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Season's First Ride Is In The Books

By Andy Swanson

rushTurning my Polaris onto the trail yesterday morning for the first time this season brought a sense of relief and I was truly happy to be back behind the handlebar of a snowmobile again. It had been nine months since I last rode a snowmobile, and with recent warm, dreary and snowless conditions across the Midwest where I live, I was beginning to seriously question whether I’d get to ride before the calendar would flip to 2016.

But snow and cold weather set in last week across the Arrowhead Region of Minnesota, an area where I often ride because in unusual winter seasons like this one, it’s often the closest destination to me that has rideable snow. I truly love to ride there.

bridgeYesterday I rode a section of the C.J. Ramstad North Shore State Trail with my friends John, Logan and Karri. The trail crosses remote and scenic land, and it was especially gorgeous yesterday with snow hanging on the trees. There are rivers, creeks, swamps, hills, rocks and scenic overlooks along the trail, and it’s all within a few miles of Lake Superior – the largest freshwater lake in the world.

Breaking in new snowmobiles is great. When our group returned to the truck yesterday afternoon, about 1.5 tanks of fuel had been run through the SG 2016 Polaris 600 Rush Pro-S demo sled. There was a change in performance after about 10 miles when the machine became noticeably more responsive and it pulled harder, and it continued to improve throughout the day. Early on, peak RPM was about 8100, but by the end of the day it would peg out to 8200 at wide-open throttle.

relaxThe 600 Rush is a fun trail sled that handles well, is easy to drive and is responsive to driver input. I also rode Karri’s 2015 800 Rush Pro-X and that helped show differences between the two machines as the Pro-S sits lower, feels smaller and is an overall better machine for riding trails. Handling is more sure-footed and predictable, and the ride quality is better with less kick caused by the bumps. But the Pro-X’s taller stature and firmer calibrations instill extra confidence that it’s OK to hammer into a big bump or mogul because it always seems to take it in stride.

During a rest stop while trailering up to the North Shore yesterday, we talked with a few guys who were heading to an area in the Michigan U.P. that recently received more than 2 feet of snow. We met a handful of other groups on the North Shore Trail and saw a couple who seemed to be having the time of their life while cruising on their 2-up Ski-Doo.

viewWith a few fallen trees lying across the trail and scattered ice, water flows, mud and generally un-smooth conditions, the trail is definitely in early season form. But we didn’t care because we were able to laugh, relax and enjoy the winter wonderland in northeast Minnesota, and it was wonderful to see other people enjoying it, too.

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