit with the machine that actually helps — Tool kits haven’t gotten more expansive, but they have gotten more specialized. Depending on the brand, essential tools are there to make suspension adjustments or to open the clutch to change a belt, but they’re still not exactly giving us Snap-On quality. Also, you don’t need your tool kit nearly as often as you did 20 years ago.